WELL. That was certainly a baseball game. It was a baseball game unlike any I’ve ever seen, which is one of the amazing things about baseball. There are so many games played every year, with such a rich history, and yet, new things happen all the time. For instance, Yadier Molina played 3B today. He played it for a full inning. For the folks who did not have the pleasure of watching any of this game and this site is your first exposure to how exactly the Cardinals won, we must first back up in order to explain how the Cardinals found themselves in the position of playing Yadier Molina at 3B.
There was nothing particularly unique about the way the game started. A starting pitcher couldn’t find the strike zone and struggled mightily for it. A tale as old as time. This time, it was 37-year-old Adam Wainwright, and I must mention his age, because there is a justified fear that he does not have it anymore. He did not have it today. He fell behind the first five batters 2-0, walking three of them, and getting two groundouts. Colin Moran, batting 6th, got a meatball, which he drove for a double, scoring two runs. After the first, it was 3-0 Pirates.
Wainwright did settle down in the 2nd, though some degree of skepticism must be met about his scoreless 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts, because he faced Erik Gonzalez, opposing starter Chris Archer, and Adam Frazier, with Frazier grounding out. Frazier is a good hitter, but one is a pitcher and the other you’ve probably never heard of and for good reason. In the third, facing better competition, he allowed a single and then a ground rule double. A sacrifice fly scored one and he got out of the inning without allowing a second run. 4-0 Pirates.
In the 4th, Wainwright allowed a leadoff single, and then Archer laid down a bunt and the Cards got a double play out of it thanks to some good defense from Molina, still playing catcher. Frazier grounded out and his night was through. Through four, Wainwright threw 72 pitches, struck out 3 and walked 4. He basically didn’t have any ability to locate his fastball, but his off-speed stuff worked just fine. He just couldn’t rely on throwing them for strikes either really.
Offensively, the Cardinals could not figure out Archer, so they just kind of waited him out. They fought off tough pitches, and usually ended up striking out or walking. Matt Carpenter struck out looking to begin the game and that will be important later. Archer walked Paul Goldschmidt, Kolten Wong, and Adam Wainwright in his first three innings, all in different innings unfortunately, not that it ultimately would have mattered with all the strikeouts. Dexter Fowler singled in the 4th and then got thrown out attempting to steal. Harrison Bader singled to begin the 5th and then three strikeouts later, and Archer was done. He threw a whopping 99 pitches in his five innings, which say what you will about strikeouts, but starters do not usually last long and oh boy did that end up being important.
The Cardinals bullpen was good today with one unfortunate exception. John Brebbia pitched two scoreless innings in the 5th and 6th with two strikeouts, a walk, and no hits allowed. That set the stage for the Cardinals to come back, and to come back in the most infuriating way possible somehow. What? You’ll see.
Rich Rodriguez hit Fowler to lead off the 7th. Then Wong homered. Yes, Wong homered again and it took until this part of the recap to mention it. A lot happened. Bader reached on an infield single. It was one of those singles where I’m sure a Pirates fan watching thought it would be an out, and then the guy didn’t throw it, and they said “WHY DIDN’T YOU THROW THE BALL?” Not his fault, stranger, Bader is REAL FAST. Tyler O’Neill pinch-hit and showed his speed as well. Moran bobbled the ball and that was enough for O’Neill to be safe on first.
They brought in Francisco Liriano to face Carpenter. Yes, yes I know - Liriano is still playing? and Liriano is on the Pirates? Apparently yes to both questions! He walked Carpenter on six pitches. Keone Kela replaced him with the bases loaded, and he proceeded to walk Goldschmidt. 4-3 Cardinals. Nobody out. 3-4-5 hitters up. Paul DeJong popped out, Marcell Ozuna struck out, and Molina struck out. Still 4-3. Now imagine if the Cards lost this game. This recap would take a very different tone I am sure.
Another important part of how Molina played 3B happened in the decisions made in the bottom of the 7th. Fowler got hit in the hand to begin the top of the 7th, so it is possible the first double switch was injury-forced if you will. O’Neill remained in the game - and spoiler alert but thank god he did. Problem was that Fowler was due up literally first in the top of the 8th.
