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Lane Thomas Grand Slam Propels Cards to Comeback 11-9 Victory and Series Sweep of Pirates

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Games like today’s are what many fans love about baseball. The twists and turns, the ups and downs, and especially the fact that the other team can’t just run out the clock when your hometown favorites look like they are out of it. There is always a chance to come back, and the Cardinals did just that today. This game had a little bit of everything—lead changes, odd bounces, questionable replays, iffy defense and dramatic moments. And what looked like a loss on a getaway game turned into a dramatic comeback win. If you didn’t get the chance to watch today, you likely missed the wildest game of the year so far. But never fear, because I will take you through the whole rollercoaster.

The Cards employed an all-righties lineup against Pirates’ lefthander Steven Brault. Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong, Dexter Fowler and Matt Wieters all rested, with Tommy Edman leading off and playing 2B, Yairo Munoz at 3B, Jose Martinez in RF and Andrew Knizner catching. Lane Thomas finally got his first start in CF since April 24th. Recalled on July 30th to take Harrison Bader’s place on the roster, he had had no starts in CF and only 6 PA in 12 games. With the day off tomorrow, Mike Shildt had to make sure to play Tommy Edman to keep him sharp going forward because the young man makes things happen and takes good at-bats. Now this is the last I’m going whine about Edman and Thomas. We’ve all been through it. If Thomas is a real prospect and has room for growth, he needs to play every day. While Edman is fast and athletic, he is not an outfielder, and the major leagues in the middle of a pennant race is not the place to make the transition. But I’m done now with the conversation. For one thing, Edman wasn’t in the outfield today, but more importantly, it doesn’t do me any good to keep on about it, and while I am supposed to analyze what I observe for this site, I’ve already made the case numerous times. To continue to harp about it will only detract from my enjoyment of the game, which at the end of the day, is what this is all about. Either Shildt will learn from his bad process or he won’t. I’m not telling you all what to do, but I’m done with it. I will close that topic by observing that if Lane Thomas’s day today did not earn him some starts going forward, nothing he can do in the future ever will.

Adam Frazier looped a low-and-in curveball to right for a base hit to lead off the 1st. Bryan Reynolds lined a center-cut fastball to the right-center field gap. Lane Thomas raced over from center field and it looked like he couldn’t decide whether he wanted to dive. He reached down towards the ground at the last second, the ball deflected off of the web of his glove and rolled to his left, with Thomas sprawling to the ground. Reynolds reached 2nd with a double and Frazier went to 3rd. At least by knocking the ball down, Thomas saved a run from scoring. Starling Marte flied an inside fastball to shallow center field. Frazier decided to test the arm of Thomas, who fired a strike that bounced on the mound and got to Knizner in time to tag Frazier out. I am proud to make this my first embedded tweet in a VEB recap.

Too bad that play was not the last out of the inning, as Josh Bell skied an inside fastball from Mikolas well over the right field wall for a 2-run HR to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead. Melky Cabrera grounded out to 2nd base to end the inning.

After Edman took 2 strikes down the middle and swung at a cutter in the dirt, Jose Martinez walked on 4 pitches with 1 out in the bottom of the first. Paul Goldschmidt got us right back in the game when he lined a low-and-away fastball deep into the right-center field seats for a 2-run HR to tie the game 2-2.

Ozuna grounded out to 3rd and DeJong lined out to right to end the inning. Colin Moran smoked a hanging curveball from Mikolas off the left-center field wall to lead off the top of the 2nd. Thomas fielded it on the bounce, and fired to Edman at 2nd, but Edman took his eyes off it for a second and couldn’t handle the bounced throw. Moran slid in safe with a double, and he would have likely been safe even had Edman hung on. Not only did Moran beat the throw, but Edman was a tad out of position. Elias Diaz grounded out to short with Moran being unable to advance. Erik Gonzalez was down in the count 0-2. Mikolas threw a low-and-away slider that looked real close to the corner, but was called a ball. Next pitch was a fastball high-and-away that looked like a strike but was called a ball. Now at 2-2, Mikolas threw a curveball high on the border of the zone, but this time the home plate umpire pulled the trigger and punched out Gonzalez for out number 2. The pitcher Steven Brault grounded a low curve to short to strand the runner at 2nd base.

