Being the cagey fans you are, you likely already knew Shildt would roll out the youths for today’s noon CT scorcher-after-a-night-scorcher. The lone vet starting was Dex, born in 1986. All others were born in 1992 or later. Today’s battery mates were both born in 1995, so they totally got each other’s funny references when they chatted on the mound.
The Cards kept the Memphis Shuttle moving, this time to lengthen the bench, as they recalled for the third time Rangel Ravelo, the minor league vet at 27 who subbed for Goldy at first. Ravelo got his first taste of The Show on June 17 vs. the Marlins. In corresponding moves, Tyler Webb was up; Helsley and Leone down.
Jack Flaherty toed the rubber, looking to continue announcing his presence with authority, having lasted 7 innings in his last two starts, giving up but 1 hit and 1 earned run each time. However, the offense mustered a total of 1 run over those two games, so the Cards lost both. Chalk up another 2 reasons pitcher wins shouldn’t be stressed.
The Reds sent righty Anthony DeSclafani to the bump. Both he and Jack have been bitten by the long ball, with Jack giving up 1.7 HR/9 and DeSclafani 1.9. With the ball-lifting heat inside Great American Small Park’s dimensions, the dinger loomed prominently.
Twenty minutes after game start, the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony began. Former Cardinal closer Lee Smith was inducted after 15 years of not being inducted, which was nice. He retired as the all-time saves leader and currently is third. Learning he went in as a Cub, I lost interest. (No offense, Lee.)
THE BIRD’S-EYE VIEW
The Pitching - Flaherty was weirdly effective in a brief outing, as he struck out 7 Reds in just 4.1 innings, but he simultaneously gave up 6 hits and 2 walks. Regularly producing deep counts, he kept wiggling out of trouble via the strikeout through four innings. After loading the bases with no outs in the fifth, he managed to get an out without giving up a run on a Puig infield fly on his 86th pitch.
Young Jack made way for a fellow youth, the Kidz Bop Player of the Game, Giovanny Gallegos, who shrugged “Whatever, man,” when told he’d be facing bases loaded and only one out. Gio cooly struck out the two hitters he faced to escape the jam then for good measure returned for the 6th, collecting another 2 Ks and a flyout to keep the Reds scoreless.
Not to be out-done, Miller got 2 Ks himself as he relieved Gio in the 7th, producing a clean inning. Cards went to that well again in the 8th, getting burned as Miller gave up a solo homer to pinch-hitter Phillip Ervin to make it 2-1. Gant cleaned up the 8th, then El Gallo successfully closed out the 9th working around a 2-out walk to strike out Votto looking for the save.
The “Offense” - In what turned out to be the key inning for the hitters, in the second, the Kardz Kidz displayed small ball with 4 stolen bases (2 via a double steal) and 3 non-home run hits creating 2 early runs. Whitey Herzog laughed and slurped Budweiser while watching from his man cave in New Athens, IL.
Because kids know everything, they thought that was enough to win, as they produced no other baserunners until a leadoff single (by Old Man Dex) in the 6th. That lead to nothing, and the offense remained silent until Munoz corked a solo homer (after DeJong was caught stealing—curse, you Whiteball!) for an insurance run to make it 3-2. Okay, kidz, that was enough.
THE FLIGHT PATH
Top of the 1st
Tommy Edman, still squatting in the leadoff spot, struck out looking on a cutter catching the edge of the outside zone. Old Man Dex didn’t show the kids how it’s done, as he struck out swinging on a knuckle curve in the dirt. Rangel Rovelo, enjoying batting third in a big-league lineup, was eager to get a knock, swinging on the first pitch; alas, it got in on him, and he grounded out meekly to Peraza at short for the 1-2-3 inning.
Bottom of the 1st
Jack began by getting to 1-2 but walked Winker on a 6th pitch that actually was a strike at the middle-bottom of the zone. He fixed that against Votto, after going 1-2 again but striking him out on his own knuckle curve in the dirt, blocked nicely by Knizner. Jack busted out the slider for the first time in the game, striking out Suarez swinging at that pitch in the dirt. He looked like he had Puig likewise struck out on a check swing on a pitch in the dirt, but the ump gave him a free pass to first. First and second, 2 out. Finally, Jack got the third out as VanMeter hit the 8th pitch of his at bat on a line but springy-legged young second baseman Tommy Edman timed his leap well and snagged a liner over his head for out 3. However, it was Jack’s 28th pitch of the game already.
