First, some introductions are in order. I’m Skryic, attorney, life-long Cardinals fan, and until this season, long-time lurker on this site. After writing game recaps and transaction articles in the fanpost section, I have now been invited to join the recap team, and I will also be keeping you all updated on all the transactional happenings for the Cards. Transactions and roster rules are my specialty, and I look forward to going over all the machinations with you the rest of the season, as well as learning more about baseball analysis every day.
Before we begin, I wanted to say thank you. Thank you to Josey Curtis for asking me to join the staff, and thank you to all of you. One of the greatest gifts of the internet and boards like this is you can affect somebody and improve their understanding of something in a situation where you otherwise would never have met. My understanding of the advanced nuances of statistics and baseball understanding has been vastly improved, and I am a smarter person by interacting with you, even with the people with whom I have disagreed. I will work very hard to try to return the favor and provide you some of the enjoyment with which you all have blessed me. While I don’t have the computer savvy, GIF ability, knowledge of craft beers and wines or raucous sense of humor as some, I’ll do my best to try to make it so you got a good sense of what happened and what mattered in the game. If there’s something else you’d like to see, or would appreciate something being done differently, please let me know, because I’m here for you. In the meantime, maybe Jdog can teach me about GIFs. Trust me man, I’m coachable.
When I woke up this morning before the game, I wasn’t even thinking about winning the series, whether Cards’ starter Dakota Hudson could continue his nice streak or who the Cards might acquire in the now-firm trade deadline in the next few days. My main concern was Yairo Munoz. With Fowler still resting his sore foot again, you would think that Munoz earned the start in center field with his 0 for 4 night last night. Similar performances have earned him starts over Bader in the past week. The team wouldn’t let Munoz twisting his knee and slamming himself into the wall break his 7-game starting streak would they? As I discovered to my horror, Shildt decided to rest our most prized asset and risk a victory by starting Harrison Bader in center field. When I learned this news, I was seriously worried about our chances to pull this series with the Astros out.
George Springer got the Astros started off right away in the top of the 1st. After McCarver noted how strange it was to start a game off with a check swing, Springer launched an 0-1 inside sinker for a liner into the second deck in left field underneath Big Mac Land for a solo HR to put the Astros on the board 1-0. After Hudson retired the next 2, rookie Yordan Alvarez blooped an up-and-in fastball to center for a base hit that Bader charged forward for, dove for, and barely missed. For the record, I do not believe Munoz would have made the catch. Dakota Hudson struck Carlos Correa out on a good slider to end the inning. In the bottom half, former Card Aledmys Diaz likely robbed Tommy Edman of a base hit when he made a diving play on a grounder that was headed for deep in the hole. Jose Martinez worked a 3-2 walk. The 2nd base umpire called Wade Miley for a balk to move Martinez to 2nd base. The balk rules would confound anyone, and Official Rule 6.02(a) is 3 pages long, listing 13 different ways a pitcher can balk with a runner on base. The comment to the rule notes that the purpose of the balk rule is to prevent the pitcher from deliberately deceiving the runner. There are only 2 possible provisions I think the second base umprire could have concluded Miley violated. One was was Rule 6.02(a)(3) which states it is a balk for the pitcher to fail to step directly toward the base before throwing to that base. The FSMW crew only showed the play 1 time, but it looked like to me that Miley did step towards 1st base, although not very far. The Comment to Rule 6.02(a)(1) states that if the pitcher swings his free foot past the back edge of the rubber, he must throw to the batter or to 2nd base on a pickoff play. It was impossible to tell from the screen, but it is possible the umpire ruled that Miley violated that provision. The provision on deceiving the runner is not a rule itself, as McCarver seemed to indicate, but a comment to guide interpretation of the other rules. In any case, after Paul Goldschmidt chopped a changeup to short that couldn’t advance the runner, Tyler O’Neill worked a 3-2 walk on a low-and-in changeup that looked like it could have been easily called a strike. Paul DeJong, however, stranded the runners on a grounder to deep short on which Correa made a nice backhanded stop and throw.
