Have you ever written a game story? Probably you haven’t, because like, what a weird thing to try randomly. Today, I’m experiencing something for the first time -- a baseball game starting before noon. I’m coming live from an AirBnB in San Francisco, and it’s been a real grind of a week. To shake things up, I thought I’d try to give you readers the experience of this game in the darkest timeline -- a game where you get the inane ramblings of the announcers first and the actual game second. So sorry, in advance.
Did you know that for Paul Goldschmidt, a strikeout is another type of out? That’s interesting! What you may not have known, however, is that that’s not true for everybody (?!?!). Sadly, I didn’t get to hear the entirety of the thought, because Goldschmidt made just another out with a grounder to short. I’m curious to see who’s hitting into all these strikeout double plays.
“Milwaukee is about 90 miles from here, but as far as Jack Flaherty is concerned, it could be 4000.” In theory, that’s a nice way of saying that Flaherty was bad in Milwaukee. In practice, though, it’s not? In any case, Flaherty’s ready for action today. Meanwhile, Tim mentions that if you can get an infielder who can play both middle infield positions, you have a real gem. That’s true, but would you ever imagine he’s referring to Daniel Descalso instead of actual great major leaguer Javy Baez?
Meanwhile, Dan is talking about how he loves baseball brawls. This seems like not a great look for FSMW and baseball? “Let the kids play with fire.” The only saving grace is that as the subsequent discussion turns to Addison Russell, both announcers sagely turn the conversation into a referendum on Baez’s electric defense. Well dodged, guys. Julian Green will shake your hand after the game today.
I really enjoyed this reverse-order set of compliments. “This guy can dazzle you. He can really pitch. He’s effective.” Next thing they’ll say “he has arms.” As the conversation turns to Ben Zobrist, the praise goes the other way. First, they say he’s been effective. Then it turns into a listing of cities where he’s played, still boring. Then, they immediately say he can play on any team any time.
That’s only a warmup, however, for this whopper. Tim mentions that the Cubs outfielders are batting 6-7-8. That is indeed kind of odd. He immediately follows that up with “that’s what you see on rebuilding teams.” I immediately want to study this, because I have no idea whatsoever. Instead of talking more about that, however, the conversation turns away quickly with no further acknowledgement. Dangit.
“How about this. That’s the tenth straight strike thrown by Kendricks.” Wrong name count is up to one. In the time it takes me to write that, there’s a sudden change to saying obvious things. “When you’re an outfielder, the best thing to do to stop a runner from advancing is pick up the ball and throw it.” Oh really? Meanwhile, I present you a great out-of-context sentence. “Here we are at Wrigley again, and you’re talking about animals.”
The game is going off the rails at this point. There’s a baseball game going on, I promise you. Meanwhile, though, Dan and Tim are trying to discuss whether birds are the best athletes among animals. I say trying because my goodness, neither of them makes any points. The bird non-discussion is cut off by more marveling over the pure strike-throwing prowess of Hendrick (different wrong name!).
“I didn’t want to bring it up but I’m going to” is a promising start to a sentence, and Dan doesn’t disappoint, because he brings up McCarver hitting into a triple play. McCarver won’t rise to the bait, though. “I don’t remember that.” Or maybe he honestly doesn’t remember. Who can say?
“We try never to disagree with the home plate umpire,” intones McCarver, “but sometimes these pitches could go one way or the other.” You try, and succeed, it seems! Dan isn’t as kind, repeatedly calling for pitches to be strikes. He’s trying valiantly to get Tim to say the calls are bad, but Tim won’t bite. Instead, he turns the conversation to Joe Maddon, “the most innovative manager in baseball.” What’s the innovation this time? It’s telling his players in advance if they’ll be playing. Mind-blowing!
Incredible statement in the third inning -- what separates Willson Contreras and Gary Sanchez is that Contreras is an excellent defensive catcher. Have they watched Willson Contreras catch? He looks like a fish out of water, if fish out of water also were terrible at framing. Thankfully, an inning break cuts former good defensive catcher Tim McCarver off before he can do any more damage.
The team goes dangerously close to revisiting the Addison Russell situation when Baez makes a nifty defensive play, which leads Dan to start talking about Russell playing second base. Tim adroitly says “Iowa City? Is that their AAA team?” Well dodged yet again.
The topic du jour in the bottom of the fourth is how to keep a sick player from infecting the rest of the locker room. They’re enjoying the discussion and praising the training staff for being great at preventing players from getting sick, which feels a little… weird? Like, the whole point of this is that someone is sick! In any case, though, it’s just a windup for the real gem of the inning.
As you might hear today, Yadier Molina has played 100 games at Wrigley Field. “The only way to do that is to play for the Cardinals for a long time,” intones McCarver solemnly. Dan is dumbstruck. The silence carries, like the feeling of watching this game.