In the bottom of the 2nd, home plate umpire Tom Hallion started to give Brault a couple of inches extra off of the outside corner against right-handed batters. Andrew Knizner got punched out on a 1-2 fastball off the plate, and a strike was called on Thomas. With 2 out, Thomas grounded a fastball deep in the hole at short. Gonzalez fielded it and made a quick throw across his body, but his throw was off-line, forcing Bell to leave his feet stretching out to catch it. Thomas was called out at 1st, even though it appeared that Bell was off the base. The Cardinals challenged the play, but the call on the field was upheld despite the fact that it seemed clear that Bell’s foot was off of the base when the ball made contact with his glove. With 1 out in the top of the 3rd, Reynolds lined a low-and-in slider in the lefty wheelhouse off of the right field wall for a double. Mikolas then hit Marte on the left forearm with a 1-2 inside fastball. Bell softly looped a curveball to right for a base hit. Jose Martinez charged in and put his glove down, but the ball touched the webbing of the glove and squeaked behind him. The runners looked like they were going to stop, and in that case, it would have been bases loaded with no runs scoring. Instead, Reynolds scored to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead, Marte went to 3rd and Bell went to 2nd on the play that was scored a single, E9. Cabrera grounded out to 2nd base near the outfield grass to score Marte to extend the Pirates’ lead to 4-2, with Bell curiously not advancing to 3rd. Mikolas struck Moran out looking to escape the inning without further damage.

Tommy Edman laid down a surprise bunt with 1 out in the bottom of the 3rd. The ball squibbed to the left of the mound, with Brault trying to make a sliding stop, but he had no play. That Edman kid is a scrappy spark that gets things done and takes good at-bats out there. Ok, I made a promise, I’m done. With the count 2-2 on Jose Martinez, Edman stole second, then took 3rd when the catcher Diaz’s low throw got by Frazier covering 2nd and rolled into center field. If I squint real hard, I can see Vince Coleman out there. Ok, I’m really done now. Martinez struck out looking on that play, but with 2 outs, Paul Goldschmidt blooped an inside fastball for a base hit to right to score Edman and cut the Pirates’ lead to 4-3. Ozuna flied out to right to end the inning. DeJong worked a 3-2 walk to lead off the bottom of the 4th after being behind in the count. During that at-bat, Hallion wasn’t giving Brault the low-and-away pitch, as the 1-2 and 2-2 pitches were close. Munoz and Knizner both flied out to right (Knizner to the track). Thomas lined an outside fastball to right. Reynolds took a circuitous route to it, and it dropped for a base hit. The ball then took a hop off of the lip where the grass meets the track in right and took a huge bounce over Reynolds’ head into the corner. DeJong scored to tie the game 4-4, with Thomas reaching 3rd base standing up. This was scored a triple, and that was probably a good call. From where Reynolds was positioned, catching it was far from certain, and the bounce would have surprised even the most sure-handed fielder. Check it out.

Mikolas grounded out to 3rd to end the inning.

Jose Martinez left the game with right shoulder discomfort. This stemmed from the 1st out Mikolas got in the top of the 4th, when Elias Diaz flied out to the track in right field up against the wall. Martinez gingerly crept back to make the catch, but it still looked like he was surprised that the wall snuck up on him so fast, and slammed his right shoulder into it. It didn’t look like a violent crash, but it was apparently enough to make Martinez rest for the rest of the game. Dexter Fowler took his place in right for the top of the 5th. Goldschmidt took a lined base hit away from Frazier with a diving catch. Reynolds worked a 3-2 walk on a pitch low in the zone that was clearly a strike, but Hallion called it a ball. Mikolas wasn’t happy, and Mike Maddux came out to try to calm him down. When Hallion came out to break up the conference, he and Maddux had a little conversation. Mikolas got Marte to chase a slider out of the zone for the 2nd out. But he couldn’t get out of the inning unscathed. He threw a 3-2 slider to Bell that didn’t really break. It was off the plate outside, but left up in the zone, and Bell just powered it over the bullpen in left-center for a 2-run HR to give the Pirates a 6-4 lead. Here’s a video of the two Bell homers in order of occurrence.

Cabrera grounded out to short, with DeJong making a nice off-balance throw to end the inning.

Edman reached down and poked a low-and-away backdoor slider for a base hit to right to lead off the bottom of the 5th. Fowler lined to short. On the 1-0 pitch to Goldschmidt, Brault’s changeup scooted underneath Diaz’s legs for a wild pitch to the backstop to move Edman to 2nd. Goldschmidt grounded a slider to short, and Edman made a baserunning mistake. He started forward a couple of steps even though the ball was not behind him, and got thrown out by Gonzalez trying to get back to 2nd base. It was a little lucky on the Pirates’ part that due to the shift, the 2nd baseman Frazier was in position to get to the bag immediately for the throw, but it was still a bad play. Brault’s first pitch to Ozuna was a bounced slider that got away for another wild pitch to move Goldschmidt to 2nd. Ozuna worked a 3-2 walk. Clint Hurdle made a double switch to bring in righty Michael Feliz to pitch in the #5 spot and face DeJong and Pablo Reyes to play LF in the #9 spot, with Cabrera coming out of the game. DeJong was rung up looking at a 98 mph fastball that looked like it was just off of the outside corner, but he didn’t argue. It should probably have been called a ball, but Hallion had been calling that pitch a strike on occasion on both sides of the plate, and with 2 strikes in that situation, it was too close to take.