Dominic Leone pitched well, but Bader dropped a flyball, which allowed JB Shuck to reach second base. He got a strikeout and groundout, which put Shuck at 3rd. With lefty Corey Dickerson up, Mike Shildt went to Andrew Miller, so he made a second double switch. He put Yairo Munoz in Fowler’s previous spot, and the pitcher’s spot took Ozuna out of the game. Two bench players used up just like that. Again, given the HBP and the weird double switch to take Fowler out, I suspect they may be correlated. Anyway, Miller was the one reliever to pitch bad. He walked Dickerson and hit Josh Bell to load the bases. Mike Mayers, who I hope we don’t make a habit of putting in the game with the bases loaded circa Seth Manness, got out of it with a groundout.
In the 8th, Munoz hit an infield single on an 0-2 pitch and let’s just say he is very, very lucky for getting a hit on the play, not that I’m complaining. Wong and Bader both struck out, but O’Neill lined a double that was barely fair to drive in Munoz to tie the game. 4-4. Mayers immediately blew it with a meatball to Moran that gave the Pirates the 5-4 lead. He allowed two more baserunners but got out of the 8th with one run allowed.
In the 9th, Felipe Vazquez had the task of facing the 2-3-4 hitters. Goldschmidt reached on an error by Erik Gonzalez, whose first name I must say or you’ll say who? With one out, DeJong - on base from a fielder’s choice that removed Goldschmidt - reached second on a wild pitch. Then Jose Martinez doubled home DeJong and Martinez was removed for Jack Flaherty as the pinch-runner. Matt Wieters is all that remains on the bench.
Jordan Hicks pitched the 9th and made the hitters look downright foolish. Dickerson swung a slider that nearly hit his foot. Melky Cabrera - and yes that Melky Cabrera what the hell kind of offseason did the Pirates have? - did the same but ended up walking. He was removed from a double play ball to end the inning. Hicks 10th went even better with no walks or hits, but a strikeout.
Steven Brault looked initially good in the top of the 10th but sort of lost it in the 11th. He struck out Carpenter on a checked swing that Carpenter was not happy with. He yelled “YOU SUCK” to the 3rd base umpire - and no I am not kidding - and the HOME plate umpire threw him out. He wasn’t talking to you. Oh yeah and the home plate umpire to start the game had to leave because he got hit by a ball. Goldschmidt flew out and it looked like we’d need at least 12 innings to win it.
But DeJong singled and pinch-hitter Wieters got hit by a pitch. Molina, 0-5 at the time, walked. They brought in Nick Kingham, who threw a wild pitch that got by Cervelli and scored the winning run. Kingham walked Munoz, but because it was also a wild pitch, the ball bounced right back to Cervelli, who threw out Molina. Molina was at 2nd base and for some reason didn’t immediately run back to 2nd base like Wieters ran to 3rd base.
Anyway, Wieters was the last position player left, so the Cardinals had two catchers and seven position players. They ultimately opted to put Molina at 3B, his first ever game there, and we were sadly/thankfully not graced with any balls hit his way. Yes, I was of course curious to see what would happen if a ball was hit there, but I also badly wanted to win the game. John Gant, replacing Hicks, walked the second batter he faced, but a smooth double play ended the game.
- Wainwright line: 4 IP, 4 BBs, 4 Hs, 3 Ks, 4 ERs - Positives? He managed to finish 4 innings and never gave up a home run while trying to avoid a walk, which he probably desperately wanted to do with how the game started.
- Dexter Fowler has a .412 OBP. I don’t think he can keep this absurdly low average, absurdly high OBP charade going for long, but it sure makes for a funky stat line.
- Speaking of funky stat lines, Kolten Wong is now batting .500/.555/1.056. Let’s see him keep that line up for a full season.
- Bullpen: 7 IP, ER, 6 Ks, 4 BBs, 2 Hs - Too many walks of course, but the bullpen saved the game really. With the exception of Andrew Miller, who merely made things more difficult.
- I cannot for the life of me figure out how the Cardinals won this game.
Tomorrow, it’s an off-day, but on Wednesday the Cardinals finish off the 2 game series - BOO! - It’s going to be a good one. Jameson Taillon against Miles Mikolas.