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Albino-Uniformed Cards Take First Place Again with 8-3 Win and Another Strong Flaherty Outing

MLB: Colorado Rockies at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

After last night’s comeback win over the Rockies, we were confident with Jack Flaherty on the mound that we could perhaps retake the National League Central Division lead from the Chicago Cubs. Flaherty has been pitching like one of the best pitchers in the majors recently, and did not disappoint tonight, going 6 strong innings with only 3 hits allowed, 1 BB and 9 SO. The bats came out in force tonight as well with 13 hits, and Molina even got into the act, going 3 for 5.

A critical consideration for any fan watching their favorite team is the uniforms, and we need to get an understanding of these hideous uniforms out of the way, as they could be quite jarring if you were unprepared for them. This is Players’ Weekend, where the uniform rules are relaxed and all players in MLB in games on the schedule this Friday through Sunday will wear special uniforms that include self-selected nicknames on the backs of their jerseys with other colorful cleats and equipment. Unlike in past years, where the Cardinals wore jerseys with red and blue, all teams will wear monochromatic uniforms that are either all-white or all-black. The home team gets the choice to wear the all-whites or the all-blacks. As the home team for this series with the Rockies, the Cardinals have chosen the all-whites. You can find a complete list of Cardinals’ nicknames, together with their explanations, here. The only one that is missing is Dominic Leone, who was just recalled on Thursday. He used DOMINATOR last year, but I’m unclear if that was his choice this year, as some players have switched their nicknames from prior years. Cards’ starter Jack Flaherty is one of 9 MLB players who have chosen to have their nickname represent a tribute to recently deceased Angels’ pitcher Tyler Skaggs instead of their previously chosen nicknames. Flaherty’s jersey reads “Love You Ty.”

The all-white uniforms are problematic in several respects. The official explanation of the monochromatic layout instead of the past color combinations was that the players would have more colorful equipment, such as bats, compression sleeves, batting gloves, catching equipment, wrist bands, shoes and other things, the colors of which would be obscured if more traditional color schemes were used. But one of the purposes of Players’ Weekend was for the fans and others to see the player-selected nicknames on the back. The all-black jerseys have silver letters which fans can see. But the names on the all-white uniforms are almost impossible to see, especially if you happen to be sitting far away, like the press box.

I did not even catch this at the beginning of the game, but neither set of uniforms even have numbers on the front of the jerseys. How the official scorer sorts out who is who is beyond me, especially with all the shifting these days. When you combine the all-white uniforms with the vanilla ice-cream colored batting helmets, the players look a little silly.

There was also an official explanation on the website that pitchers in the all-white uniforms would wear black caps to avoid confusing the pitchers and the umpires, but it turned out that Flaherty just wore his red cap instead of a black one, so apparently the only real rule was that pitchers could not wear white caps.

With all that to the side, who do the MLB people think is going to buy these things, especially the white ones? Perhaps there are a few people out there with completionist tendencies who want to own one piece of everything their favorite team has ever worn. Did the marketing people really believe that people would buy a jersey with colors that don’t pertain to their team at all, especially a sheer white, where you can barely see the lettering from a distance? In any case, if you don’t like the uniforms, it’s too bad, because the Cards will be wearing them for the next two games.

With 2 out in the top of the 1st, Nolen Arenado took a 2-1 low fastball that looked like a strike at the bottom of the zone, but the umpire called it a ball. Flaherty walked him on the next pitch, but it did not matter, as Daniel Murphy flied the first pitch to center to end the inning. Flaherty used his curveball as a strikeout pitch to get the 2nd out. With 1 out in the bottom half, Kolten Wong sharply grounded a pitch from Rockies starter Peter Lambert towards the middle for Ryan McMahon at 2nd base. McMahon shuffled to his right and tried to backhand it, but booted it. It was unclear if he would have gotten Wong with a cross-body throw, but the scorer thought so and charged McMahon with an error. After Paul Goldschmidt lined out close to the track in right-center, Marcell Ozuna torched a center-cut fastball into the seats over the bullpen in left-center for a 2-run HR to put the Cards on the board 2-0.

DeJong worked a 3-2 walk, then Yadier Molina lined a high-and-outside fastball to right for a base hit to move him to 2nd. Edman grounded out to 2nd to end the inning.

After Flaherty struck out two guys in the course of retiring the Rockies in order in the top of the 2nd, he helped himself out in the bottom half by softly lining a base hit to left-center with 1 out. Fowler forced Flaherty at 2nd with a groundout to 1st, and Wong popped out to 3rd base to strand Fowler there. Flaherty retired the Rockies in order again in the top of the 3rd with another 2 strikeouts, and has 5 after the first time through the order. Goldschmidt lined a base hit to right to start the bottom of the 3rd, and Ozuna walked on 4 pitches. Paul DeJong grounded into a 5-4-3 double play, with Goldschmidt moving to 3rd base. Molina smoked a hard grounder with topspin towards the 3rd base line, but Arenado made a diving grab and threw Yadi out, with Yadi giving Arenado a hand motion suggesting “There’s no way you’re supposed to catch that, whatever dude.”

