When the Cardinals published their lineup before the game that listed Yairo Munoz batting 6th and playing LF with Tyler O’Neill on the bench, I was prepared to start this recap with a sizable rant about the need to play O’Neill every day while Marcell Ozuna is on the injured list, while going into a litany of reasons that every one here knows on why Munoz should not be the one starting. As I started to prepare that rant, I learned just before the game that Shildt had actually prepared to start O’Neill, but scratched him late with a “minor hand issue.” I reserve the right to resubmit my evidence at a later time if Shildt uses Munoz’s 2-3 day with 2 RBIs as en excuse to start him more. I would be justified in introducing it right now because Lane Thomas was left on the bench and should have started in LF in O’Neill’s place. But since we won tonight, I’ll be lenient and allow it without giving Shildt credit for bad process. Besides, it’s nice to get a win to recap after my first two were losses.
Jack Flaherty pitched exactly the game we needed him to in the final game of this series before a day off tomorrow. He walked new Cubs’ acquisition Nicholas Castellanos on a 3-2 slider in the top of the 1st. He then threw a wild pitch to move Castellanos to 2nd. But he settled down, striking Kris Bryant out and getting Anthony Rizzo to pop to 1st base. In the bottom of the 1st, Tommy Edman tomohawked a high-and-outside fastball that bounced on the track and over the wall for a ground rule double. With 1 out, Jose Martinez golfed a low Jon Lester changeup into shallow center for a base hit to score Edman and give the Cards a 1-0 lead. Paul Goldschmidt struck out on a cutter that was way inside and Paul DeJong grounded into a force at 2nd base to end the inning. Flaherty got out of the top of the 2nd in 10 pitches, highlighted both by him blowing Wilson Contreras away on fastballs and Paul Goldschmidt robbing Kyle Schwarber of extra bases with a diving stop on a shot down the first base line. After Lester struck out the first 2 Cards in the bottom of the 2nd, Kolten Wong blooped an inside fastball to center for a base hit, which seems to be his specialty lately. He now has a 20-game on-base streak. Flaherty worked the count to 3-2 and hit a sharp grounder towards the middle, but the Cubs’ new second baseman Tony Kemp made a sliding stop for the last out.
The Cubs retired the Cards in order in the bottom of the 3rd with the help of some good defense. Bryant dove and stopped Edman’s grounder that was headed for the hole. Javier Baez made a nice backhanded stop deep in the hole at short on Fowler’s grounder. His throw to 1st base was offline, but Rizzo jumped, caught the ball, and it looked like he could have barely swiped Fowler on the hand before Fowler’s foot touched the base. He was called out at 1st, There was an initial question whether Rizzo tagged him at all, or whether he might have tagged him on the foot. The television replay did not resolve the question, but the Cards’ dugout must have been satisfied, as there was no challenge. The Cards added to their lead in the bottom of the 4th. With 1 out, DeJong softly lined an inside cutter to center for a base hit. With DeJong running, Yairo Munoz lined a hanging cutter to left-center for a base hit to move DeJong to 3rd. After Wieters struck out, Wong sharply grounded a low fastball just off the tip of the glove of the diving Kemp into right for a base hit. DeJong scored to extend the Cards’ lead to 2-0 and Munoz went to 3rd. Flaherty drove an inside fastball to the gap in right-center between the 2 outfielders. Heyward raced over and made a phenomenal diving catch to rob Flaherty and prevent 2 runs from scoring. It also looked like Heyward and Castellanos were headed for a nasty collision, but they somehow avoided it.
Flaherty walked Schwarber on 4 pitches with 2 out in the top of the 5th, but got Kemp to fly out to center to end the inning. By this point, Flaherty was on cruise control. No Cubs runner had reached 2nd base, his fastball had a little extra juice at 97 mph at times, and Cubs hitters couldn’t square it up even when he threw it right down the middle. Flaherty struck out the first 2 Cubs hitters in the top of the 6th until Castellanos broke up the no-hitter by lining a center-cut fastball into right for a base hit. Flaherty ended the inning by striking Bryant out for the 3rd time tonight on a slider outside the zone. To start the bottom of the 6th, Goldschmidt lined an inside cutter to center for a base hit. DeJong popped a ball foul, but Rizzo overran the ball with his back turned to the infield, and whiffed on it. DeJong made the Cubs pay by ripping a 3-1 center-cut pitch down the left field line into the corner for a double. Goldschmidt was looking into the outfield and stopped at 3rd, even though Schwarber bobbled the ball. It may have been a minor point as Warner may not have risked sending Goldschmidt with nobody out. With Bryant playing in, Munoz sharply grounded an inside fastball past Bryant’s diving glove for a base hit to left to score Goldschmidt, extend the Cards’ lead to 3-0 and move DeJong to 3rd. Lefty Derek Holland came on to pitch with runners at the corners and still nobody out. Wieters responded by slicing a 2-2 low-and-in fastball for a liner just over the right field wall for a 3-run HR to give the Cards a 6-0 lead. Wong sharply grounded a low-and-in slider through the right side for a base hit. Flaherty sacrificed him to 2nd. Edman flied out to right in foul territory with Castellanos catching it up against the side wall, which allowed Wong to tag up and move to 3rd. Fowler popped out to right in foul territory in almost the identical spot to end the inning and strand the runner at 3rd.