“Tim, they’re all starting to run together,” says Dan of the Cardinals games this year. I understand what you mean, buddy. Meanwhile, the discussion of Derek Lilliquist is heating up. The announcers don’t like it, and in fairness it did seem kind of weird. There’s very little discussion of the merit of it, though I did learn that Lilliquist is a great guy. Mercifully, this one is short too. “It’s funny -- you throw that many strikes, you get outs very quickly.” That’s baseball for you.
“When it gets cold, you wear a scarf! It’s normal!” Sometimes the discussions just take an amazing turn. Meanwhile, Bader gets picked off, and what can you even say? Quite a lot, in fact. “You have to be very very careful. He wasn’t, and got nailed.” This is a rare time where I completely agree with Tim. We’re back to calling Hendricks Kendricks, but it’s hard to disagree with him.
Meanwhile, both announcers are in love with Kendricks. He’s pitching an incredible game, but it almost feels like they’re watching a different game than I am. “Hendricks just hasn’t given anything up this game,” Dan mentions, literally during an impressive sliding catch by Kyle Schwarber. He then proceeds to unironically praise the Cubs defense for making at least four plays on balls that should have been hits. Well… what? I thought Kendricks hadn’t given anything up. My tilt is real.
“Thirty years ago, Anthony Rizzo would get off the plate or just be in real trouble, the right side of his body would be in real trouble.” While I understand that Tim is talking about how aggressively Rizzo crowds the plate, he’s talking about umpires who warn pitchers for throwing inside. Now, if you’re hitting Rizzo that’s one thing, but I’ve watched many Cubs-Cardinals games and haven’t seen pitchers being excessively chastised for pitching to Rizzo. Mostly, I think Tim just wants to reminisce about the old days.
Just when I think the announcers are starting to lose the plot, though, Tim is onto something that I feel strongly about. He thinks that all bullpens should be outside the field of play by rule to prevent injuries, and that makes sense. When Dan innocently mentions that Rizzo is the most hit player in baseball, though, Tim fires back. “Well if baseball is going to protect him, he should take advantage of it.” Just, ugh.
One I’m actually curious about: with Flaherty laboring at 109 pitches in the sixth, Shildt leaves Flaherty in. “He’s pitched so well, I’m sure Mike wants to leave him in and hope the Cards score at least three in the seventh to take him off the hook.” Well, wouldn’t he be off the hook either way in that case? In any case, that’s a sure way to lead to a walk.
The broadcasting team loves Giovanny Gallegos’s delivery, and I do too. Just when I’m on the same page with them though, they drop that Jason Heyward is 8-21 against lefties this year so that a lefty is the wrong choice to pitch to him here. Goshdarnit guys. I want to like you! Just, like, cite anything else at all?
In case you’re curious, the hits continue. “He’s pitching more like he’s 4-1 than 1-4, he’s confident,” says Tim about Hendrix. Meanwhile, the team is still somehow stuck in the causality loop of complimenting the Cubs’ defense for making incredibly difficult plays while complimenting Hendricks for making the Cardinals look bad. Pick one or the other, guys, and I’ll give it to you. The Cardinals are just absolutely smoking the ball off of Hedrick, though, so I’m leaning defense.
At this point, I’d honestly like the game to end. The announcers seem to be on the same page -- with Tim favorite Daniel Descalso at the plate, neither can even muster anything to say. Instead, a comfortable silence lingers for pitches at a time. Tim is ready to break the monotony, though. “Very few batters can turn on the high fastball like Kris Bryant,” he says. “Oh, that was a hanging breaking ball.” You know, six of one half dozen of the other.
“Kyle Kendrick” makes an appearance with Willson Contreras at the plate, just another in a long line of malapropisms. It’s followed immediately by “Kryle -- Kyle -- Kendricks,” just to drive it home. Just when Tim is going for a hat trick, though, Baez gets picked off of first base for honestly no reason at all, and a throw home to nab a breaking Rizzo ends the inning.
“The defense has matched the pitching,” insists Dan, and look man, this just isn’t how this works? The Cardinals have only struck out once today. “The thing with Kendricks is, he can challenge you with a changeup, because that’s what he normally throws,” says Tim, unwilling to let Dan have the final word in inanity. Five internet points to anyone who can explain that one.
On the occasion of Krayle Kondricks’ second strikeout, Dan goes into the intonation he’d normally use for a huge game. “Struck him out! And that’s two!” Again -- it’s the eighth inning. In any case, Anna Kendrick escapes the inning, and Dan is oddly pumped.
