I’m sure this was not the type of game you all wanted to see after the Cards failed to make any meaningful addition to the major league roster by today’s trade deadline. Whether the Cards could have made a palatable trade given the market conditions will be debated heavily the rest of the season. But I’m sure in light of no meaningful additions, the fans wanted to see a clean, competitive game from the Cards. It was in part, as the pitching was solid, especially from the bullpen. There were a couple of plays on defense that looked nice, but defense and perhaps a bit of inattention cost us the game tonight. In addition, we have our only backup infielder on the active roster coming in as a defensive replacement on a regular basis, and that strategy looked like it came back to haunt us tonight. Our new addition, LHP Adalberto Mejia, who it looks like is our new long man out of the pen, was activated tonight and Daniel Ponce de Leon was sent back down to get stretched back out as a starter. He warmed up tonight, but was not used.
After getting squeezed by the home plate umpire to start the game, Jason Heyward blooped a ball to right-center and Jose Martinez made a running and sliding catch to save a base hit that surely surprised all of Cardinal Nation. Wilson Contreras grounded a fastball up the middle for a base hit, but he was erased when Kris Bryant grounded into an inning-ending double play. Bryant hit a high fastball from Miles Mikolas sharply up the middle, but Wong was positioned perfectly and made a nice flip to DeJong to start the double play off. Cubs’ starter Kyle Hendricks struck out the side in the bottom of the 1st, with the Cards looking completely off-balance against his slow fastball and even slower changeup.
To lead off the top of the 2nd, Anthony Rizzo sliced a low-and-outside fastball just inside the left field line that bounced over the side wall for a ground rule double. But Mikolas would escape this jam, too. Javier Baez smoked a fastball, but it happened to be hit to the exact position in which Wong was standing, Ian Happ popped out to Edman in foul territory, and Kyle Schwarber grounded out to Wong on the outfield grass. To lead off the bottom of the 2nd, Goldschmidt waited on an outside Hendricks fastball and poked it down the right field line into the corner for a double. But the Cards couldn’t get their man home from 2nd base in this inning either. DeJong struck out swinging on a changeup way outside the zone, Kolten Wong hit a lazy fly to shallow center field, and Tyler O’Neill was punched out looking at a changeup that looked like it should have been called a ball outside. Both DeJong and O’Neill looked at first-pitch strikes right down the middle.
As the top of the 3rd rolled around, it became clear that HP umpire Jansen Visconti’s strike zone is shifting all over the board. With the zone this unpredictable, I started to wonder if there would be any real offense other than potential walks the rest of the game, or if the pitchers would be forced to throw fat pitches down the middle. At the minimum, the umpire should call the same zone for both clubs. With 2 out in the inning, Heyward blooped a low-and-away curveball to right-center for a base hit. The Cards then got lucky on the next play. Baez lined a high fastball for a base hit to right-center. Martinez bobbled the ball off the heel of his glove to the point where his momentum took him in front of the ball. As Heyward was racing for 3rd base, Baez decided to try to take 2nd base, but Martinez fired a one-bounce throw to Wong, who tagged Baez out just in time to end the inning.
In the bottom half of the 3rd inning, Wieters drove a high fastball to the gap in right-center that one-hopped the wall for a double. With Rizzo charging the plate aggressively, as is his custom, Mikolas pulled the bat back and chopped a slow grounder to short. Wieters hesitated because he didn’t want to get caught in a rundown and moved back towards 2nd base. Baez made an off-balance throw that bounced to David Bote covering 1st, with the ball getting away and bouncing off the Cards’ dugout. Mikolas would have beat the throw anyway, and he was awarded a base hit, with the throwing error allowing Wieters to advance to 3rd. The game was delayed for a while as Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon tried to argue that Mikolas interfered with Bote. Right before Mikolas crossed 1st base, he reached out and touched (maybe attempted to grab?) Bote on his left glove elbow area with his left hand. Mikolas would have beat a perfect throw, and that may have been a factor in the umpires’ non-call. Although the Cubs may have tried to argue that Wieters would not have gone to 3rd but for the interference, there was still no-call, presumably on the theory that whatever Mikolas’s action did not stop Bote from making the catch. Or maybe they didn’t see it. Because subjective calls like that are unreviewable, that was the end of the discussion. It was also strange that our runners did not advance any further, as the throw traveled far enough away for a Cubs defender to have to run and slide for it with his back turned to the plate. In any case, with runners at the corners and nobody out, Edman struck out badly on a changeup, losing control of his bat while way out in front of the pitch. Fowler slowly squibbed a curveball back to the mound that allowed Mikolas to advance to 2nd. Jose Martinez swung at an inside fastball that was out of the zone and barely tapped a ball to the left of the mound to waste the Cards’ best scoring opportunity thus far.
