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Cards Strike Out 15 Times with Only 2 Hits in 2-1 Loss to Reds

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Wacha was not outstanding, but pitched well enough to keep us in it

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight was the night that Mike Shildt decided to use a 5th starter in the rotation again. Michael Wacha last started on August 5th, allowing 7 H and 6 ER in 3.2 IP. In the meantime, Wacha did not pitch out of the bullpen at all, and Daniel Ponce de Leon made a start for Memphis on August 9th in which he threw 7 innings, allowed only 2 hits, 0 runs, no walks and 11 strikeouts. We hope Shildt did not go with Wacha because Wacha has the best winning percentage all time for Cardinals starters against the Reds with a minimum of 15 starts. Because of course that means nothing, and ever team is different from season to season and moment to moment. We hope he decided to leave Ponce de Leon in Memphis because he has not done well in scheduled starts for the Cards this year and he wanted to see if Ponce de Leon could perform well in Memphis for 2 games in a row.

The Reds were playing with a 24-man roster tonight and will continue to do so for the rest of this 4-game series, as lefty reliever Amir Garrett began serving his 8-game suspension on Monday for charging the Pirates dugout and starting a bench-clearing brawl two weeks ago. The rules do not allow a club to make a roster move to replace a suspended player in that situation. It did not matter tonight. Just like with Wacha’s August 5th start against the Dodgers, the Cardinals couldn’t hit anybody. The Reds’ staff struck 15 Cardinals out, with starter Sonny Gray racking up 10 of his own. The Reds could have easily had more, as the home plate umpire had a very tight strike zone. The Cardinals had only 1 hit until the bottom of the 9th, and they failed to capitalize on the situations where they did have opportunities with the 5 walks they drew. Joey Votto was scratched from the game with lower back tightness, but that turned out not to help either.

Wacha came into this start with 9 days of rest, with reliever Ryan Helsley also saved with 9 days of rest in an apparent attempt to piggyback with Wacha in case something went wrong. I was worried that 9 days of rest would make Wacha too rusty, and it is typical for a 5th starter who is skipped to get some bullpen work in between starts. While he did not go deep into the game, he did pitch well enough to keep us in it and give us a chance. Cards’ hitters were dealt a healthy dose of sliders early in the game that kept them off balance, then when they were looking for sliders later in the game, they let fastballs right down the middle go for strikes.

After Sonny Gray retired the Cards in order with 2 strikeouts in the top of the 1st, Michael Wacha retired 2 Reds batters before Eugenio Suarez lined a fastball to center for a base hit in the bottom half. He was stranded when Aristides Aquino grounded out to 3rd. After getting ahead of Phillip Ervin 0-2 in the count, Ervin worked a 3-2 walk to start the bottom of the 2nd. But before Wacha could throw a pitch to Freddy Galvis, he caught Ervin leaning too far off of 1st base and picked him off. Galvis struck out looking at a fastball down-and-in that was a real close pitch and could have been called either way. Jose Iglesias grounded a fastball up the middle for a 2-out single, but Tucker Barhnart tapped a ball back to the mound to end the inning.

Kolten Wong worked a 3-2 walk to lead off the top of the 3rd. It was a 9-pitch PA where he fouled off some tough pitches. The Cards put on the hit-and-run play. Randy Arozarena swung and missed at the fastball, but Wong got a good jump and stole 2nd base. Arozarena struck out on a 2-2 hanging slider. After Wacha struck out, Dexter Fowler worked a 3-2 walk on some very close pitches, with Gray not getting anything near the corner. Gray then hit Carpenter on the top of his right foot to load the bases. Paul Goldschmidt looked right at a 2-2 fastball right down the middle to strike out looking and strand the bases loaded. He also looked right at a center-cut fastball for a strike earlier in the at-bat. After Wacha struck out the first 2 batters in the bottom of the 3rd, Josh VanMeter blooped a low-and-away changeup to left for a base hit. Suarez flied a changeup to right to end the inning.