To lead off the top of the 2nd, Yuli Gurriel lined an outside slider up the middle to center for a base hit. Hudson grazed Diaz on the hand with a fastball to put runners at 1st and 2nd. After Hudson struck Max Stassi out on a back-door slider, the pitcher Wade Miley sacrificed the runners to 2nd and 3rd. After getting squeezed on a 2-2 inside fastball, Hudson got a key strikeout of Springer on a good slider to strand the runners. Matt Wieters lined a cutter up the middle to center for a base hit to lead off the bottom of the 2nd with the first Cards’ hit of the game. The Cards could not advance him, however, as Harrison Bader struck out swinging badly on changeups, Kolten Wong made the first fly ball out for either side, and Hudson grounded into a force to end the inning.
With 2 out in the top of the 3rd, Alvarez golfed a low-and-in slider thrown right in the lefty wheelhouse for a rocket into the bullpen in right-center for a solo HR to extend the Astros’ lead to 2-0. That was the 5th slider in the 7-pitch plate appearance, and it looked like the rookie made the adjustment just fine. Wong made a real nice play on Correa’s grounder to end the inning, running to his left and spinning around to make the throw. To lead off the bottom half of the inning, Edman sharply grounded a rare Miley fastball up the middle for a base hit. J. Martinez softly grounded a changeup up the middle. The 2nd basemen Altuve was positioned close to the bag and raced over to grab it. He didn’t have quite enough on the throw across his body to 1st base, however, as the throw bounced with Gurriel unable to come up with the scoop catch. Martinez likely would have been just safe anyhow, and his infield single moved Edman to 2nd. Goldschmidt struck out looking on a 1-2 back door cutter that looked like it should have been called a ball outside. O’Neill sharply grounded a cutter through the hole to left for a base hit to load the bases. The ball was hit so hard that Edman had to make sure it got through the infield. At that point with the ball hit so hard right to the left fielder, Pop Warner chose to stop him at 3rd base, electing not to run on Alvarez, for whom the Astros claim his best position is DH. After DeJong took a 2-2 changeup that was called a ball low but could easily have been called strike 3, his timing was off, and he swung through a high 90 mph fastball to strike out. Wieters then grounded to short to strand the runners, and the Cards wasted their best opportunity to score.
Gurriel grounded a fastball through the hole to left to lead off the top of the 4th with a base hit, but he was erased when Diaz grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. Hudson struck Stassi out on a filthy sinker to end the inning. With 1 out in the bottom of the 4th, Miley hit Wong on the right arm with a pitch. Hudson struck out on a foul bunt, failing to lay down the sacrifice. With Wong running, Edman golfed a low 0-2 curveball on a soft liner through the hole to left for a base hit to move Wong to 3rd. Alvarez ran the ball into the infield. With runners now at the corners, J. Martinez struck out swinging on a low-and-in 89 mph fastball to end the inning.
Hudson walked the pitcher Miley on 5 pitches to start off the top of the 5th. It looked like ball 2 should have been called a strike. Springer made Hudson pay by lining an inside fastball down the 3rd base line into the left field corner for a double to move Miley to 3rd. Hudson hung a high 2-2 slider to Altuve, who skied it over the left field wall for a 3-run HR to give the Astros a 5-0 lead with still nobody out. Michael Brantley grounded a first-pitch fastball to the opposite field through the hole for a base hit to left. After Alvarez worked a 3-2 walk, Shildt made a pitching change, despite hoping to save his bullpen a little longer. John Brebbia came out on 1 day of rest with runners on 1st and 2nd and nobody out. Brebbia came in and struck out both Correa and Gurriel, then got Diaz to fly to left to prevent any further damage. Miley retired the Cards in order in the bottom of the 5th, including a strike out of Goldschmidt to start the inning off.
With 1 out in the top of the 6th, lefty Josh Reddick pinch hit for the pitcher Miley and sliced an outside fastball for a lined base hit to left. With 2 out, Altuve squibbed an outside slider past the mound slowly to short. DeJong charged and barehanded the ball, but Altuve legged it out for an infield hit. But Brebbia stranded the runners by getting Brantley to hit a lazy fly ball to left. Now it was up to the Cards to try to get back in the game against the Astros’ all-righthanded bullpen. Collin McHugh came out to pitch the bottom of the 6th. Wieters lined a fastball to the gap in left-center that the center fielder Springer misjudged but he recovered to race over and snag it in the heel of his glove. Bader struck out badly on a slider outside the zone for his 2nd strikeout of the game. With 2 out, Wong softly lined a low-and-away slider to right for a base hit. Rangel Ravelo pinch hit for Brebbia and lined an inside fastball to left that rolled all the way to the wall for a double. With the help of Alvarez not playing the ball appropriately off the carom, Wong scored all the way from 1st base to cut the Astros’ lead to 5-1, although no error was charged. Edman flied out deep to the track in left-center to strand Ravelo at 2nd and end the inning.
