Despite the Fountain of Youth finder in the clubhouse, Uncle Charlie declined to drink and pitch, instead remaining in the recliner with back spasms watching Matlock. His long-time nursing home roommate Yadi just hit the 10-day IL, unable to change the channel due to his still-bad thumb. But the other bad-back (slightly younger) Matt Carpenter returned to the starting lineup.
Succumbing to all the liniment oil fumes, the Cards dropped the first game of the second half to the D-Backs 4-2. Ponce pitched more than well enough to win, but the offense slept and the bullpen faltered.
So how’d they get there?...
Fox Sports Midwest began the broadcast with first-half highlights (was a short video), then it was on to the action...
Top of the 1st
Speedy Dyson, heir to the over-priced vacuum cleaner fortune, went down on a foul tip in a good 8-pitch battle for the first out. Ponce through 1 curve and 7 fastballs (surprise)! Marte followed with an easy pop-out to Martinez in shallow left who re-checked his glove to ensure the ball was there. (Good idea!) After Escobar singled on a liner to Center, Ponce got his 2nd K on a wide cutter to Christian (Sky) Walker, but it was another 8-pitch at-bat, putting the lanky hurler’s pitch count at 23 already.
Bottom of the 1st
Sparkplug, Microwave, Prodigy, Wunderkind Tommy Edman failed all nicknames by leading things off with a backwards K. Showing Tommy how it’s done, Martinez followed by striking out The Cardinal Way, whiffing at a slider down and in. Fresh, first-time All-Star DeJong smashed a 104-mph screaming grounder right to third base, sending the Cards down in order.
Top of the 2nd
Still pretty-good-hitting 33-year-old Adam Jones likes to be in on current trends and struck out looking on a good pitcher’s pitch fastball just beyond the right-edge of the zone for a thanks, ump called strike 3. Bolstered by already throwing like three curves in the game, Ponce barely plinked Jake Lamb Chop with a 74 mph hook that didn’t. He made no effort to move. Calling on his best friend, Ponce got a double play grounder to third, with Marp’s shoulder and back creaking as he heaved it to Tommy, whose youthful body parts zipped it to Goldy. It took another 8-pitch AB to get there, so Ponce was up to 38.
Bottom of the 2nd
If anyone needs a fresh start to the 2nd half it’s Goldy. Alas, same ‘ol, same ‘ol, as he struck out looking after some hard/long fouls...granted, the called third strike curve was off the plate. (Sigh.) Batting in the 5th spot (checks lineup), yep, 5th, Carp pulled an outside fastball to right for a sharp single. Back’s fine. More, please. The Cards couldn’t build off that, as Dex hit a weak grounder to third that forced Carp at second, then now regular catcher Weiters dribbled into a double play.
Top of the 3rd
Heeding his pitching coach’s advice to “throw fewer pitches,” Ponce set the D-Backs down in order in only 10 pitches, as Carson “We Hardly Knew Ye” Kelly fouled out to his counterpart Weiters, pitcher Robbie Ray Bans struck out (but on 7 pitches LOL), and then back to the leadoff Dyson, who flied out to the newly shorn Bader on the second pitch he saw.
Bottom of the 3rd
Following the time-honored tradition of cutting one’s hair (like almost all of one’s hair) to gain strength, Not-So-Harry Bader lead off by chasing a slider for strike three. Hair grows back, I guess. Looking as comfortable as a pitcher who can’t hit, Ponce defied your perception of him by drawing a walk. Edman showed bunt but ultimately swung away, hitting a force-out but speeding to first, easily reaching. With 2 out, Martinez popped out to first on a center-center slider.
Top of the 4th
Fresh off his brief 3rd inning, Ponce got a bit lucky as Marte greeted him with a smash to center at 101 mph off the bat, but Bader easily corralled for out 1. After striking out Escobar on a nice cutter on the inside corner, Ponce paid dearly for a fastball that had way too much of the plate, as Christian Walker (Goldschmidt’s replacement, I’m told) tagged it for a 2-out homer to left-center. Ponce re-grouped to get Jones to ground out to Tommy (after Ponce whiffed at the ball) at second.
Bottom of the 4th
With the 3-4-5 meat of the order up, it felt about time to get something going. It wasn’t to be, as Pauly grounded to short, Goldy popped up to first, and Carp softly lined out to short. Pfff.
Top of the 5th
Clearly miffed at giving up the gopher ball in the 4th, Ponce came out straight-slinging’ nothin’ but heaters to Lamb. Hey, it worked, as he struck out looking on four pitches, as Ponce earned his 6th strikeout. [Spoiler Alert: Defense Matters]. Next batter Nick The Stick Ahmed hit an initially harmless single to left, but Martinez loped slowly over, bobbled it, bobbled it again, enough so that it allowed a hustling Nick to reach second.
Ponce and the Cards got a brief scare next, as regular, well-hitting catcher Carson Kelly ripped a 103-mph grounder right back at the pitcher, but it bounced off his foot and ricocheted to Goldy for the out with the runner advancing to third. (The previous pitch shoulda been strike 3.) The trainers checked on Ponce, who ultimately was fine. He retired his counterpart next on a groundout to Pauly. The Cards’ announcers understandably mentioned his horrible incident of getting hit in the head with a liner in the minors, but they belabored the point unnecessarily.
