As much as it doesn’t feel like it, the Cardinals are still very much in the playoff hunt. This is not a controversial statement to most people I imagine. To the people who think the Cards don’t “feel” like a playoff team, they’re not wrong, but the 2006 team and 2011 team didn’t feel like one either until they did. Anyway, all of that is to say is that a 3-game series against the bottom dwellers of the NL Central at home is a series that you expect to win. The Cardinals did that.
Apologies for the late recap, but I was at work during the game. I don’t like to write a recap for a game I didn’t see, so I waited a couple hours until the game was over, and then watched it on MLB TV (in other words, the amount of time it takes for the game to be available on MLB TV in the St. Louis area). I knew the Cards won before I watched a second and I have to say, it makes watching the game very pleasant. “Oh the Cards are losing, that’s fine they’ll come back” is a thing you can say and actually have it be true!”
The Pirates struck first and last in today’s game and I have to imagine the W-L record for teams who do that is usually very good. Daniel Poncedeleon threw a hanging curveball that Starling Marte deposited in line drive form towards the left field seats. It was kind of an odd home run, in that I thought double off the bat, but it went far enough. Otherwise, a good first inning from Poncedeleon with two groundouts and a strikeout around the homer.
The Cardinals responded immediately. Tommy Edman hit a leadoff single on an 0-2 slider. If there’s any indication that Chris Archer has lost his effectiveness, that’s one sign. Jose Martinez hit a slooooow roller towards a 2B who needed to use every bit of range he had defensively, but since Martinez has the speed of a Molina, he was thrown out rather easily. But it was important since it advanced Edman to second, setting the stage for Tyler O’Neill to hit yet another first inning RBI, this one an opposite field single.
Dexter Fowler hit a pop up in between left field and the infield that Colin Moran couldn’t handle. Normally the shortstop handles it, but there was a shift for Fowler and Moran got an error on the popup. For the rest of the inning, Danny Mac complained that O’Neill should have scored and I’m must less convinced personally. He wasn’t sprinting, but I think he would have had to in order to score and it personally seems a little absurd to me to run at full speed 100% every time there’s a pop up you expect to be caught. But alas, maybe this is me knowing the Cards would win and thinking he should chill out about a play that at best only scores guys with O’Neill’s speed.
After another solid inning from Poncedeleon in the 2nd, the Cardinals struck again. This time the announcers were obsessed with batting average on specific counts. They said Andrew Knizner should have a good chance for his first hit when it was 1-0, which he did! He hit his first MLB hit after Yairo Munoz got on base from an infield single. It was a double, so runners were at 2nd and 3rd for Poncedeleon with nobody out. Ponce struck out, and Edman received his 2nd walk of the year when Archer threw no pitch particularly close on four straight pitches. Martinez hit a sacrifice fly, Goldschmidt walked, and O’Neill struck out on a questionable strike three call on a 3-2 count.
Poncedeleon’s 3rd inning is slightly misleading. He allowed two hits, but one of them was a swinging bunt. The other was to Archer, which would sadly not be his last hit of the evening. He got out of the inning unscathed from the 2-3-4 hitters of the Pirates. He was not so lucky in the 4th. He allowed a leadoff single, and walked Moran on the 10th pitch of the plate appearance. It was in the strike zone, but he didn’t throw it where he wanted and the way Knizner caught it did not make it look remotely like a strike. Jung Ho Kang grounded into a double play ball with runners at first and second, and the Cardinals elected to intentionally walk Jacob Stallings to get to Archer. Archer singled and two singles and three runs later, and Poncedeleon’s day was done.
Dominic Leone took over and got the out he needed. Chasen Shreve made his 2019 MLB debut and looked not a whole lot different than last year. The first batter lined out on the first pitch and he fell behind the next two batters and got flyouts. The Cardinals went down easy in the bottom of the 4th with Edmundo Sosa’s 2019 MLB debut, which was a strikeout.
In the bottom of the 5th, the Cardinals shortened the Pirates’ two run lead to 4-3 thanks to a pillar of meat. He took a 2-1 hanging slider and deposited into the left field seats. John Brebbia took over in the top of the 6th and looked like 1999 Pedro Martinez against the Pirates bottom of the order. He needed 14 pitches to strike out the side. He pitched so well, he was brought back out for the 7th, and he added one more strikeout in his two scoreless and baserunner-less innings.
The Cardinals couldn’t do anything against Archer in his sixth and last inning of work. Francisco Liriano was brought in for the 7th and the Cards’ bats awoke. Harrison Bader pinch-hit and grounded out, but Edman singled and Martinez walked, which knocked Liriano out of the game. Poor Michael Feliz replaced him and was tasked with getting out the 3-4-5. Goldschmidt homered and put the Cardinals in the lead 6-4.
Andrew Miller replaced Brebbia and pitched a clean inning with a strikeout. Encouraging after his last couple outings. Carlos Martinez ran into trouble in the 9th. He allowed a leadoff single to Adam Frazier, who was removed from the base paths on a groundout by Josh Bell who was safe on the double play attempt. He struck out Corey Dickerson, but the third out was more elusive. Two base hits in a row put the score at 6-5 Cardinals. Martinez, who had fell behind a few batters in the inning, got to 0-2 on Marte, who grounded out to end the game.
- Poncedeleon line: 3.2 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, HR, 3 Ks, 2 BBs - I honestly think he wasn’t that bad, but that line is kind of rough. If only he could have gotten Archer out, he probably pitches 5 solid innings.
- My somewhat of a hot take is that Carlos Martinez in the bullpen is fine because his numbers there are... fine. Basically his stats are pretty similar to his stats when he was a starter and that’s not a great sign since you’d expect him to be better.
- Edman, a questionable choice for the leadoff spot, got on base three times today to raise his OBP to .290. Two singles and a walk.
- O’Neill struck out once in four plate appearances, but more importantly he also homered and singled. His K% is exactly at 40% and it’s trending down. After he gets it below 40%, I’ll be looking daily to hope it goes down to 35%.
- Hope you still enjoyed the recap despite it being about three hours late.
Tomorrow, the Cardinals head to Cincinnati to face the extremely underrated Reds. I called the Pirates bottom dwellers, but I guess they are ahead of the Reds right now. That will change. The Pirates have a -54 run differential while the Reds are at +32, which is better than the Cards. The game is at 6:10. It’s Dakota Hudson against Tanner Roark.