Giovanny Gallegos came out to pitch the top of the 7th on 4 days of rest and walked Alvarez on 4 pitches, only his 9th walk of the year. Jake Marisnick ran for Alvarez. Gallegos tried to pick Marisnick off of first, and his throw was just a tad wide of the base, but Goldschmidt just missed it, with the ball going off of his glove. The scorer initially charged Gallegos with a throwing error, but swiftly and correctly changed it to a fielding error on Goldschmidt, who should have caught the ball and didn’t have to move to do so. Marisnick advanced to 2nd on the play. After Correa popped up, Gallegos hit Gurriel on his left elbow pad with a fastball to put runners at 1st and 2nd. Diaz grounded a fastball to DeJong at short for what should have been a double play ball, but DeJong booted it for an error to load the bases. Gallegos, however, would get out of this jam. Stassi popped out to 2nd and righty Myles Straw, pinch hitting for the pitcher McHugh, struck out to strand the bases loaded. The Astros made a few changes for the bottom of the 7th. Marisnick stayed in the game to play CF in the #4 spot, Springer moved from CF to RF, and Brantley switched from RF to LF. Hector Rondon also came in to pitch. With 1 out, Goldschmidt chopped a changeup to Diaz at 3rd, who threw the ball way over Gurriel’s head at first base and into the camera well for an error. O’Neill flied out to center, deep enough for Goldschmidt to tag up from 2nd base and advance to 3rd. But DeJong struck out on a slider in the dirt to end the inning and strand the Cards’ 10th runner of the afternoon.
John Gant came out on 1 day of rest in the top of the 8th to face the top of the Astros’ order. Springer blooped a low 0-2 fastball to right-center. J. Martinez raced to the gap and should have caught the ball, but as he reached down, the ball went off the heel of his glove and he fell down. Springer hustled all the way, slid in safe at second base, and was curiously credited with a generous double. Altuve blooped a low 1-2 changeup to center for a base hit to move Springer to 3rd. Brantley smoked a middle-in fastball off of the right-center field wall for a double to score Springer and extend the Astros’ lead to 6-1. Altuve tried to score all the way from 1st, but Bader made a good throw to the cutoff man Wong, whose throw home nailed Altuve at the plate for the 1st out of the inning. Marisnick struck out looking on an outside fastball and Correa grounded out to short to strand the runner at 2nd. Chris Devenski pitched the bottom of the 8th for the Astros and retired the side in order with 1 strikeout.
After warming up for the 3rd time, Tyler Webb came out to pitch the top of the 9th on no rest and face the bottom of the Astros’ order. He responded by striking out the side. Dexter Fowler pinch hit for Webb and promptly drove a first-pitch inside fastball over the right field wall for a solo HR to cut the Astros’ lead to 6-2. That was his first pinch hit HR since 2012. After Edman popped out to short and J. Martinez struck out, Goldschmidt came up for the final time for a shot at history. Alas, he did not hit a homer in his 7th consecutive game, but he did temporarily extend the game by lining a hanging slider to left-center for a base hit. O’Neill hit a sharp grounder towards the hole, but Diaz made a diving stop and threw to 2nd for the force to end the game.
ODDS AND ENDS
Harrison Bader went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts, which has not stopped Munoz from starting, but what do you want to bet that it sinks Bader’s chances to get back into the regular lineup?...The Cards have a day off tomorrow before hosting the Cubs for 3 games...First place in the division is squarely on the line, as the Cubs put it back to a tie with an 11-4 shellacking of the Brewers. Kyle Schwarber hit a grand slam and a 3-run shot and Victor Caratini added a 3-run blast of his own...The Pirates scored 4 runs in the top of the 9th against the Mets, but that was not enough to overcome an 8-3 deficit and they lost 8-7. Chris Archer gave up 6 runs in the first inning to sink the Bucs...The Rockies outhit the Reds 10-8, but the Reds nonehtless squeaked out a 3-2 victory on Tucker Barnhart’s RBI-single in the 6th. Palm Beach was tied 5-5 with Dunedin going into the top of 11th inning, but relievers Patrick Dayton and Cole Aker combined to give up 5 runs, and the Cards lost 10-6.