Baseball is a complicated game with simple rules. Actually, the literal rules of baseball are quite complicated to a newcomer, but I don’t mean the literal rules of baseball. I mean the accepted rules on how to win baseball games. At its most basic level, the rules are “score runs” and “ don’t allow the other team to score runs.” But it is inevitable that you will allow the other team to score at some point and you will not score a run every inning. You need to not make it any harder on yourself to allow both goals to happen. Here are some such rules.
#1 - Do not walk batters
Pretty simple concept. In order to score runs, a team must first reach base. Besides hitting the ball 410+ feet, the only way to guarantee you reach base is to walk. The Cardinals pitchers’ did not follow this rule. It started with the starting pitcher of the game, John Gant. As far as I can tell, there are two different versions of Gant. There’s the version where things are clicking, where he has it figured out and the other team struggles. Then there’s the version where his pitches have so much movement, he can’t throw it in the strike zone. This version usually leads to a lot of walks and strikeouts.
In the first inning, Gant walked the second batter of the game on four straight pitches. Walk #1 Bryce Harper was up and you can probably guess what happened next. Well actually, there’s no way you can guess what happened next. Harper walked. Trea Turner was running on the play. Yadier Molina treated the play as if it was a strike and threw it to second. Turner overslid the bag and was called safe. But the Cardinals challenged it and it turned out Turner passed the bag and was called out. So Turner was unsuccessful advancing to 2nd base on a walk. Walk #2. The inning was bookended by two lineouts to left field. In the 2nd inning, Gant walked Juan Soto on five pitches, but a double play ball helped him get away with that. Walk #3. Another lineout to the outfield ended the inning.
After a third inning with no walks (and a strikeout of the pitcher), Gant returned to his walking ways in the 4th. With a man on first, he walked Harper again. Walk #4 Turner made it to second safely this time. Anthony Rendon got into a double play and Soto struck out to end the 4th. Gant’s night ended in the 5th. Yairo Munoz committed an error to allow Ryan Zimmerman to reach first. Pedro Severino worked a 10-pitch at-bat before singling to right to put runners at the corners. He finally got taken out, though, when he walked the pinch-hitter after going 0-2 on him. Walk #5.
Tyler Webb replaced him and the “don’t walk batters” rule was especially important given the bases were loaded. Webb struck out the first batter he faced, Adam Eaton, on three straight strikes. Webb faced Turner and pitched him pretty good. But Turner refused to go down easy, eventually walking on the ninth pitch of the plate appearance to score the Nationals first run. Walk #6. Bryce Harper came up, and Webb immediately fell behind 2-0 on two pretty decent pitches that were nonetheless out of the strike zone. He threw a third good pitch that Harper took for strike one. Then he threw a pitch down the middle and Harper hit a ground rule double. That brings us to my second rule.
#2 - Do not intentionally walk the bases loaded
I will grant there are situations where walking the bases loaded make sense. There are even situations where walking the bases loaded is something I disagree with, but I understand the logic. This is not one of those times. To recap, let’s set the stage. Webb came in with the bases loaded. He walked in a run. He fell behind on the third guy he faced. He had 16 pitches. As far as I’m concerned, you have two options with runners at 2nd and 3rd and one out. You have Webb pitch to Rendon or you have Ross pitch to Rendon. That’s the other thing though. Mike Shildt intentionally loaded the bases.... FOR JUAN SOTO! Walk #7 It is a small sample size, but Soto against right-handed pitchers has a 151 wRC+ this year. Against lefties, it’s 150. Why would you walk the bases loaded to get to that guy?
Well, Webb walked Soto and didn’t look particularly good doing it. Walk #8 It immediately became clear how bad of a decision it was to IBB Rendon. I just want to restate that the Cardinals voluntarily walked the bases loaded so that a pitcher who already walked home a run could pitch to a 150 wRC+ hitter with the bases loaded. Ross came into the game to face Zimmerman, and while he’s no Rendon, he struck him out to end the inning.
#3 - Hit home runs
The Cardinals did not hit any home runs in the first inning and thus did not score. In fact, it was one of those first innings that looked entirely disconnected from how the rest of the game went. Matt Carpenter and Yairo Munoz both struck out, and Jose Martinez grounded out to shortstop. Erick Fedde looked good.
In the 2nd, Fedde fell behind Ozuna 3-1. Ozuna greeted him harshly, crushing a hanging breaking ball into the left field stands. Home run #1. The Cardinals weren’t done scoring. Paul DeJong singled to right field. Yadier Molina singled to put runners at 1st and 2nd. After Patrick Wisdom struck out, Fedde walked Harrison Bader. May I point you to rule #1 on why this was a bad idea. Gant struck out, leaving the bases loaded with two outs for Carpenter.