Tommy Edman continues to amaze! pic.twitter.com/BStiVgvzlf— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) July 21, 2019
Top of the 2nd
Tyler O’Neill visited first base coach Stubby Clapp by looping a single to center that seemed Winker could’ve caught had he, like came in faster on it, but it bounced in front of him. TON then reminded people he could run fast, easily stealing on the next pitch, as the catcher almost hit DeSclafani with his way off-line throw.
DeJong grounded up the middle, but Scooter Gennett was playing there, getting Pauly D at first, but TON advanced to third with one out. “Get ‘em on, Get ‘em over” boxes were checked. Up in an early key spot, Yairo Munoz fell behind 0-2 but continued to battle, as he hacked at several high not-strikes, fouling them off. After actually not swinging at two not-strikes, Yairo did what Yairo do, looping a fliner over the head of second baseman Gennett who had been playing in, easily plating Tyler for a 1-0 Cards lead!
Knizner followed by getting a single of his own, albeit of the more legit, hard-hit variety, moving Yairo to second. Now with Bader up with first and second 1 out, the Runnin’ Redbirds pulled off a double steal. Bader then got a break, as the former croquet champion sent a grounder right through the legs of third baseman Suarez, scoring Munoz. Put the ball in play, kids.
Now with first and third, still one out, Flaherty was showing bunt. Fortunately, before he could successfully do so and unnecessarily give up an out with the speedy Bader on, Bader stole second. Swinging away now, Jack unfortunately couldn’t make contact, K’ing for out 2.
Returning to the top of the order already, DeSclafani successfully unleashed his knuckle curve, striking Edman out.
2-0 Cards and DeSclafani up to 39 pitches. Both good things.
Bottom of the 2nd
Jack got his 3rd K of the day by striking out Scooter Gennett on a sharp slider over and kissing the bottom of the zone. Jose Peraza popped one to short center that Bader raced in to actually grab easily, ending up just about on the infield. His defense doesn’t take a day off. With the pitcher up, Jack was looking for a quick inning; alas, he left one over too much of the plate, and DeSclafani singled sharply to center, for the Reds’ first hit. Of course.
Jack re-grouped to strike out 9th-hitting catcher Lavarnway watching a 94 mph heater on the outside corner for his 4th strikeout of the day.
Top of the 3rd
Dex got off his porch but should’ve stayed put, as he swung badly through a curve for his second K of the day. Ravelo followed suit, with his own swinging strikeout on a well-placed up-and-in fastball. Completing the set, Tyler struck out as well, looking at a high pitch that Gameday showed as a ball but human umpire called a strike for DeSclafani’s 7th K of the day. 7? Yes, 7.
Bottom of the 3rd
Back to the top of the order, Winker grounded out to Pauly D, who gloved it nicely to throw him out. Good thing, because Votto next sent a harsh liner to right center that Dex actually took a nice route on, hustling to cut it off to hold Votto to a single. It was a very well-placed changeup low and away, so cap-tip to Votto.
Dex’s effort was key, as Suarez next got jammed but blooped one to center that even Bader couldn’t get. It wouldn’t have been enough to score Votto, but instead of first and third one out, it was first and second, one out. Jack next got the dangerous but gettable Puig on an infield fly to Edman, who grabbed it on his way to the outfield from his second base position. Jack next went to 3-2 to VanMeter, but struck him out on a nice slider down and away, his 5th punchout.
But another lengthy inning ballooned Jack’s pitch count to 61 already.
Top of the 4th
Pauly D started things off by chasing an outside slider, looping it to right that was snagged on a nice running play by freight train Puig. Munoz gave Puig more work, as he next flied out to right, giving Yasiel the chance to exhibit some flare, with a nonchalant snag of the ball. Knizner then whiffed on DeSclafani’s knuckle curve in the dirt, as the Redbirds went down meekly in order.
Bottom of the 4th
Needing an efficient inning badly, Jack gave up a single to right to Gennett. But hey, it was at least on the first pitch. Next hitter Peraza then was called out on strikes on a heater a bit off the edge, but he didn’t argue. With a man at first and one out, the pitcher was up to bunt. Jack got him to 0-2, then K’d him swinging on slider down and away for out 2 and his 7th strikeout. Lavarnway then grounded out to Munoz at third, who gloved it to his right and threw a bullet to get the runner for the final out.
A nice result of this inning was that it took Jack only 11 pitches, hopefully buying him more time to stay in the game longer.
