Last night’s impressive comeback W against the Reds ensured at least a split of this 4-game series. Wayne’s abbreviated start (3.1 innings) added to the recent increased burden on the bullpen the past few games, so the Cards called up fireballer and former starter Ryan Helsley. Edmundo Sosa was sent back down.
Miles “Lizard King” Mikolas threw a shut-out against the Pirates in his last outing, so everyone expected him to approximate that tonight to give the pen a much-needed break (and ya know, a win). He’s still not walking guys (6th in MLB with 1.4 walks/9) but has given up 9.6 hits/9, just outside the top ten of all MLB pitchers (in a bad way).
The offense faced a significant challenge, as the Reds sent their ace and All-Star Luis Castillo, who has accumulated an impressive 3.7 WAR to this point, leading all MLB starters in giving up a stingy 5.5 hits/9. Couple that with his top-10 10.8 Ks/9, and the hitters had their work cut out. Ah, but the chink in his armor is control, as he dishes out 4.5 walks/9, 2nd in the majors. So the Cards needed to sharpen their battin’ eyes and lace up their hittin’ shoes real tight.
Cards began the evening in second place, 3 games back of the Cubs. The night ended with them still in second, but 3.5 games back, as they lost a pitchers’ duel to the Reds 3-2.
Top of the 1st
Baseball’s versions of luck showed up already. Tommy Edman got down 0-2 but impressively stayed back on a changeup (Castillo’s best pitch) and got lucky, getting just enough of it for a soft single to center. One of last night’s big heroes Cafecito couldn’t duplicate that, as he struck out swinging on dat changeup. Goldy then smashed a low 97 mph fastball in play faster than it came in (EV 100 mph); unfortunately, it went via the ground to the shortstop for a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Bottom of the 1st
Belying his great control, Miles walked the leadoff hitter Winker. I’ve heard that’s not a good idea. He made up for it, getting Votto to hit into an odd version of a double play, as he hit it to Goldy, who stepped on first then threw to DeJong, who ran down the runner who had stopped, thinking perhaps Goldy had caught it. 2 outs.
Fresh off his first-inning ejection last night, Suarez looped a bloop to right for a single on a good down and away slider. Working against the dreaded “bloop ‘n a blast,” voodoo, Mikolas challenged Puig with fastballs in various spots of the zone, getting him to strike out on one on the outside corner.
Top of the 2nd
O’Neill started the inning getting tied up on a tough inside fastball for a strikeout. Sabermetrics then got the next two outs, as both Dex and Wong sent grounders up the middle where the shortstop was positioned perfectly to make the outs. Cheating? Of course not.
Bottom of the 2nd
Josh VanMeter greeted Mikolas with a line-drive single over DeJong’s head to center, beating the shift. Miles then erased both VanMeter and next hitter Peraza, who hit into a 5-4-3 twin killing. Two outs on one pitch. P cool. Jose Iglesias then obligingly struck the first pitch he saw on the ground pretty hard (90 mph EV) to Edman, who took care of it like he’s been playing baseball all his life.
Top of the 3rd
Pauly D led off, and like the two previous Cards hitters, took the Reds’ bait, grounding out into the shift up the middle. Wieters did likewise, grounding out to the right side, where 3 Reds infielders were positioned, with 2nd baseman Peraza throwing him out. Mikolas then grounded to Votto for the 3 up, 3 down inning.
With a third of the game over, Castillo sat at 39 pitches.
Bottom of the 3rd
Miles got catcher Juan “Use Only As Directed” Graterol to ground out meekly to Edman, the third in a row to the young third baseman. Castillo then struck out on his third swing, as pitchers often do. Digging how baseball allows pitchers to get outs without even allowing a batter to make contact, Mikolas struck out leadoff hitter Winker, his third punchout to this point.
Operating even more efficiently than Castillo, Miles exited the third needing just a nifty 34 pitches.
Top of the 4th
Leading off for the second time in the game, Edman stroked a 2-strike, well-outside changeup softly but well placed down the line for a double. Martinez then grounded out sharply to second, but it moved Tommy to third for a one-out scoring opportunity for Goldy. With the infield in, Goldschmidt couldn’t make contact, striking out swinging on a not-strike fastball off the outside corner. Determined to get the runner in, who was, just like, right there so close at third, Tyler O’Neill came in swinging and just missed a hanging slider, flying out to the track in left.
The great scoring chance was for naught. Was it the best chance the Cards would have? Read on.
Bottom of the 4th
Miles got the veteran bat choker-upper Votto on a floating liner to DeJong, who initially thought he needed to leap for it, but was able to keep his feet on the ground (while reaching for the stars) for out 1. Unwisely going 3-0 to Suarez, Miles gave up a line-drive single to left. Throwing mostly fastballs to next hitter Puig, (one slider), Mikolas got him to hit a grounder to short that Pauly D snagged nicely to his left, flipping to Kolten, who made the turn, zipping it to Pauly G for the third double play of the night.
Top of the 5th
Dex led things off by grounding a low changeup to second. Good luck revisited, as Wong broke his bat yet produced a bloop single to center. But it was DeJong’s turn for bad luck, as he smacked a grounder at 98 mph, but right to the second baseman for a 4-6-3 double play, the second for the Reds, ending the inning.
Bottom of the 5th
Throwing 5 not-strikes to walk VanMeter, Mikolas then knocked down a comebacker, scrambled to get it, and threw the runner out. The Reds got their own back luck, as Peraza lined out right to Wong for out two. Wong also took care of next batter Iglesias, standing just to the first-base side of second to field a grounder.