With Mikolas getting hit hard and at 94 pitches, Shildt brought in Junior Fernandez to make his major league debut in the top of the 6th. Moran lined a 3-1 low-and-in fastball for a base hit to right. Fernandez did not get the outside strike call on Diaz that Feliz got in the last half-inning, but did strike Diaz out looking on a 3-2 tailing changeup on the inside corner for the first out. If you have never seen Fernandez’s stuff before, here’s a video of the strikeout.

Gonzalez lined a 97 mph fastball for a base hit to right to move Moran to 3rd. Fernandez struck Reyes out looking on a low slider as Gonzalez stole 2nd base in the process. With runners at 2nd and 3rd and 2 out, Shildt brought Tyler Webb in pitch to the lefty Frazier. Hallion called a good 0-1 fastball from Webb a ball, even though it looked like it was right on the outside corner. Webb’s next pitch was a fastball low-and-in, and Frazier blooped it to center. Thomas tried to slide for it, but it dropped in front of him, both Moran and Gonzalez scored to give the Pirates an 8-4 lead, and both runs were charged to Fernandez. Webb picked Frazier off of first base, and he was caught stealing to end the inning, but by then the damage had been done.

Working a 10-pitch at-bat to start the bottom of the 6th, Munoz reached out and poked a 2-2 low-and-away slider for a looper that sliced and hopped once to Frazier near the outfield grass. Munoz beat it out for an infield single. Knizner sharply grounded a fastball through the right side for a base hit to move Munoz to 2nd. Thomas popped out to 1st on the first pitch. Matt Carpenter pinch hit for Webb, and sharply grounded a ball down the 1st base line. Bell fielded it, spun around, fired to the 2nd base bag, and almost threw it away, but Gonzelez made a nice stop on the bounced throw to secure the force. With runners at the corners now and 2 out, Edman bounced out to 2nd base to strand the runners. John Gant came out on 6 days of rest to pitch the top of the 7th. Reynolds sliced a low-and-in fastball for a leadoff base hit to left, but he was erased when Marte grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. Bell flied out to center to end the inning.

Kyle Crick came out for the bottom of the 7th, and this turned out to be a wild inning. Fowler sharply grounded a low-and-in fastball for Bell, who tried to grab it by going to one knee, but it bounced off of his glove. Fowler was initially ruled safe at first base. At first glance, it looked like it was basically a tie, and the Pirates challenged the call. On replay, the call was overturned and another angle showed that the ball reached Crick’s glove just a split second before Fowler touched the base. Goldschmidt flied a slider to left. The ball was in the air for a long time, and Gonzalez went back a bit from his shortstop position for it. Reyes ran in, but then the two fielders stopped and looked at each other and the ball dropped between them for a gift base hit. Ozuna lined a fastball up the middle for a base hit to move Goldschmidt to 2nd. DeJong popped a first-pitch center-cut fastball to 2nd base for the 2nd out. On the 1-1 pitch to Munoz, Ozuna and Goldschmidt pulled off a double steal, and the runners were now at 2nd and 3rd. Munoz leaned his bat into a 3-1 inside fastball and fouled off what would have been ball 4. Crick then hit Munoz in the back with a 3-2 fastball to load the bases. Could Crick have been distracted by the cavalcade of mascots behind home plate?

Jim Edmonds immediately accused Crick of hitting Munoz on purpose as payback for Munoz’s steals in an earlier series with the Pirates when the Cards had a sizable lead early in the game. I’m afraid I can’t agree with that assessment, as that would have been a very odd time to exact revenge, on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases after Crick’s defense gifted the Cards a baserunner. My theory was supported when Crick’s first pitch to Knizner, a slider, slipped from Crick’s hand and hit Knizner in the arm. Goldschmidt scored to cut the Pirates’ lead to 8-5.

Thomas capped off his stellar day by working the count to 3-2 and hitting Crick’s 30th pitch, an inside fastball, for a grand slam into the left-center field bullpen to give the Cards a 9-8 lead!!!

After Thomas came out for a curtain call, Wong pinch hit for Gant. Righty Chris Stratton came out to pitch and struck Wong out on 3 pitches.