Marcell Ozuna walked on 4 pitches to lead off the top of the 4th. Paul DeJong struck out looking at a fastball on the outside corner. Yadier Molina fouled a fastball off of the home plate umpire’s right shoulder, and there was a brief delay while he took a bit to rest. It looked like the Cards had the hit and run play on again, as Molina swung at a slider way outside and in the dirt while Ozuna stole second base. Molina worked the count to 3-2 before looking at a center-cut fastball right down the middle to strike out looking for the 2nd out. Wong then grounded a ball down the 1st base line, but VanMeter was positioned right there and flipped to Gray for the out at 1st. The Cards started off the bottom of the 4th with 2 good defensive plays. Goldschmidt reached over the railing in foul territory to grab a foul pop from Aquino for the 1st out. Ervin grounded a hot shot towards the 3rd base line, but Carpenter raced over with his momentum into foul territory and made a jump throw across his body on a that made one bounce to Goldschmidt to nip Ervin at 1st for the 2nd out. Galvis flied out to right to end the inning. Here’s a video of the Goldschmidt and Carpenter plays.

Fowler took some real close pitches to start the top of the 5th before lining a hanging curveball to center with 2 out for the Cards’ first hit of the game. With Carpenter at the plate, Fowler stole second base. But again, it turned out not to matter as Carpenter struck out swinging at an inside slider to strand the Cards’ 5th runner of the night, and the Cards are 0-6 with RISP so far. That was Gray’s 10th strikeout of the night, and he really could have had more if the home plate umpire had given him some more close pitches. Iglesias grounded a cutter through the right side for a base hit to lead off the bottom of the 5th. Wacha then beaned Barnhart on a pitch that grazed his shoulder then ricocheted to the front side of his helmet. With runners on 1st and 2nd and nobody out, Gray, at 97 pitches, stayed in the game to hit for himself to sacrifice the runners to 2nd and 3rd. Leadoff man Nick Senzel chopped a low fastball over the mound towards 2nd base. Wong, who was playing in a tad, charged in, grabbed the ball and decided to make an off-balance throw to home plate. Iglesias was running on contact and he beat the bounced throw to give the Reds a 1-0 lead. Barnhart went to 3rd on the play and Senzel reached first base on the fielder’s choice. VanMeter grounded to Goldschmidt at 1st. Barnhart hesitated a bit before deciding to run home. Goldschmidt’s throw home beat Barhart by a mile and Barnhart got in a rundown for the 2nd out with Senzel advancing to 2nd and VanMeter reaching first on the 2nd fielder’s choice in a row. Suarez blooped a high changeup to center for a base hit to score Senzel, extend the Reds’ lead to 2-0 and move VanMeter to 3rd. Wacha’s first pitch to Aquino was a curveball in the dirt that got away from Molina for a wild pitch to allow Suarez to advance to 2nd. The Cards just decided to walk Aquino intentionally to bring up Ervin, who flied out to right to end the inning. Here is a video of the two run-scoring plays.

Righty Robert Stephenson came out for the top of the 6th. Goldschmidt couldn’t lay off a slider a foot outside the zone and struck out. Ozuna struck out on another slider that was low and outside with him way out in front of the pitch. DeJong lined a pitch over the mound but right to the 2nd baseman for an inning-ending groundout. Although Wacha had thrown only 80 pitches, Shildt brought Tyler Webb in to pitch the bottom of the 6th to turn 2 Reds’ switch-hitters around to the right side. Galvis reached out and poked a low-and-away changeup to left for a base hit. Iglesias popped to Goldschmidt in foul territory. Barnhart got jammed on an inside fastball and shredded his bat in the process of grounding out to the pitcher, with Galvis moving to 2nd base on the play. The television replay showed that Barnhart actually hit the ball off of his own foot. Reds’ manager David Bell came out to have a discussion with the umpires, but nothing was done and no replay was called for. After the Reds announced righty Jose Peraza as a pinch-hitter for Stephenson, Shildt went to his bullpen and summoned Junior Fernandez on no rest. Fernandez got Peraza to fly a changeup to short left field to strand the runner.