#4 - Score runs when the bases are loaded
This rule will also come up later in the game, but for now, the game was 1-0 in the 2nd inning. Carpenter was up and the Nationals couldn’t walk him. I mean clearly they could have, the Cardinals walked two guys with the bases loaded, but most of the time, it goes without saying to not walk guys with the bases loaded. Carpenter worked a full count and sort of lifted a ball in between the right fielder and second baseman to score three runs. It was a single. Eaton bobbled it for a split second and that was enough to allow Bader to score from first ON THE SINGLE. Fedde got Munoz out on a grounder, but Munoz made Fedde throw 8 pitches, bringing his game pitch count to 54 after just two innings.
The Cardinals had a quick 3rd inning and a slightly longer 4th inning. Molina led off with a walk - see rule #1 - but Fedde didn’t pay for it this time, striking out both Wisdom and Gant again (with a flyout by Bader in between). Fedde had thrown 81 pitches after just four innings, largely due to the long 2nd inning. The Cardinals had an uneventful 5th inning as well.
The Cardinals decided to follow rule #3 again. A 25-year-old by the name of Austen Williams pitched 68 innings in the minors this year, spread between AA and AAA. He was pretty excellent in those 68 innings, striking out about 34% and walked about 6.5% at both levels. He also didn’t allow a single homer. Baseball works in mysterious ways. On 2-0, Marcell Ozuna hit a home run. Williams got to 0-2 on DeJong. It didn’t matter. He homered on a high and outside strike, hitting it to right field for a homer. After Molina flied out, Wisdom joined in the fun, crushing a ball to left field. Home Runs #2, 3 and 4
Bader singled and was bunted over to second by Ross. Carpenter got intentionally walked and Williams walked Munoz for good measure. The Cardinals did not follow Rule #4 with Martinez - is he just going to come up with the bases loaded every game for the rest of the year now? - grounding out.
Ross came back out for a second inning of worked and immediately allowed a home run to Wilmer Difo. Not exactly the man I would have picked to hit a home run in this game. He then walked Severino on five pitches. Walk #9. Yes this game was as ridiculous to watch as it to read this. Ross got out of the inning by the most unstable of elements - three hard hit flyouts.
Koda Glover pitched a scoreless inning which included two strikeouts and a groundout to the pitcher. Dakota Hudson replaced Ross and immediately walked the TENTH batter of the game. Rendon again got into a double play ball. It feels like the game is just teasing us with Rendon at this point since we IBB’d him and he got into two double play balls. Soto struck out again to end the inning. What the hell let’s do another rule
#5 - Don’t strike out
I fear doing this rule, because it makes me sound like an old person who hates the way the game is played now, but this rule is not coming from that place. It’s just hard to reach base - which leads to runs - when you strike out. The Cardinals did a lot of that today. The Cardinals struck out twice in the 1st. No runs. Twice in the 2nd. Two runs. Okay this one is unfair because the pitcher was one of the strikeouts. One strikeout in the 3rd, two in the 4th. No runs in either. No strikeouts in the 5th and no runs listen I’m just kind of spitballing here I didn’t say this was going to be a perfect correlation. The Cardinals scored 3 in the 6th and didn’t strike out YES FINALLY VALIDATION. Two in the 7th and 8th, no runs.
Dominic Leone replaced Hudson and he looked good in his first inning. He got two strikeouts, a groundout, and allowed a single. You can’t ask for much better than that. Also he was the first pitcher to not walk anybody and somehow that counts as an amazing accomplishment.
#6 - Never stop scoring runs
Alright I’ve committed to this rules idea and I guess I’m sticking with it. You can never score too many runs. You can score too few runs. So you know, keep scoring. Carpenter walked and Munoz bunted for a base hit. After two outs, DeJong got hit by a pitch. Bases loaded. Two outs, not nobody out, so you know, I felt like we had better odds here. Molina hit a grand slam. 11-5. Lead is safe.
Okay so false alarm. Leone stayed in the game, which I supported, but he stayed in a little too long. Bright side? He didn’t walk anybody still. Downside? He didn’t really get much in the way of outs either. Infield single. Single to left. Jumping catch by Munoz in right field on a lineout. Rendon then hit a ball over the right field wall. Munoz leaped, it fell into his glove, but then flew out towards the field. Saved a home run, but the double was secure. 11-6 now.
In comes Brebbia. He struck out Soto, who really had an off game tonight. He then allowed a double to Zimmerman. 11-8. He walked Difo. Walk #11. ELEVEN WALKS. Jordan Hicks did not have the day off, but he got Matt Wieters to ground out to end the game. Well, that sure was a baseball game.
- Gant: 4.1 IP, 2 Ks, 5 BBs, 3 R (O ER), 2 H - Yeah he allowed 3 runs, albeit all were unearned, while only allowing 2 hits total.
- Cardinals bullpen: 4.2 IP, 6 Ks, 6 BBs, 7 H, 5 R (4 ER), HR - This was truly a team effort in being a horribly pitched game.
- Ozuna went 2-5 with 2 HRs. More of that please.
Tomorrow, the Cardinals tried to begin a new series winning streak. The pitching matchup is favorable. It’s Miles Mikolas against Tanner Roark. The game is on at 6 again,