For the top of the 8th, the Cards made several changes. Wong stayed in the game in the #9 spot to play 2B with Edman moving from 2B to 3B, and John Brebbia came out to pitch in the #6 spot, with Munoz exiting the game. Jose Osuna pinch hit for Stratton and popped to first in foul territory. Moran grounded an inside slider opposite the shift for a base hit through the shortstop area past the glove of the diving Edman. The pitcher Joe Musgrove ran for Moran. Diaz popped a hanging slider to short, and Brebbia struck Gonzalez out to end the inning. For the bottom of the 8th, Osuna stayed in the game in the #5 spot to play 3B and righty Geoff Hartlieb came out to pitch in the #6 spot. Edman lined a high fastball for a base hit to left and his 3rd hit of the day. Fowler was swinging away on 3-0 and sliced a low-and-in fastball just onto the flowers, barely over the left-center field wall for a 2-run HR to give the Cards insurance and an 11-8 lead.

Goldschmidt lined a base hit to left for his 4th hit of the day. Ozuna poked an outside slider for a base hit to left to move Goldschmidt to 2nd. Hurdle had to come out to make another pitching change to bring in righty Clay Holmes. After DeJong flied out to left, Matt Wieters pinch hit for Brebbia, and walked on 4 pitches to load the bases. The Cards have now completely emptied their bench. Knizner flailed at curveballs to strike out and bring Thomas back to the plate. Could the young man do it again? Unfortunaely not, as he decided to follow Knizner’s game plan and swing at curveballs outside the zone to strike out.

With Andrew Miller, Ryan Helsley, Giovanny Gallegos and Carlos Martinez left in the pen, Shildt elected not to bring out Martinez for the 3rd game in a row and decided not to pitch Gallegos on 2 straight days, despite him having 2 days of rest before pitching yesterday. Although Helsley had warmed up the inning before, Shildt chose to go with Miller in the top of the 9th with only 1 lefthander to face in the first 3 batters. The righthander Reyes hit an outside fastball just over the left-center field wall on the first pitch for a solo HR to cut the Cards’ lead to 11-9. That was Miller’s 9th home run allowed this season, the most he has ever allowed in one year, including back when he was a starter.

All of a sudden, Fowler’s insurance homer held much more significance than it did at the time. Lefty Frazier popped out to Edman at 3rd, with him reaching over the camera well near the Pirates’ dugout on the 3rd base side to make the catch. Reynolds flied a slider to center for the 2nd out. Miller then struck Marte out on a slider low-and-in to pick up his 4th save of the season and the Cards picked up the sweep.

Cards’ Rotation

To eliminate any confusion, here is the Cards’ rotation outlook since August 5th, when Wacha started against the Dodgers.

8/5: Wacha

8/6: Mikolas

8/7: Flaherty

8/8: Open date

8/9: Hudson

8/10: Wainwright

8/11: Mikolas

8/12: Open date

8/13: Flaherty

8/14: Hudson

8/15: Wainwright

8/16: Mikolas

8/17: ???

The 5th starter spot has been skipped, and the Cards will have to insert someone in the rotation on August 17th to avoid Jack Flaherty pitching on 3 days’ rest. Mike Shildt has said that Daniel Ponce de Leon will not get that start, as he wants to see another positive outing in Memphis like his August 9th start, where he went 7 IP with 2 H, 0 BB and 11 SO. If Michael Wacha gets the start, let’s hope that he doesn’t get 11 days of rest before doing it. A bullpen game is still a possibility, and it is possible that it could come on the 15th or 16th to give either Mikolas or Wainwright a 5th day of rest.

Odds and Ends

Behind to the Reds 3-1 in the top of the 6th, the Cubs scored 1 in the 6th on a Javier Baez double. They then scored 4 in the top of the 7th, aided by a 3-run HR from Kris Bryant off of Michael Lorenzen. The Cubs split the series with a 6-3 victory. After a day off tomorrow, the Cubs head to Pennsylvania for 3 games each against the Phillies and Pirates. The Reds head to Washington tomorrow to start a 3-game series with the Nationals before coming back to Cincinnati for the Cardinals...Jordan Lyles pitched 7 innings of 3-hit ball for the Brewers, but that wasn’t enough to beat the Rangers, as Mike Minor threw 8 IP with only 1 BB and 11 SO. Each team had only 4 hits, but Lyles allowed a walk, double and Sac Fly in the top of the 7th for the 1-0 loss. The Brewers also have a day off tomorrow, and bookend another day off Thursday with a 2-game series in Minnesota...After today’s games, the Cards remain 2 G behind the Cubs in the NL Central Division race, leapfrogging the Brewers, who are now 2.5 GB. If the season ended today, the Cards would have the 2nd wild card spot by half a game over the Brewers, with the Nationals half a game ahead for the first spot...The Cardinals have a day off tomorrow, then travel to Kansas City for 2 and Cincinnati for 4. Memphis and Springfield games are in progress...Palm Beach won 4-1, as 3B Yuan Yepez assisted with a 2-run shot. 2019 first-round draft choice Zack Thompson pitched 2 innings of scoreless relief with only 1 hit allowed and 3 strikeouts, and Edgar Escobar picked up his first save of the year.