Baseball can be an unpredictable sport so it’s reasonable to assume just about anything can happen in a given game. Not in a million years did I expect Daniel Poncedeleon to start tonight’s game like he did. He appeared to not have that great of command, seemingly not knowing where a pitch might end up. It really didn’t matter, because the Dodgers hitters could not hit his fastball if it were on a tee. Joc Pederson struck out on a fastball pretty much down the middle. Justin Turner struck out on a better pitch, but still one that was more left middle than on the corner. Manny Machado struck out looking on a fastball.
There was only one issue with this and I do not find it to be a particularly big issue. He threw a lot of pitches. Six to Pederson, six to Turner, six to Machado. Things got weird in the 2nd. Cody Bellinger led off with a single. It was a normal single. That was the last normal baserunner he allowed that inning. He struck out Max Muncy on a fastball high in the zone for the out. Yasmani Grandal then hit a pop fly into shallow right field. Tyler O’Neill immediately had no idea where the ball was. He finally found it but too late and the ball fell.
Then, with men on first and second, Chris Taylor hit a shallow pop fly in right field. O’Neill saw this one, but not well, and his first motion was to back up. It cost him a catch. Bases loaded, one out. Yasiel Puig was up. On the first pitch, Poncedeleon threw a pitch inside that hit Puig. It was a ball Puig initially made a motion to swing at, so his hands were relatively close to the plate. It barely grazed the knob of the bat. Bases remain loaded for the opposing pitcher, Hyun-Jin Ryu. He struck out. First time through the order, Poncedeleon had struck out five. Pederson fouled off five pitches after falling behind 0-2 but flew out to end the inning. This was not without incident either. O’Neill, having shown not be able to see this game, proceeded to ignore Harrison Bader’s call for the ball, and the two kind of ran into each other. Bader caught it, nobody got hurt. It was a rough inning for O’Neill.
Meanwhile the hitting side of the Cardinals was quite a bit more predictable. Benefiting from an absolutely massive strike zone - which in the interest of full disclosure both teams had - Ryu was cruising. He had very little trouble in the 1st or 2nd, needing only 24 pitches to get all six batters he faced out, which included one strikeout.
After the crazy 2nd, the Cardinals responded, which they seem to do a lot to bad pitching innings lately. Bader worked a good plate appearance, forcing Ryu to throw seven pitches, and then taking a pitch outside the other way for a leadoff single. He got removed from the basepaths from a Kolten Wong forceout, and then Wong made his way to second on a Poncedeleon sacrifice bunt. Jose Martinez wasted no time in hitting a laser up the middle on the first pitch, driving in Wong to tie the game. Then Molina hit an opposite field homer to give him his 16th home run of the year. 3-1 Cards.
Meanwhile Poncedeleon had run up quite the pitch count through two innings. After an 18-pitch first inning, he threw 36 in the 2nd inning, causing his pitch count to baloon to 54 pitches after two. He had no issues in the 3rd, having an easy 13-pitch inning, only allowing a one-out single to Machado and tallying yet another strikeout.
In the 4th, Gyorko hit a one-out double, but after Bader flew out, the Dodgers intentionally walked Wong to get to Poncedeleon, who struck out. I have to say, I know that you will not give up runs in that scenario 95 percent of the time, but lefty-lefty with Wong up and yesterday with Francisco Pena up against really anybody, I think you should just pitch to the 8th place guy and try to have the pitcher leadoff the next inning. Just my two cents if the matchup is right.
In the bottom half, Poncedeleon once again quickly got in trouble. Grandal walked to lead off and then Taylor doubled. Grandal must not be very fast because I was pretty surprised he was held up at third and it wasn’t even like he was close to getting sent either. With men on second and third with nobody out, Poncedeleon reverted back to striking everyone out. He struck out Puig, then pinch-hitter Brian Dozer, and got Pederson to flyout harmlessly. Dozier hit a borderline foul ball that (was actually foul), but Molina and Ponce were mad the 3B umpire made the call or something. Anyway, Ponce was VERY fired up after he got out of the inning. Once again though, the pitch count was the victim, as he needed 23 pitches to get out of the jam, which caused him to leave the 4th with a whopping 90 pitches.