Bottom of the 5th
Ho, hum, slow, unexciting game right? Dex lead off and continued that trend by grounding out to second on the first pitch. Not helping matters was the Cards’ announcers still were discussing pitchers getting hit by batted balls.
But wait! Your favorite homer-hittin’ backup backstop worked a nice at-bat, ultimately nailing an up and away fastball just hard enough (98 mph) and at enough of the good kind of angle (26 degrees), and it traveled just far enough (361 feet) to squeak over the fence in right for his 6th home to tie it 1-1! Yay!
The crowd buzz quickly subsided, however, as Bader Tots struck out swinging again—on a slider again. Then Ponce followed suit, striking out swinging for the Crads’ 6th strikeout.
Top of the 6th
Third Time Through the Order Alert!!!
Giving up only 3 hits and one run to this point, Ponce enters a critical point of the game at 82 pitches, facing the top of the D-Back lineup. Pitching like a young stud with no back spasm issues, Ponce breezed through the inning with harmless contact: pop-up to third, fly-out to left (two hands, please, Jose!), and pop-out to short. Nice!
Bottom of the 6th
Like Arizona, St. Louis started this inning with the top of the lineup. That’s good! Danny Mac was quoting a Nelly song. That’s bad!
Anyway, Edman started with a bang, unfortunately, the bang was right at the right fielder for a hard line-out. After Martinez walked on 5 pitches, Pauly lined softly to short and Goldy struck out looking on a very good low and away fastball that, you know, he shoulda swung at.
Top of the 7th
Looking good and probably feeling good, Ponce entered rarefied air for himself and most all Cards starting pitchers this season, by seeing the 7th from the mound and not the dugout. Up first was his evening’s nemesis, Christian Walker, he of the solo homer. A 9-pitch battle ensued, with Ponce ultimately victorious, striking him out on a cutter way outside. Walker shoulda reflected his last name, there.
Two cutters later, Ponce got Jones to ground out to short, and at 105 pitches, his night was done.
Shildt went to Miller to get the left-lefty matchup against Lamb. Good process,...bad result, as Lamb deposited an inside 1-2 slider into the seats for only his second homer of the season, making it 2-1 Snakes. Miller’s been pitching well of late, but of the homers he’s given up, 4 now have been to lefties. Gant replaced Miller and gave up a hard single to Ahmed but then retired Kelly on a harmless fly-out to center.
Bottom of the 7th
Gotta answer right away, right? Doesn’t always work that way, as Carp struck out on a low-and-away slider. It was Ray’s 97th pitch, and his also very good night was done, giving up only 2 hits, 1 run, striking out 8.
Righty Yoshihisa Hirano entered in relief, finishing off the inning by greeting Dex with a strikeout. Writers hit a deep fly to left, but it was caught right at the wall for the third out as fans went “Awwww!”
Top of the 8th
Boy, it got later early, didn’t it? Good pitching (poor hitting?) from both teams will do that. Looking for an insurance run, D-Backs pinch hitter Domingo Leyba started things off by drawing a walk off Gant. After getting leadoff hitter Dyson to pop out to short, the like, worst thing happened, as Ketel Marte ambushed a not far-enough up and not far-enough in first-pitch fastball, homering to right for the Snakes’ third tater of the evening. Insurance runs achieved, 4-1 D-Backs.
Gant recovered to get Escobar to ground out to second and Christian Walker to ground out to short, but the damage was done.
Bottom of the 8th
Kolten Wong came in to pinch hit for Bader (oof) and banged a line-drive to center to start things off. Fellow pinch hitter on this night, Munoz followed by reaching first on an error by the shortstop, initially called out then overturned. Hey, a rally!
Unfortunately, Edman struck out on a changeup and Martinez grounded to short, but Wong and Munoz were able to safely advance to third and second, respectively, as Martinez was out at first.
Next, Pauly reached on an infield single, the GOB balancing things out from his first inning screamer that was an out. Wong scored and Munoz made it to third. 4-2 D-Backs. Alas, the 2-out rally was short-lived, as Goldschmidt grounded out to third.
Top of the 9th
Brebbia entered the 9th to keep the D-Backs where they’re at. He started well, striking out Jones on three pitches: slider, slider, fastball. He plunked Lamb next, however, obviously sending a message about his previous homer. It didn’t come back to bite him, though, as he got a double play to get out of the inning.
Bottom of the 9th
Well, the D-Backs had themselves a closer situation, so they went to their new closer...Greg Holland. (Yes, that Greg Holland.) He got Carpenter swinging on a over-but-low slider to strike him out. Dexter followed up by grounding out to first, but Weiters walked on 4 pitches to keep things alive with 2 outs; then he advanced to second on a wild pitch. (That’s the Holland we know.)
Alas, with the tying run at the plate in Kolten, the Tryin’ Hawaiian struck out to end the game. 4-2 D-Backs. Holland rejoiced inside.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
- Ponce was Terrific: 6 and 2/3; 3 hits; 0 BB; 7 Ks. This likely will boost the talk of getting him in the rotation.
- Snake-bit by the Homer: All of the D-Backs runs came via the long ball.
- Switch the Digits: Cards had double-digit strikeouts (12) and single-digit hits (4).