Top of the 5th
Perhaps a future lead-off hitter if he ever figures out hitting better, Bader led off the inning by hacking at a high fastball to right for a fly-out. It was the 7th pitch, though, so silver lining. Flaherty tried to catch the fielders napping by showing bunt, but pulled the bat back on the first pitch. But he got down 2 strikes and started swinging away, battling for 7 pitches but succumbing on the 8th, striking out on a foul tip. But he kept spiking the Reds’ starter’s pitch count, though, like Bader.
Looking for his first hit of the day, Edman didn’t find it in his third at bat by popping out on the 4th pitch in foul territory on a long running catch by Suarez beyond third.
DeSclafani was up to 84 pitches, though.
Bottom of the 5th
Starting the “Third Time Through the Order” inning, leadoff man Winker greeted Jack with a hit to shallow right center that dropped beyond a diving Dex and bounced away, allowing a hustling Winker to reach 2nd for a double. Votto then jumped the very next pitch on a ringing single to left, but it was hit too hard for Winker to score from second. With first and third no out, Jack got a visit from Maddux, reminding him that all the strikeouts he’d been getting would be good to replicate vs. the next batter Suarez, he of 24 home runs. Jack got him down 1-2 but then plunked him to load the bases with Puig up next.
After going 2-2, Jack and Puig engaged in some cat-and-mouse pausing, calling time, etc., with a catcher-pitcher visit thrown in. Bucking up, Jack got Puig to pop out to second on a 3-2 pitch, one of those great bases loaded, no-out results that kept the runners stuck to their bases.
With VanMeter up next, Jack got another visit, but this wasn’t a pep talk; instead he was asked to give up the ball, which he did, giving way to Gallegos in a huge spot, despite VanMeter being a lefty. Being a strikeout pitcher so far in his young career (63 in 45 innings; nearly half against lefties), this seemed a solid decision. Good process, good results, as Gio got strikeout 64 by K’ing VanMeter on a biting slider. Bases loaded, 2 out.
Lefty vet Gennett was next, and he worked a 3-2 count. The kid didn’t blink, but also got fortunate, as he slung a high and wide slider that Scooter swung through for strike 3!
Still 2-0 Cards! Nine left on base to this point.
Giovanny Gallegos lowered his 2019 ERA to 2.31! pic.twitter.com/PFVUA0Mh40— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) July 21, 2019
Top of the 6th
With no baserunners since their 2-run production in the second, the Cards needed to make some noise already. With the previous 11 batters retired, veteran Fowler broke that string with a single on a sharp 100 mph liner to center. Ravelo then erased Dex on the bases by grounding even more sharply (107 mph) into a force-out at second, but was called safe at first on a bang-bang play. The Reds didn’t turn that smoothly, but it was impressive nonetheless that he made it that close. A challenge on the play at first was held up.
Tyler O’Neill, however, forgot about the Small-Ball memo, striking out looking on a high and wide fastball close enough to swing at with 2 strikes, producing the 2nd out. Likewise, Pauly D struck out, but via the swinging variety, on DeSclafani’s 101st pitch, a very not-strike knuckle curve, becoming the 11th K of the day.
Bottom of the 6th
Giovanny returned for the 6th, having thrown just 12 pitches in the 5th, despite them being the high-stress variety. But hey, he’s young, throw him out there. Seventh-place hitter Peraza battled through 6 pitches, and for his reward, was called out on strikes on the 7th pitch, was actually off the plate. A break for the Cards there.
Gallegos followed that up by repeating the result, but taking only 3 pitches, getting Derek Dietrich looking on a called strike on the outside corner that actually was a strike this time. Next hitter Lavarnway made hard contact, sending it 370 feet to right center that Bader chased down at the track, catching it at the wall while making it look like a walk in the park. Bullet dodged there.
Top of the 7th
Righty Lucas Sims entered in relief, and Munoz said “Hello!” by tripling deep to center off the wall despite stumbling a bit at second! Forget get ‘em on, get ‘em over, he was already over! Young Knizner was up next, knowing what to do: make contact. But he forgot that he needed the right kind of contact, as he grounded a bouncer to third, with Munoz wisely staying put. (I’m not a proponent of the contact play so much.)
Next, Bader got his shot. Hey, he also made contact, but even worse contact, as he popped out to deep second on a 0-1 up and in curve. It was up to pinch hitter older guy Martinez to show the kiddies how it was done. In the huge spot, Martinez was greeted with some chin music, so he barked at the pitcher, but everyone stayed where they were. Working the count to 3-2, he fouled two off, then took ball 4 up and in again, but he calmly took his base in a nice at-bat. First and third, two out.
