Greetings, Cardinal fans. I’m coming to you live from the Bay Area, which means I’ll be listening to the Oakland broadcast of this game, what with blackout restrictions and all. I’m okay with that, though, because the Cardinal broadcast today is going to be a little gloomy with the Hicks news. Honestly, I’m a little gloomy, too -- it’s Fla Day, of course, and that makes me happy, but Hicks being out for the season is just a real downer. I’ll try to stay away from talking about that too much, though. On to the game! Maybe hearing announcers who haven’t seen the Cardinals in years will be enlightening.
A’s and Flaherty Notes
Flaherty had his fastball working early tonight. He located it where he wanted it consistently, hitting the inside and outside edge with equal ease. He had a hiccup with a solo home run to Matt Olson that honestly looked more like a pop up than a dinger off the bat (385 feet! This ball is crazy, friends), but his stuff looked electric. About the only thing that slowed him down, aside from the home run, was a standing ovation for Piscotty that Molina orchestrated. When the Cardinals visit San Diego later this week, I wonder if Yadi will walk out in front of the plate when Greg Garcia bats. He’s been in the habit of it recently.
Though Flaherty’s fastball was a live wire, his slider might have been better. He threw it for strikes, threw it to miss bats, threw it for weak contact -- essentially, he was doing whatever he wanted with the pitch. A rare misplaced fastball in the third inning led to a Robbie Grossman single, but Flaherty quickly got out of the inning on a pop up, and generally looked like he was picking up steam as the game went on -- impressive given how sharp his fastball looked in the first.
Flaherty reached a true-outcome fever pitch in the fourth, striking out Olson, Laureano, and Profar while walking Piscotty. Though his pitch count was climbing, so were the punchouts -- five against only the lone walk to Piscotty. The fifth, however, brought the other side of true outcomes, and brought it out quickly. Josh Phegley banged a ground rule double that hit chalk on the left-field line, and Chad Pinder crushed a pretty decent fastball out to tie the game. Marcus Semien followed with a solo shot to center off of another fastball, and just like that, the A’s led despite an abysmal start from Bassitt.
Matts (both Chapman and Olson) followed with hard-hit groundball singles, and though Flaherty recovered to retire Laureano, Piscotty threaded a grounder through Wong and DeJong to score Chapman and chase Flaherty. That, uh… that wasn’t how I saw this game going after Flaherty had things working early on. His stuff mostly didn’t flag in the fifth, but home runs have been his downfall all year, and tonight was no exception. A few misses in the wrong places can be devastating, and that’s basically what happened.
John Brebbia was the first man out of the bullpen, and ugh, the bullpen, that’s where Jordan Hicks used to stand. Brebbia grooved a fastball to Khris Davis, and Davis did what good hitters do to bad pitches -- he put it to the right-field wall wall, scoring two runs. Brebbia closed out the inning, but the damage was done, and the game flipped from a needed bounce-back win to yet another Cardinals nightmare in the blink of an eye.
Want some more bad news? Brebbia was flat-out dealing as soon as it didn’t matter. The sixth was a three-up, three-down affair, and Dominic Leone looked sharp with two strikeouts in the seventh. Aside from the horses having left, the Cardinals were doing an excellent reason of getting the barn door closed. The eighth, at least, provided some entertainment. Tanner Anderson, an AL pitcher, somehow ended up batting despite two position players remaining on the A’s bench. He was essentially what you’d expect -- a free strikeout for Leone. Your guess is as good as mine why that happened, given that runs are runs, but hey, I’m sure Leone will take it.
Ironically on a day where the Cards’ presumptive ace took the mound while their best reliever prepared for Tommy John surgery, the bullpen gave up no runs (though Brebbia’s inherited runners scored), with Brebbia, Leone, and Tyler Webb retiring thirteen of the fourteen batters they faced. Still, though, on a day where Flaherty pitches against a middling offensive team, seven runs will sting a little.
Cardinals and Bassitt Notes
Carpenter’s bunt bluffs never stop amazing me. The A’s broadcast obligingly kept showing Matt Chapman’s location, and he obliged with a wonderful play to nab Carpenter at first. The A’s broadcast put Cardinals hyperbole to shame, saying that the bunt might change the entire season series between the Cardinals and A’s, as if Carpenter reaching on a bunt would irrevocably doom the A’s.
Bassitt’s stuff didn’t wow me, but you haven’t needed wow-level stuff to beat the Cardinals offense of late. He strikes me as the kind of pitcher you love to have on your AAA shuttle, but don’t feel amazing about as a regular rotation member -- an ersatz Daniel Ponce de Leon, perhaps. Mid-90s fastball that he can’t locate all that well, perfectly decent cutter/slider thing, and a curveball that should be seen and not heard.
The Cardinals first was an omen of things to come. While Bassitt escaped without allowing any runs, he simply couldn’t throw anything past the Cardinals. He got one swinging strike in thirty-four pitches, and that was on the twelfth (!) pitch of an at-bat to Jose Martinez. Were it not for the platoon-advantaged Carpenter bunting against the best defensive third baseman in baseball, the pitch count could have been even higher.