“That’s the funny thing about a reliever,” says Dan to start the bottom of the inning. “You have a bad outing…” Before he can finish the thought, though, Tim is on it. “Your ERA skyrockets!” Well, yeah, that’s generally how ERA works, guys. The team can’t decide if they think Leone is good -- they’re sure he’s being too fine, but Dan is openly questioning the home plate umpire at this point. Though Tim still says he’ll never criticize an umpire, he’s walking the line. “There’s only so many lines you can use with an umpire.” You know, to compliment them!
In case you were curious what the game looked like early, Tim wants you to know that he thought it would be a 1-1 game through six, but that the Cardinals couldn’t time the delivery of Kile Kindricks. One run isn’t particularly different from zero, but hey, I’m with you man. After a generous called strike to retire Schwarber, Dan tries to bait Tim one last time by saying Flaherty wanted that call all day. Unable to keep up the facade of praising umpires, Tim simply stops talking for the rest of the inning.
Kale Handricks is out again to pitch the ninth, and after a Fowler flare to right, Tim outdoes himself. He inadvertently calls Hendricks “Hendricks.” Then he quickly corrects himself. “Kendricks… Kyle Kendricks,” he edits. Phew! Dodged a bullet there. Hendris might be feeling some nerves, and he checks on Fowler more than is strictly necessary. Tim is all over it. “Where in the world would Fowler be going?” After that statement, though, Tim is basically done talking. There’s nothing left to say. Aside from a few grunts and an “oh sure,” that’s the last we hear from him for the next two batters.
As Kindrichs and Willson Contreras laugh it up walking off the mound, Tim remains obstinately silent. A fitting end to the darkest timeline of games.
Oh Yeah, The Game
Fine, I guess this should be a game recap too. The game started off slowly with only an Anthony Rizzo single in the first few innings, although that rarest of birds, the Javy Baez strikeout looking, did happen.
The first meaningful action of the game was in the third, when Kolten Wong’s single and a few weird bunts led to Jack Flaherty stealing a base, which is fun. Carpenter grounded into the shift, however, meaning that Flaherty will have to console himself with talking trash to every position player who’s ever been thrown out stealing instead of scoring a run too and going truly nuts.
The most meaningful thing to take place in the first few innings was a truly abysmal strike zone, but Jack Flaherty paid it no heed. He was absolutely cooking the first time through the lineup, with five strikeouts and no solid contact. The strike zone came back to bite Flaherty, though, when he threw five strikes and a ball to Daniel Descalso and got credit for four balls and two strikes. Clearly flustered, he walked Kris Bryant on four pitches. That was about as ominous as you’d imagine, because Anthony Rizzo absolutely unloaded on a hanging slider. 3-0, Cubs.
The Cardinals looked to be getting the short end of the BABIP stick against Hendricks today. Aside from the above-mentioned Baez gem, there were several warning track blasts and a nifty Zobrist sliding catch on an Ozuna liner. Still, by my extremely approximate count, Hendricks had thrown seven pitches and gotten fifty-five outs through four innings.
Aside from the brief third-inning outburst, both pitchers were dealing. Aside from Flaherty’s steal, no Cardinal made it to second base in the first six innings, though Hendricks benefited greatly from incredible defense behind him.
Meanwhile, only Anthony Rizzo had done anything against Flaherty, with three hits to the rest of the team’s none until Willson Contreras dumped a single into right in the sixth. After 110 pitches, Flaherty gave way to Giovanny Gallegos, who slithered out of the sixth with a few truly filthy fastballs to flummox Jason Heyward.
Hendricks threw an absolutely bizarre game -- three strikeouts, no walks, and about seventy-five good defensive plays behind him. The BABIP luck continued into the seventh, where the Cardinals hit balls with xBA’s of .420, .910, and .390 and came away with three outs. Of the fifteen hardest-struck balls in the first seven innings, ten were off of Cardinal bats.
Giovanny Gallegos showed off the range of outcomes he’s capable of in the seventh. He struck out Hendricks and Daniel Descalso, then served up the meatiest of meatballs to Kris Bryant for a double, walked Rizzo intentionally, and laid in a 3-1 fastball that Javy Baez annihilated. Dramatic inning all around, 4-0 Cubs.
In the eighth, the Cardinals continued their what is going on ways. A sliding catch by Heyward, a catch on the track by Heyward, and a three-pitch strikeout of Bader that featured two called strikes outside of the strike zone (what happened to the comically small zone Flaherty got?) surrounded a Molina single, throttling a lot of the drama out of the game.
While the top of the ninth theoretically held drama (Fowler and the top of the order, which is basically what you want), the feeling of fait accompli hovered over the Cardinals’ last licks. Despite a classic-Fowler flare to lead the inning off, things felt pretty much wrapped up throughout the inning. Carpenter and Goldschmidt didn’t put up much of a fight (Goldschmidt was about a second late on a mid-80s fastball to strike out), and DeJong mercifully ended things with a pop-up to second. Quick game, and a brutal one. 4-0 Tiny Bears your final.