The game was just barely over one hour old. Very good pitching on both sides will do that.
Top of the 6th
Finally, the Cards broke through on Castillo, as your favorite backup catcher Wieters sent a big fly to left center for a 423-ft homer, his 7th, making it 1-0 Cards!
Wow, Wieters! pic.twitter.com/n4ZpxZuBYl— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) July 21, 2019
Lizard King then followed by ambushing a center-cut fastball for a double to left center, prompting a mound visit for the Reds. Edman then sent a bloop over the shortstop Iglesias’ head, who made a running, backhanded circus catch for an impressive out. He quickly slung it to second, and Miles barely made it back safely. The ball went past the base, but Mikolas could not advance.
Martinez then worked a walk, laying off several low pitches to bring up Goldy with 1st and 2nd, 1 out. Alas, Pauly G struck out swinging (Castillo’s 4th) on a down and in fastball off the plate.
TON then could not take advantage of the RISP and grounded to third for the force-out to end the inning.
At least the Cards made Castillo throw 25 pitches in the inning, bumping his total up to 88.
Bottom of the 6th
Reds catcher Graterol grounded to Tommy at third who snagged it to his left and threw him out. Next was the beautiful sight of pinch-hitter Derek Dietrich entering to hit for Castillo, ending his night. Unfortunately, Miles hit him on a 2-2 pitch. Dietrich apparently uses HBP as his value add, having been plunked for the 22nd time this season.
Winker then struck out on a foul tip for out 2, prompting him to slam his bat on home plate, breaking it. Miles then got Votto next to ground out to short to end the inning.
With two-thirds of the game in the books, Miles sat at a comfortable 75 pitches.
Top of the 7th
Lefty reliever Amir Garrett came in to relieve Castillo. Switch-hitter Fowler, holding his right-handed swinging bat, struck out on a not-strike down and in slider, now 0 for his last unlucky 13. Wong tried next to bunt his way on, but the pitcher snagged it, throwing him out. Pauly D then ended the punchless inning by striking out on the same pitch Dex did.
Bottom of the 7th
Mikolas walked the dangerous Suarez to lead things off, just his second walk of the night. Didn’t take long for that to come back to bite him, as Puig doubled to left center to score Suarez all the way from first, tying the game 1-1.
After Mike Maddux came out to tell Miles to not do that again, Miles did something even worse, giving up a 2-run homer to right by VanMeter (his first in The Show), making it 3-1 Reds, with no out. The bad stuff continued, as Mikolas gave up a single through the hole between third and short. That was enough for Shildt, who came to the mound to take the ball from Miles and give it to new roster addition Helsley. Bader replaced Dex in center.
In the blink of an eye, Miles went from cruising through the Reds to hitting the showers, leaving having thrown 91 pitches.
Next hitter Iglesias sent a high drive to left center that Bader called off TON to catch for the first out, finally. He then retired Graterol on a short fly to right that the running baby giraffe Martinez made for out 2. Scooter Gennett came on to pinch hit, trying to pick up another run. Hensley got him to fly out to Bader to end the inning. Good job.
Top of the 8th
Reds righty reliever Michael Lorenzen came on for the Reds. Homer-Hittin’ Wieters struck out on a not-strike down and in slider. Hitting for the first time tonight, Bader worked a walk. Edman then came through by zipping a grounder right off the third-base bag, between the ump’s legs to the wall for double, his third hit of the night (second double), as Bader scampered to third. I miss his long hair flapping from under his helmet.
With first and third with one out, Martinez grounded out to second, but it scored Bader and moved Edman to third with 2 outs. 3-2 Reds.
Goldy then jumped on the first pitch he saw, flying out to left, leaving Tommy at third and the Cards still one run down.
Bottom of the 8th
Having done a great job last inning and throwing only 10 pitches, Helsley returned for the 8th to face the top of the order. Bad things happened quickly, though, as Winker barely missed a homer to left, as his high drive banged off the top of the wall for a leadoff double. Something called a Senzel replaced Winker at second. He must be fast.
Looking to cash in an insurance run, Votto hit a grounder to second, and Wong made a nifty backhanded grab on a short hop to throw Votto out, as Senzel advanced to third.
Going 3-1 to Suarez, the Cards decided to forgo another pitch and intentionally walked him, making it first and third, one out. With the Cards infielders playing about halfway in, Puig struck out on a down and away slider for the second out.
With VanMeter batting, Suarez stole second with no throw, putting runners at second and third. After the Cards used their last mound visit, VanMeter lined out at Pauly D, for a fortunate third out. Cards were lucky to escape the inning that began with a double with the score not changing.
Top of the 9th
Lorenzen remained in the game to attempt the save. Hitless TON led off the inning by remaining hitless, striking out on a curve. Munoz came in to pinch hit, and lined sharply to left, unfortunately right at the left fielder for out 2. Cards’ last chance Wong flew out to left to end the game.
Cards lost, 3-2.
Bottom of the 9th
Not necessary, unfortunately.
- Lizard King was great...until he flinched in the 7th. His line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 ER 2 BB 4 SO was “quality,” but not good enough on this night.
- Helsley did his job well, throwing 2 innings of scoreless relief, giving up just 1 hit and 1 walk, striking out 1.
- Despite the loss, the bullpen did get a much-needed rest, with the Cards using only 2 pitchers, a rarity.
- Cards’ batters went 0-8 with RISP, their 2 runs coming on Wieters’ solo homer and a groundout from Martinez.
- The Cards go for their third win in this 4-game series tomorrow at 12:10 CT with Flaherty going up against DeSclafani.