Kris Bryant smoked a fastball right at DeJong on a short-hop to start the top of the 4th. DeJong tried to react in time to backhand it, but couldn’t come up with it, the ball went into left field and Bryant was credited with a single. After Rizzo flied out to shallow right, Baez hit a slow roller to short that allowed Bryant to move to 2nd. Mikolas escaped this inning as well by getting Happ to pop out to Wong at 2nd. Goldschmidt hit a high fastball off the left field wall for his 2nd double of the night to start the bottom of the 4th. Schwarber played it off the wall very well and made a strong throw to 2nd, which actually almost nailed Goldschmidt, but he slid in safe just in time. DeJong chased a low curveball and tapped it back to Hendricks at the mound. Wong popped a changeup that was about to go out of play to the left of home plate, but Bryant raced over, reached out and grabbed it before stopping himself from tumbling over the wall. O’Neill slowly grounded a low changeup right to Bryant at shallow 3rd base, but O’Neill hustled down the line and beat out Bryant’s throw for a base hit! At least that’s how it was called initially. The Cubs challenged the call, and on a closer look, the play was very close, closer than appeared on first glance. The call could have gone either way, and if he was safe, it was by a hair. The umpires took a look at it for a long time, and eventually upheld the safe call. Wieters struck out on another changeup to end the inning, and the Cards just keep letting Hendricks wiggle out of trouble.
With 2 out in the top of the 5th, a curveball got away from Mikolas, and he hit Hendricks square in the back with it. In the plate appearance before that, Mikolas struck Bote out looking on a high pitch in the same location the umpire had called a pitch a ball earlier in the same plate appearance. Heyward struck out to end the inning. With 2 out in the bottom of the 5th, Fowler blooped a low-and-away changeup to the gap in left-center that dropped, and Fowler hustled all the way to slide in safe with a double. Unfortunately, Jose Martinez chased another pitch that was way inside and squibbed it to 1st base to strand yet another runner. At this point, it’s a contest to see which side can knock out the other club’s starter first. The Cards have outhit the Cubs 6-5, with Hendricks at 80 pitches and Mikolas at 72. With 1 out in the top of the 6th, Bryant squibbed a fastball slowly for Edman at 3rd. Edman charged and fielded it, but dropped it as he was trying to get the ball out of his glove. It’s unclear if a perfect and timely throw would have retired Bryant at 1st, but the scorer charged Edman with an error on the play. Mikolas then walked Rizzo on 4 pitches. Baez lined a fastball toward the line in right, but Jose Martinez raced over to grab the liner and spun around to make a strong throw to 2nd with the runners not trying to advance. I had to pause and rewind the game just to make sure what I saw was real. The Cubs, unfortunately broke the tie when Happ sharply grounded a low-and-in slider just under the glove of the diving Wong for a base hit. Bryant scored, Rizzo moved to 3rd and the Cubs had a 1-0 lead. That would be it for Mikolas, and Shildt called on Giovanny Gallegos to try to prevent any further damage on no rest. Schwarber fortunately decided to swing at a 3-0 up-and-in fastball and flied it to short right field to strand runners at the corners. With 2 out in the bottom of the 6th, Wong softly lined a low-and-away changeup to center for a base hit. With O’Neill at the plate, Wong stole second, but O’Neill softly flied to left to strand the Cards’ 7th runner of the night.
With Gallegos’ spot coming up 2nd in the bottom of the 7th, Shildt made a double switch for the top of the 7th to bring in John Gant to pitch in the #7 spot and Yairo Munoz to play LF in the #7 spot. It looks like Munoz can only go 1 game in any 7-day period without getting into the game, and we didn’t need Thomas, our real backup outfielder, who has played outfield almost exclusively for the 4th year in a row now. With 2 out in the top of the 7th, after Hendricks hit for himself to make the 2nd out, Heyward sliced a center-cut fastball to the gap in left-center for a base hit. Heyward was thinking double all the way. Munoz got to it, spun around and threw, but Heyward slid in safe with a double. It turned out not to matter, as Conteras grounded to 1st to end the inning. Maddon’s decision on Hendricks was rewarded, as he retired the Cards in order in the bottom of the 7th on 10 pitches to make it 104.