Flaherty retired the Cubs in order with his 9th strikeout of the night on his 98th pitch. Righty Brad Brach came out to face the heart of the Cards’ order in the bottom of the 7th. Jose Martinez worked a 3-2 walk, which was the first for the Cards in 133 plate appearances going back to last Saturday. Martinez then got a great jump and stole second base. DeJong softly lined an inside fastball past the glove of the diving Baez to move Martinez to 3rd. Munoz drove an inside fastball to the track in left-center for a Sac Fly to score Martinez and extend the Cards’ lead to 7-0. New Cubs’ acquisition righty David Phelps came out to pitch to Wieters with 2 out, and Wieters sliced a low cutter to left for a base hit to move DeJong to 2nd. Wong struck out on a high fastball to end the inning.
Shildt turned things over to the bullpen by making a double switch to start the top of the 8th. Tyler Webb came in to pitch on no rest in the #3 spot, Lane Thomas came in to play CF in the #9 spot and Fowler moved from CF to RF. Webb retired the side in order with 2 strikeouts. Having pinch-hit for Phelps in the last-half inning, Albert Almora stayed in the game in the #9 spot in CF and righty Tyler Chatwood came out to pitch the bottom of the 8th. Thomas lined a low-and-in fastball for a base hit to center. With the count 0-2 on Edman, Chatwood threw a fastball in the dirt, which Wilson Contreras blocked, but then lost sight of it. Thomas alertly took advantage by moving to 2nd base on the wild pitch. With the count 2-2, Edman swung and missed at a slider almost in the dirt. But Contreras had his glove in a backhand position instead of opening it up to block it, and the ball squeaked between his legs, which allowed Edman to reach 1st base and Thomas to move to 3rd. Chatwood was charged with another wild pitch, but Contreras really should have handled it better. Fowler walked on a 3-1 high-and-outside fastball (that looked like a strike) to load the bases. Rangel Ravelo pinch hit for Webb with runners at the corners and still nobody out. On a 3-2 pitch, Ravelo grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. Edman went to 3rd, Thomas scored to extend the Cards’ lead to 8-0, and Ravelo does not get credited with an RBI in that situation for those of you scoring at home. Goldschmidt flied out to right to end the inning. Mike Mayers came out for the bottom of the 9th on 4 days’ rest and retired the side in order to end the game.
ODDS AND ENDS
This was the first game that the Cardinals have 1-hit the Cubs as a staff since August 12th, 1988 at Wrigley Field when Joe Magrane threw a complete-game shutout in a 4-0 Cards victory...The Cards have a rare Friday off tomorrow, then travel to the west coast for a 2-game series with the Oakland Athletics and a 3-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, followed by another day off before coming back home...Josh Hader blew a 3-2 lead for the Brewers when he entered the game in the bottom of the 8th, walked Robbie Grossman on a 3-2 pitch and then gave up a 2-run HR to Matt Chapman on the first pitch to him. The Athletics would go on to win 5-3...The Pirates had the day off, and the Reds are currently losing 4-1 with the game delayed by rain in the top of the 7th. Freddie Freeman hit a 3-run HR and Adam Duvall added a solo shot for the Braves...Memphis is winning 8-6 as I type this and are up at the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out. Matt Carpenter finally got off the schneid after going 0 for his last 21 and went 2-3 including a double with RBIs before being lifted for a pinch runner. Marcell Ozuna hit a 3-run HR to give Memphis the 8-6 lead after they were down 6-5...Springfield lost 2-1, as reliever Ronnie Williams gave up a 1-out walk and a walkoff double in the bottom of the 9th...The Palm Beach game is suspended by rain in the bottom of the 5th with the score tied 1-1. CF Scott Hurst went 2-3 with a double so far, and it looks like the game will be continued tomorrow...DH Brady Whalen went 2-4 with a 3-run HR, a walk and 4 RBIs in Peoria’s 6-3 victory.