In Game 2 of the 3-game set, the Astros sent a formidable hurler to the mound you (and the Cards) actually heard of. Former Pirate Gerrit Cole took the hill to put at end to the Cards’ team streaks of winning 6 straight and homering in 10 straight as well as Goldy’s streak of homering in 5 straight. Two outta three ain’t bad...
Cole brought a great anti-homer tool in his arsenal: the strikeout. Cole leads all of MLB—like the whole thing—with 205 strikeouts total, issuing them at a rate of 13.5 Ks per nine (also tops in MLB). Even when guys get on base, he buckles down, flaunting a 79.4% strand rate, good for fourth in all of baseball. He’s good, is what I’m sayin’.
The Cards were tying to get back to 10-games over, which they last saw on May 1st,...and haven’t seen again. They brought MLB’s second-best record since the break (12-3) into tonight. Trying to keep the good times rolling for the Cards was young righty Daniel Ponce de Leon. A fountain of high fastballs, Ponce is tough to gauge at this point, as he’s shown signs of being an effective starter, albeit to this point in his previous 6 starts, he has seen past the 5th in just half of them.
With only 38.1 IP under his belt, it’s tough to evaluate his 2019, but many will point to his shiny 2.82 ERA (ahem, but a 4.03 FIP) and a strand rate even higher than his opponent’s at 86.5%. Heh. Per usual, expect lots of fastballs, which he throws 71% of the time. Astros’ hitters like fastballs. Hmmm.
Dexter Fowler was out of the lineup, having clonked a foul ball off his previously broken left foot in last night’s game. X-rays were negative (that’s means good), but he’s to get a CT scan as well. Harrison Bader
got a rare did not start. See below:
Where’s Yairo? Playing center, batting second. Mike Shildt is honing his Trollface, VEB.
The starting pitches stuck to their respective scripts, which was not a good thing for the Cardinals. As customary, Ponce de Leon threw p much nothing but fastballs and cutters. Unfortunately, he had a very short night, which he also has a tendency to do, lasting only one out into the third. He was the victim of an unfortunate, weird first inning in which the Astros scored twice without the ball leaving the infield. But he also became his own worst enemy in a fateful third.
Also unfortunately, Cole did what he do, striking hitters out and producing lots of weak contact. In the early going, he held the Cards to merely one hit and one walk through three, as he was cruising.
The Weird First - That weird first I mentioned started badly as Ponce walked leadoff man George Springer, followed by Altuve hitting a sharp grounder back to Ponce that caromed off his left leg and trickled toward first, which Goldy fielded then flipped to Ponce, who made it in time to the bag but didn’t have control of the ball, dropping it. Everybody was safe. Bregman then broke his bat on a slow grounder to Edman at third that he also briefly bobbled, getting the force at second but the relay was too late at first. First and third, one out.
Brantley got jammed and looped it over Ponce to Wong in front of second base who flipped it to first for out 2, but the run scored. Seemed Wong could’ve caught it, but perhaps he thought it was hit harder for the potential double play.
With no ball out of the infield, the Astros led 1-0 and still had a runner at second with two out. Ponce then left a fastball up and outer the plate that Carlos Correa struck on a sharp line to center scoring Bregman. Just like that, it was 2-0 Astros.
The Cards made a little noise in the second, getting first and second with two out from a walk and single, but the rally fizzled without runs.
The Fateful Third - Springer greeted Ponce with a high liner to left on the second pitch that O’Neill backed up on and grabbed for out 1. Pace of Play slowed significantly here, as Ponce tested the pitch clock after every throw, but it didn’t help. He completely lost command and walked three straight to load the bases. That was enough to get him a ticket on the Shower Express. Ponce threw 48 pitches, of which but 26 were strikes.
Wacha entered in obviously a tough spot, and he tried cleaning that spot with gasoline. Facing Carlos Correa, he actually had him out on front on changeups but then left a fastball up and out over the plate that Correa smoked to right-center for a grand slam.
6-0 Astros, one out. Ugh.
[No, I’m not inserting video of that here.]
Yuli Gurriel followed by sending a sharp grounder up the middle for a single to re-start their run-making machine. Mercifully, Josh Roddick ended the Cards’ misery by grounding into a double play, 5-4-3.
A Fun Fourth - After retiring the Astros in the top half with no more runs, the Cards finally broke through, as Pauly G cranked his 24th homer, extending his dinger streak to 6 games! Unlike last night, it was a no-doubter this time, way out to left center on a hanging slider for a solo shot to put the Cards on the board! 6-1 Astros.
The Cards missed a chance to add to that, as DeJong followed with a double down the left-field line. Kolten then popped out in foul territory beyond third for the second out. With Tyler up, a wild pitch sent DeJong to third. Tyler then sent a long drive just to the right of center that Springer loped toward and snagged on the run right before the wall.
Uneventful 5-7th - Neither team scored through these frames, as Cole kept the Cards at bay, and Wacha actually settled nicely into Innings Eater mode.
The “All that Glitters is not Just Goldy” 8th - Mike Mayers entered the game and got Yuli Gurriel to ground one just to the left of second base that Kolten ranged to and busted out the jump throw for the out.
Josh Roddick then slashed a one-out double to right-center. After a walk to Chirinos, pinch-hitter Jordan Alvarez struck out for out 2. But then Springer drove a deep fly to center that Munoz leapt at but missed, banging into the wall, as the ball caromed off the top of the wall for a triple. Munoz was limping but stayed in the now 8-1 game. Altuve then extended the inning by drawing a walk. Finally, Bregman flied out to deep center at the track to end the inning.
The Astros sent reliever Joe Smith to face the top of the lineup, and Edman got his first hit of the night on a liner to center. Cards then caught a break as Munoz bounced softly to first, and the first baseman thought about throwing to send for the force, but pulled back, reversed, then threw it over the head of the pitcher covering first, with Edman advancing to third. Martinez then bounced to second, with Munoz forced at second but Martinez reaching and Edman scoring. 8-2 Astros.
The Astros got a brief scare, as on Munoz’ slide into second, his spike brushed the right forearm/elbow area of Correra, but he stayed in. He them emphatically proved he was okay, as Goldy grounded to second of a 4-6-3 double play, in which Correa fired a missile to first on the turn.
A Not-So-Hard 9 - Lefty Webb came in to clean up, and he struck out pinch-hitter Jake Marisnick swinging. Aledmys Diaz followed as another pinch hitter, grounding out to Wong. Gurriel then obligingly flied out to left for the third out.
The Cards didn’t roll over, but they didn’t score either. DeJong led off flying out to left. Wong struck out swinging, and then O’Niell singled to right for his second hit of the night. Knizner kept the game alive as he reached on an infield single that bounced off the pitcher’s leg. With first and second and 2 outs, Rangel Ravelo entered as a pinch hitter and struck out swinging as his bat flung toward the pitcher to make the final 8-2 Astros.
THE BOTTOM LINE
- The main highlight for the Cards was Goldy tying the team-best 6-game home run streak shared by Matt Carpenter (2018) and Mark McGwire (1997-1998)
- Kolten Wong extended his games-on-base streak to 16 by drawing a walk in the 2nd
- All four walks given up by Ponce ended up scoring (well, 3 of them scored via the grand slam Wacha gave up)
- Dacha admirably ate innings, pitching 4.2 of them, doubling Ponce’s output
After giving up the, uh, grand slam, he gave up no additional runs to save the bullpen
- Every Astro starter not named Cole reached base
- The Cards go for the series win tomorrow at 1:15 CT with Wade Miley matching up against Dakota Hudson