Back to the youngsters, Edman quickly got down 0-2, then got in “protect mode” and fouled off 5 pitches himself, but ultimately struck out on a foul tip.
Cards created bad karma by wasting the leadoff triple.
Bottom of the 7th
In an odd ritual, the fans peeled their bare hamstrings off the hard-plastic seats to stretch a bit, then re-applied them. Lanky lefty Andrew Miller came in to face the top of the order in lefty Winker, with Wong also entering at second. Miller got lucky, as Winker slapped a 103 mph one-hop screamer to DeJong, who backed up on it and threw him out. Next, Votto got down 1-2, backing out on a couple of sliders in the process, possibly trying to deke Miller. Miller remained with his only best pitch, striking him out on a very good, sweeping slider.
Righty hitter Suarez was up next, and hey! Miller stayed in. Somebody knew something, because Miller dispatched him nicely, getting him to swing through a slider waaay down and in. Nice.
Top of the 8th
Righty Jared Hughes came in to replace Lucas Sims. Remember when Dexter led off the 6th with a single? Well, he didn’t repeat that; instead, golfing a pitch off his shoetops on a soft line to center for out 1. Ravelo came up looking for his first hit of the day but didn’t find it, as he struck out swinging an over and down sinker different from those thrown in AAA. Tyler O’Niell was next, and grounded a slow roller to second that the hustlin’ Canadian made close at first. He was called out on the field, and even the Reds thought the big board showed he was safe, as they came back out to their positions. They were allowed to u-turn to the dugout, however, as the call stood upon review.
Bottom of the 8th
Miller remained in the game to face Puig, who obligingly popped out to Ravelo at first on a slider painted at the center-bottom of the zone. The Reds brought in another righty in pinch-hitter Phillip Ervin, thinking surely Miller can’t keep getting righties out. Well, they were correct, as Ervin corked a high homer to left, making it 2-1 Cards, for his first career pinch-hit homer. Thinking “Let’s do that again!” the Reds sent up another righty pinch-hitter, Jose Iglesias, hitting for the lefty Gennett.
Trying to learn their lesson, the Cards pulled Miller for righty John Gant. Goldy came in to play first. The logic worked, as Gant retired Iglesias on a nice down and away cutter that the hitter reached for and grounded to DeJong for out 2. Gant finished the inning off by smacking down a comebacker, pouncing on it quickly to throw Iglesias out at first.
Top of the 9th
Yet another Reds’ Iglesias came in, as the Raisel version entered to provide right-handed relief. Meanwhile, El Gallo was warming up. Pauly D led off with a walk, and as Munoz was batting, Pauly was caught stealing on a throw that bounced but. Nice idea on paper, but it cost a run as Munoz nailed a center-in fastball over the wall in left for a (1, not 2-run dinger)! 3-1 Cards!
He knew it the moment that he hit it! pic.twitter.com/e8CPI3j50s— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) July 21, 2019
But let’s not be greedy, as it produced a patented insurance run. Knizner then struck out swinging for the second out, repeated by Bader, who also K’d swing-style for the final out.
Bottom of the 9th
After getting the night off last night, El Gallo strutted to the mound to close this bad boy out. Pinch hitter Nick Senzel stepped in and worked the count to 3-2 before grounding out to short on a 96 mph sinker that kissed the bottom of the zone. Lavarnway then grounded out as well, this time to Kolten for out 2. Leadoff man Winker worked a full count of his own then walked to keep the Reds alive.
The tying run came to the plate in the form of Votto. After Winker went to second on defensive indifference, Martinez buckled down and K’d Votto looking on an up and away cutter that graciously could be described as just touching the strike zone. Yay!
Cards won 3-1!!!
THE BOTTOM LINE
- Nice team win with the funky, youth-laden lineup producing just enough runs for the mix of young/veteran hurlers to make stand up.
- The win makes the Cards 7-3 in their last 10, as they try to keep pace behind the Cubs (currently 3 back) and fend off the Brewers (currently tied for 2nd with the Cards).
- Despite injuries and certain key players not producing to their career norms (you know who they are), the club seems to be pushing the right buttons of late and using the Memphis Shuttle effectively to bolster either the pitching staff or hitters.
- The Cards next remain in the Central, as they move on tomorrow to start another 4-game set, this one in Pittsburgh.
- Keep winning series, yo.