For the 5th inning, the Dodgers turned to Dylan Floro. He ended up loading the bases thanks to a one-out walk to Molina and two pretty weak hits by both Ozuna and Paul DeJong. Gyorko got a hanging slider and seemed to hit it pretty well, but it weirdly just kind of seemed to die and went right to the left fielder. For the Cardinals, Luke Weaver took over - pretty convenient having a bullpen full of former starters in games like this. He allowed some hard contact, but the only hit was a single by Machado again.
Floro had a 1-2-3 6th inning. Weaver did not. Grandal hit a leadoff single. After a lineout, Puig grounded it back to Weaver and he did something pitchers seem to do a frustrating amount. He went to throw it to 2nd base and threw it high. Instead of a double play ball, everybody was safe. Matt Kemp pinch-hit and struck out a beauuutiful high and outside fastball that may have been a ball normally, but it was a strike for tonight. Pederson grounded out into the shift up the middle to end the inning.
Daniel Hudson replaced Floro and it seemed like he would have an easy inning. Martinez struck out and Molina grounded out and he looked pretty in control of the hitters. Then he nearly hit O’Neill in the face, hitting his shoulder. Ozuna made him pay when he threw a fat breaking pitch right down the middle. Ozuna homered, perhaps mad that Molina had just passed him on HRs for the year. 5-1 Cards.
In the bottom of the inning, with one out Machado homered off Weaver. In comes Chasen Shreve, who struck out Bellinger and walked Muncy after initially getting to 0-2 on him. For a dude who strikes out as much as he does, he can be hard to put away at times. Carlos Martinez came in the game - yes Carlos! - and he had spotty control. Grandal grounded out to defensive replacement Carpenter to end the inning.
Hudson hit Bader in the 8th, which got him taken out for Scott Alexander. With one out, Bader tried to steal but was badly caught and soon after Wong grounded out to end any potential rally. In the bottom half of the inning, Martinez’ spotty control continued. He walked the leadoff batter, but instantly got a double play ball. Then he walked another guy with two outs. Pederson then hit what had to be a 100+ mph ball right into Carlos’ guts causing him to instantly keel over. The ball seemingly caught, fell out of his glove. Thankfully, Kiké Hernandez was for some reason trying to go to 3rd on the play and Carpenter threw him out to end the inning. Carlos probably caught it though.
Somebody named Caleb Ferguson came into the game for the Dodgers and struck out the side. Bud Norris made a surprise appearance - to me anyway - and had no ill effects from pitching a day after throwing 28 pitches. Turner grounded the ball slightly to the left of 2nd base and because of the shift, Wong was able to make a diving stop. He couldn’t get the ball into his hand right away, but then made an acrobatic throw that somehow had enough strength to throw Turner out. It was the greatest play Wong has made all year. Two more groundouts followed and in the end, Norris only threw 10 pitches for the save.
- Ponce line: 4 IP, 8 Ks, BB, 5 H - Call this the exact opposite of the no hitter game, where balls always found gloves and Ponce had a 1:1 K/BB ratio. Here the Dodgers had a .556 BABIP off him - partially because of O’Neill - but he survived with only one run allowed due to eight strikeouts
- O’Neill also ran into Bader later in the game, so he had just about the worst defensive game I think an outfielder can have.
- The Cardinals had 7 hits and 2 walks (with 2 HBPs) while the Dodgers had 9 hits, 4 walks, and one HBP. If you’re counting that’s 11 baserunners to 14. But the Cardinals hit two two-run homers and that was the difference.
- Here’s the absolutely insane play by Wong
Tomorrow the Cardinals go for the kill, I mean sweep. It’s Jack Flaherty day. The Dodgers have Walker Buehler, who is basically the Dodgers’ Flaherty, so it’s not going to be an easy win. But then again, the Cards somehow won the past two games with a clearly inferior pitching matchup on paper so let’s just throw all the rules out the window.