Righty Michael Lorenzen pitched the top of the 7th for the Reds. Molina grounded out to 3rd. Wong guessed wrong, and was way behind a fastball to strike out swinging on 3 pitches. Arozarena worked the count to 3-2 before grounding a high fastball for an out to 2nd, and the Cards still have only 1 hit after 7 innings. The Cards made a double switch to start the bottom of the 7th, and I thought we were done with this foolishness. Tommy Edman came out to play RF in the #9 spot with Fowler moving from RF to CF and Arozarena coming out of the game. In no universe is this a good idea, and I don’t care if the Reds have an all right-handed bullpen. Ryan Helsley came out to pitch in the #8 spot, and it was as good a time as any to bring him in, as he had 9 days of rest. He was apparently being saved for Wacha’s start. Helsley blew a fastball by Senzel to strike him out on 3 pitches. Van Meter grounded to 2nd. Suarez swung at a cutter in the dirt for strike 3 to end the inning.

Edman proved Shildt’s genius by working a 3-2 walk to lead off the top of the 8th. Fowler struck out swinging at a changeup about 2 feet outside. Carpenter flied out to left on a first-pitch fastball. The Reds then made a double switch to bring in righty closer Raisel Iglesias to pitch in the #2 spot and Kyle Farmer to play 1B in the #9 spot. Goldschmidt got under a first-pitch hanging cutter and flied out to center to end the inning. Helsley came back out for the bottom of the 8th and got Aquino to ground to short on the 1st pitch. Ervin ripped a hanging cutter down the left field line and into the corner for a double. Galvis struck out swinging at a 100 mph fastball over his head. Jose Iglesias chopped a cutter to short. DeJong’s throw was too high, but Goldschmidt jumped and tagged the runner out while landing.

Ozuna worked a 3-2 walk to lead off the inning, and got lucky he didn’t get rung up on a slider earlier in the count. DeJong was clearly off-balance and struck out swinging on a slider. Molina hit a slow chopper to 3rd for a ground out to move Molina to 2nd. Wong sliced a 1-2 low-and-away changeup off the end of his bat that just got underneath the glove of the diving Suarez at 3rd base. The ball veered towards the sidewall near the ball boy. Ozuna scored to cut the Reds’ lead to 2-1 and Wong stood up safe with a double, who took his sweet time getting himself and his chair out of the way.

Wieters pinch hit for Helsley and unfortunately, he got underneath a first-pitch hanging slider to fly out to center, end the game and hand Raisel Iglesias his 24th save of the year.

Odds and Ends

The Phillies saved the Cards from dropping in the standings when Bryce Harper hit a walk-off grand slam off of Derek Holland to beat the Cubs 7-5 after they were down 5-1 to start the bottom of the 9th...The Brewers had the day off and will travel to Washington to start a 3-game series with the Nationals before coming to St. Louis for 3...The Pirates also had the day off and start a 3-game series tomorrow against the Cubs...Memphis skunked Iowa 5-0, as Daniel Ponce de Leon had another nice performance with 7 IP, 2 H, 2 BB and 9 SO. Rangel Ravelo and Harrison Bader both hit 2-run HRs. IF Kramer Robertson was sent to Springfield to make room for OF Dylan Carlson, who was promoted to Memphis. Carlson started in LF, hit 7th in the order and went 1-4 with a double and 2 SO...Despite only getting outhit 10-8, Springfield lost to Tulsa 7-1. Springfield pitchers allowed 4 solo HRs...Palm Beach’s game was cancelled due to wet grounds...C Alex Wilson broke a 2-2 tie with a solo HR in the top of the 8th to lead Peoria to a 3-2 victory over Kane County. Reliever Franyel Casadilla had 3 IP of scoreless relief with 3 SO and Freddy Pacheco got his 3rd save of the year with 1 scoreless IP with 2 SO...