Though Bassitt almost danced through the first two innings without damage, it wasn’t to be. Ramon Laureano isn’t a good fielder despite having the most gif-able arm in baseball, and he turned what could have been a fly ball that missed being a home run by three feet into a two-run triple. This wasn’t quite Ozuna-as-Spiderman, but it was about as bad, and in my book, should have been an error. That opened the floodgates -- DeJong deposited a Bassitt curveball (that should never, ever, ever be thrown in a count and location where a batter can swing at it) into the left-field stands on a hop to score Carpenter, and Goldschmidt nearly added more, smashing a line drive that Jurickson Profar corralled. Two innings, sixty-eight pitches, three walks, and a solitary swinging strike -- it was shaping up to be a long night for the A’s righty.
Bassitt bounced back in the third, getting a lazy fly ball and two grounders, but it was merely the calm before the storm. He lasted only three batters into the fourth -- a walk to Flaherty after a single from Kolten Wong was the last straw. He did, finally, get a second swinging strike (Flaherty isn’t exactly a wizard with the bat), but it was an ugly outing overall. J.B. Wendelken wriggled out of the jam, but this won’t be a night Bassitt remembers fondly.
The bottom of the fifth continued the trend of the Cardinals getting traffic on the bases. Marcell Ozuna rapped a one-out single to left, and Martinez followed with a ball that Stephen Piscotty couldn’t quite track down in right, setting the Cardinals up nicely. In keeping with the bases-juiced-but-no-runs trend of the night, though, Molina and Fowler went down swinging, and if I’m being honest, neither of them looked very good while doing it.
Yusmeiro Petit seems to me like he’s been in baseball forever, and he defied his so-far-poor season by flummoxing the Cards through two innings. Did he allow some baserunners? Sure, but the real key (in small samples) is leaving them stranded, and when it came to that, he was lights out. Did Matt Carpenter grumble about a borderline pitch? Surprise, he didn’t, but only because he didn’t take any strikes before Petit got him swinging on a low changeup. Am I a negative fan? I mean, I don’t think so, but this game had verged into fait accompli territory for me at this point, and I have a wonderful board game waiting for me and my wife when this ends.
The seventh was mocking Cardinals fans. DeJong hit a duck snort that Piscotty made a tremendous play on, turning a double into an out. Goldschmidt popped out in the infield, his at-bats going downhill as the game went on, and while Ozuna drew a disciplined walk off of Joakim Soria, he was merely one more baserunner left stranded. Joakim Soria, Yusmeiro Petit -- I half expected to see Oliver Perez and Jerry Blevins follow them out of the pen. The A’s essentially used every reliever I thought had retired years ago, and my goodness did it work.
Lou Trivino, a live-armed righty who throws entirely too many pitches for someone with such a feisty fastball, was next in line. He got into a bit of a jam, surrendering singles to Fowler and literally-never-been-retired-in-the-majors Tommy Edman, but powered through it by leaning into his four-seamer and cutter combination. The A’s announcers said they liked his fastball more with sink, and they’ve certainly watched more of him than I have, but Edman easily handled a two-seamer and everyone looked bad against four-seamers, so I mean, maybe stick with the rising one?
Liam Hendriks, another hard-throwing righty with a baffling arsenal (a slider and a curveball for someone who throws 70% electric fastballs in one-inning relief? weird), was up to the job; he gave up a few baserunners (eleven stranded on the night) before closing the door. Yadi looked phenomenally out of sorts all night, and so it was appropriate that Hendriks demolished him on three straight fastballs to end the night. Maybe that Matt Carpenter bunt really did set the tone for the series after all.
My goodness, the A’s announcers are old school. They were flabbergasted that the Cardinals were shifting against the A’s. “They haven’t seen them this year,” the color commentator gasped, as if shifting is based on in-person looks only. The production also made some amusing choices -- a graphic with Matt Chapman’s last year of production was headlined “Chaptain America,” and no one made reference to it at all.
One huge benefit of the A’s broadcast is an excellent ratio of non-sequiturs jammed into conversation as though they flow normally. “Say what you want about where the A’s play,” they opined, apropos of a Dexter Fowler check swing, “but it never gets humid at the stadium.” I mean, sure thing guys. In fairness, though, the Bay really is lovely in the summer. A discussion of the Cardinals’ recent winning tradition slammed into a reminiscence of the 1946 Cardinals-Browns World Series. In moderation, weird jaunts away from and then suddenly back to relevance can be refreshing, and the crew struck the right balance of nonsense and analysis.
Overall, the A’s broadcast was a delight. I don’t think I’d want to listen to it every night, what with the rambling, but they seemed truly excited to be in St. Louis to watch baseball, and that went a long way for me. The production crew, cheesy headlines aside, was excellent. They had some excellent graphics to explain Flaherty to A’s viewers -- his whiff rate, pitches per at-bat, and draft pedigree all flowed smoothly into a single quick aside. Were the announcers perfect? Not even close. They said some tremendously goofy stuff -- saying Liam Hendriks, a 10% walk rate pitcher, had great command and speculating that the A’s might go batter-to-batter with relievers for the last two innings when there was legit no chance of that happening -- but I could handle them, and when there was action going on, they mostly shut up and let it go.
The A’s camera angle is pristine. It’s really tilting that ESPN and some regional broadcasts still use the good camera angle in St. Louis. Still, though, I’ll take it -- that’s two games I get to watch in my preferred view. Overall, I give the broadcast my seal of approval -- if you are outside of the St. Louis blackout area and get a chance to listen to them either tomorrow or later this summer, I say go for it.
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