Going into the game, you could be forgiven for not expecting a classic pitcher’s duel between a pitcher with an xFIP of 4.39 and a pitcher with an xFIP of 4.60. But if you have been paying attention lately, it makes more sense. The Cardinals were unable to muster much offense against arguably worse pitchers the past two games and the Tigers offense could best be described as “Who is that?” nine times.
Nonetheless, a classic pitcher’s duel is what we got, at least at first. Michael Fulmer has not had his best season - in fact he’s having his worst season of his short MLB career - but he’s had good success in the past. In the 1st inning, he needed only 10 pitches to get through the 1-2-3 hitters in the lineup. It quickly became apparent that Fulmer was pitching good enough (or the offense bad enough, however you want to look at it I suppose) that the Cards’ best hope for a win would be to drive him out of the game through a high pitch count or for Gant to be on his game.
Thankfully, Gant was on his game. Gant had an identical number of pitches through his first inning, but he did allow a two-out double to Nick Castellanos. Somebody named Niko Goodrum struck out looking to end the inning. He apparently has played in 119 games this year?!! What?!
Fulmer had a 10-pitch 2nd inning too. It involved a hard hit lineout by Kolten Wong to left field, but that was about the only positive I could gleam from the inning (or the offense up to that point). Gant followed it up with a 1-2-3 inning of his own. He needed a bit more pitches, but mostly because checks notes Ronny Rodriguez made Gant throw 8 pitches before striking him out.
The Cardinals finally broke through in the 3rd. This time they made Fulmer throw 11 pitches in his 1-2-3 inning. I guess to be fair, by this point, the Cardinals had only struck out once. Gant had a bit of a problem in the 3rd, though this one was partially due to bad umpiring. On 2-2, Gant threw a clear strike. It was called a ball. He threw a similar pitch on 3-2 that was slightly more borderline and he called ball four. Thankfully, luck was on his side when Candelario lined a pitch right at Adams. Dawel Lugo (???) was halfway to second and was removed from the basepaths on a double play.
The Cardinals had another 11-pitch inning, and this time you cannot give them credit for lack of strikeouts. Carpenter lined out on a nice play made by Jim Adduci (I’m not making these names up I swear). Guess what position Adduci plays? He plays 1B and I’m sure you only knew that because you were watching the game. Next two guys struck out. Gant was also rolling though, with only a bunt single by Goodrum ruining his perfect inning. He struck out two in the inning.
The 5th inning produced tougher at-bats from Fulmer, but still no hits or walks. Yes, he had a perfect game going through the fifth inning. Fulmer needed 17 pitches to escape this inning and left the 5th inning with only 59 pitches. Gant, again, wasn’t far behind him though. He had a 6-pitch 5th inning, which left his total at only 67 pitches through 5 innings.
Fulmer somewhat unexpectedly fell apart a bit in the 6th. Yairo Munoz worked a walk after falling behind 0-2. The Cardinals, presumably unaware that Fulmer had lost whatever magic he had, tried to steal. It is unclear if it was a hit-and-run or a straight steal because the Tigers pitched out, which left Munoz thrown out easily. Unfortunately, Greg Garcia then worked a walk of his own and Carson Kelly hit an opposite field single to put runners at 1st and 2nd. Unfortunately, Carpenter and Jose Martinez both hit flew out to end the inning. In the bottom of the inning, Gant need help from Paul DeJong, who made a leaping grab to end the inning. He finished the inning with two strikeouts.
In the 7th, a squirrel appeared. No, really. He was running around on the field around the first base line. We’ll politely choose to ignore that Fulmer was struggling in the 6th before the squirrel appeared because the Cardinals didn’t receive any boost in luck with it. They sure received some luck in this inning. Matt Adams struck out and then all hell broke loose. At least, it did for poor Fulmer, who had otherwise pitched a fine game, but didn’t know he had run into the history of the squirrel and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ozuna hit a slow roller towards third base that it looked like Candelario could make a play on, but he couldn’t get the ball out of his glove cleanly and Ozuna was safe. DeJong hit a ball between third and short. Candelario made a diving stop and again couldn’t quite get the ball out of his glove right away, causing both runners to be safe. Wong, with two good contact outs, took a pitch outside of the strike zone on 0-2 and hit it the opposite way to drive in the first run of the game. Ozuna made it to third and Wong to 2nd on the throw, which was unsuccessful in throwing out Ozuna (who made an awesome slide). Munoz hit a ball to short right field that Goodrum had a bead on, but he couldn’t catch it. It hit off his glove for an error, scoring only DeJong, as Wong thought it would be caught and was on 2nd base.
The Tigers intentionally walked the bases loaded to face Kelly, which made a certain amount of sense given Kelly’s speed and groundball tendencies. He did hit a groundball too, but this one went under Candelario’s glove and by the time it reached shortstop Rodriguez, everyone was safe. 3-0 Cards. Fulmer was mercifully taken out of the game at this point for Victor Alcantara. Carpenter hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored a 4th run. Jose Martinez drove in the fifth run with a single to left field. 5-0. Adams, who began the inning with a strikeout, grounded out to end the rally.
Gant came back out for the 7th, and whether it was all the waiting or just a third time through the order thing, he wasn’t quite as dominant. Castellanos hit a leadoff ground rule double. He scored from two straight groundouts to the right side. James McCann hit a ground rule double to the right side as well. He scored from a double by Rodriguez. Dakota Hudson came in and immediately walked a guy. So it’d be great if our relievers stopped doing that. Jacoby Jones grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
Sandy Baez came into the game for the Tigers. What is this with all the last names occupied by other major leaguers? McCann, Rodriguez, Lugo, Jones, Alcantara, Baez I mean I’ve never been more confused by a box score than when I thought Seth Lugo was playing 2B for the Tigers. Anyway, he had a scoreless inning with only a hit from DeJong.
Jordan Hicks replaced Hudson and pitched a scoreless inning. He walked Castellanos, but I think I just sort of have to accept that all our relievers will walk at least one batter and if they don’t, then I will feel lucky. Carlos Martinez closed out the game and had zero issues at all, throwing just 11 pitches in his scoreless inning.
- Gant line: 6.2 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 6 Ks, BB - Gant struggles with walks a lot so I’m very encouraged by today’s game.
- Carson Kelly went 2-4 with two singles. He broke the no-hitter that was going at the time. He’s not going to be an exciting hitter, but he has a good eye (more walks than Ks in AAA) and that should be enough at catcher. He should start over Francisco Pena whenever possible.
- Yairo Munoz went 0-2 with a BB (breaking up the perfect game), but started the game at CF, moved to RF, and then moved to 3B. I’m guessing we will see a fair amount of that next year if his bat is at all for real.
- Paul DeJong went 2-4 as well. Because the outburst happened all in one inning, pretty much nobody had that great of a game besides Kelly and DeJong.
- Look at the photo above. Are they giving each other thumbs up? What kind of thumb related celebration are they doing?
Tomorrow, the Cardinals begin a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s the last series against them. We are 9-7 against them on the year, and it was be nice to finish out the season at least 11-8 on them. It might be a tough one though. Joe Musgrove is pitching against Adam Wainwright.