With 2 out in the top of the 8th, Baez popped an inside fastball up very high towards shallow left field close to the line. Munoz, who was playing deep, and towards the gap, misjudged the ball, then took a bit of a circuitous route on the ball that was in the air for a long time. He turned on the speed, raced in and just whiffed on the ball that dropped and went over the sidewall. The umpires called it foul, but it was actually fair, hitting the chalk. The Cubs were out of challenges, but the play was nonetheless reviewed and overturned, with Baez being awarded a ground rule double. Shildt brought in Tyler Webb to turn Happ around to the right side. Next came the gut punch. With a 2-1 count on Happ, Webb threw a ball high. Wieters clearly had Baez leaning too far off 2nd base. Wieters faked then threw a bouncer to Wong at 2nd base with Baez caught in between. Wong couldn’t come up with the throw, which rolled into center field, and Baez scored to extend the Cards’ lead to 2-0. The play was scored a steal of 3rd for Baez and E2. The throw from Wieters was bounced, but Wong took his eye off the ball and deserves some of the heat for the ball getting away. Happ worked a 3-2 walk, but Schwarber grounded out to end the inning.
The Cubs made a double switch for the bottom of the 8th to bring in lefty Kyle Ryan to pitch in the #7 spot and Albert Almora to play CF in the #9 spot with Happ moving from CF to LF. Fowler squibbed a grounder towards the right side, but Rizzo made a nice flip to Ryan covering at 1st for the out on a nice play. Righty Brandon Kintzler then came in, struck Jose Martinez out, and got Goldschmidt to pop to the mound to retire the Cards in order. Brebbia came out for the top of the 9th. David Bote struck out after a weird plate appearance. He almost got hit in the face on the first pitch. He thought he had a walk on the 3-1 pitch, but on appeal the first base umpire ruled that he failed to hold up his swing on a ball that was a foot inside. Almora grounded out softly to the mound, and Heyward struck out to end the inning, the first time a Cards pitcher retired the side in order tonight.
Craig Kimbrel came out for the bottom of the 9th to try and close the Cards out, and it looked like the Cards might come back. DeJong struck out badly on a slider out of the zone. Wong got jammed, but blooped an inside fastball to center for a base hit. Rangel Ravelo pinch hit for Brebbia and drove a first-pitch inside fastball off the base of the left-center field wall for a double to move Wong to 3rd. Lane Thomas ran for Ravelo. Wieters looked badly swinging at sliders in the dirt before grounding out to 3rd. Now Munoz came to the plate with 2 out and the game on the line. Alas, Munoz struck out swinging on a low slider out of the zone to end the game and give Kimbrel his 8th save of the year.
ODDS AND ENDS
The Brewers are beating the A’s 3-2 in the top of the 8th at the time of this writing. Jordan Lyles, newly acquired from the Pirates went 5 innings, allowed the only run, and now the game is in the hands of their bullpen...The Pirates and Reds managed to avoid a brawl in today’s game, won by Cincinnati 4-1 behind Luis Castillo’s 7-inning, no walk, 7-strikeout outing and home runs by Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez...Memphis won 7-6, as catcher Joe Hudson hit a 3-run homer to give the Redbirds a 6-2 lead. After Ryan Helsley pitched 3 innings of scoreless ball to start the game, Chris Ellis gave up 6 runs over 3 IP, including 4 runs in the 6th with back-to-back homers (including a 3-run shot) to lose the lead. Randy Arozarena singled, advanced on a balk and scored the winning run in the 8th on Edmundo Sosa’s RBI single. Kodi Whitley got the 2-inning save. The Memphis outfield was Ozuna (0-2, SO, BB) in LF, Bader (1-3, SO, RBI) in CF and Arozarena in RF (3-4, 2B). Memphis just released LHP Hunter Cervenka and RHP Mike Hauschild, pitchers with major league experience who were with the Cards this spring as non-roster invitees...Springfield had the day off, which was good for Matt Carpenter, as in 26 PA on his minor-league rehab assignment, he’s 0 for 21, but at least with 5 walks...Palm Beach lost 9-4, with all of the opposition’s 9 runs coming in the first 3 innings off of starter Diego Cordero, who allowed 13 hits in 5 IP. In case you hadn’t heard, last week Palm Beach lost P Perry DellaValle for the year, as he got nailed for a 50 game suspension under the minor league drug program for a second positive test for a drug of abuse...Peoria had a 5-3 lead going into the top of the 9th, but Sebastian Tabata melted down to allow 3 walks and a hit by pitch, including 2 wild pitches that allowed back-to-back runs to score to tie the game. Freddy Pacheco then allowed a single and a Sac Fly to blow the tie, and the Chiefs lost 7-5.