With 1 out in the top of the 4th, Flaherty threw Arenado an inside tailing sinker that hit Arenado just underneath his right wrist and ricocheted to hit Molina in the left jaw area in the lower portion of his catcher’s mask. Both players went to the ground for a while, and there was a short delay before play resumed, with both players staying in the game. No harm was done, however, as Murphy flied out close to the track in right-center, and McMahon grounded up the middle into the shift for DeJong for the 3rd out. Flaherty has still not allowed a hit at this point and has 6 SO. Tommy Edman lined a high-and-outside fastball to left-center for a base hit to lead off the bottom of the 4th. CF Yonathan Daza raced over to the gap to cut it off, but Edman was sprinting out of the box and slid in safely for a double. Harrison Bader worked a 3-2 walk. Flaherty sacrificed the runners to 2nd and 3rd, and almost beat the throw to 1st. Fowler walked on 4 straight pitches to load the bases. Lambert hit Wong on the backside with an inside fastball to score Edman and extend the Cards’ lead to 3-0. Goldschmidt hit an inside 2-1 fastball a ton into the 3rd deck, but foul. Instead, he popped a hanging curveball to 1st base in foul territory. With 2 out and the bases still loaded, Ozuna lined out to center to end the inning.

Daza blooped an inside fastball to center that dropped in front of Bader for a base hit to lead off the top of the 5th, the first Flaherty allowed. Bader raced in, but decided not to dive for that one. Flaherty’s slider is just excellent, and he struck Dom Nunez out with it for the first out. Garrett Hampson struck out looking at a low-and-in 89 mph sinker that was real close, with Flaherty getting the call. Flaherty struck out the pitcher Lambert to strike out the side. The Cards would extend their lead in the bottom of the 5th with the help of the Rockies’ defense. Molina lined a low changeup for a base hit to left-center with 1 out. Righty Wes Parsons came out in relief of Lambert, and Edman lined a center-cut fastball to center for a base hit to move Molina to 2nd. Bader tapped a fastball to the right of the mound. Parsons barehanded the ball and threw the ball wide of Murphy into right field. Since Bader likely would have beat out a good throw, he was credited with a single. Parsons’ throwing error allowed both Molina and Edman to score to extend the Cards’ lead to 5-0, with Bader reaching 3rd base.

Flaherty flied a ball to short center field. Bader tested Daza, whose throw to the plate was offline, and Bader scored on the Sac Fly to give the Cards a 6-0 lead. Fowler grounded to the pitcher to end the inning.

Raimel Tapia sliced an up-and-away fastball to left for a base hit to lead off the top of the 6th. After Charlie Blackmon flied out to shallow center, Arenado sharply grounded a slider through the hole to left for a base hit to move Tapia to 2nd. Murphy popped a slider up to Wong on the outfield grass. McMahon flied a low slider to deep center to strand a pair. With 1 out in the bottom of the 6th, Goldschmidt lined a slider for a base hit to left-center. Ozuna smoked a center-cut fastball off the wall near the bullpen in left-center that caromed away from Tapia in left for a double to score Goldschmidt all the way from 1st to extend the Cards’ lead to 7-0.

DeJong sharply grounded a hanging slider through the hole to left for a base hit to score Ozuna and give the Cards’ an 8-0 lead. Parsons threw a slider to Molina that got away for a wild pitch to move DeJong to 2nd. Molina lined a shot right to Arenado for the 2nd out, and Edman grounded out to 1st to end the inning.

With Flaherty at 88 pitches, Shildt decided to bring out John Brebbia for the top of the 7th. Brebbia decided to just use his last name on the back of his jersey for Players’ Weekend, and wasted no time in retiring the Rockies in order with 1 strikeout and 12 pitches.

Righty Wade Davis came out for the bottom of the 7th. Lane Thomas pinch hit for Brebbia with 1 out and worked a 3-2 walk, but was stranded there when Fowler flied to short left field and Wong lined a ball near the track in center. Thomas stayed in the game in RF in the #9 spot for the top of the 8th, with Tyler Webb coming in to pitch in the #1 spot. Ian Desmond pinch hit for Davis and struck out. Tapia grounded towards the middle for DeJong right into the shift for an out. Blackmon popped out to 3rd to end the inning. Lefty Jake McGee came out for the bottom of the 8th. Yairo Munoz pinch hit for Ozuna with 1 out and lined a shot that took a bad hop over Hampson’s glove at short for a base hit to left-center. After DeJong struck out looking, Molina lined a fastball to left-center for a base hit to move Munoz to 2nd. Edman flied out to center to end the inning.

For the top of the 9th, Munoz stayed in the game in LF and John Gant came out to pitch. Arenado sharply grounded a 97 mph fastball up the middle for a base hit. Murphy worked a 3-2 walk. McMahon grounded a ball to the right side. Wong charged over to his left, but he couldn’t come up with it as it bounced off the side of his glove into right for a base hit. Arenado scored to break up the shutout and cut the Cards’ lead to 8-1 with Murphy advancing to 2nd base. Daza worked a 3-2 walk to load the bases, and Gallegos started to warm up in the bullpen. Why Gant felt the need to throw a 3-2 slider in the dirt is beyond me. Gant has now thrown 21 pitches without recording an out. With the count 1-2 on Nunez, Gant missed location on a fastball, and threw it under Molina’s glove with Molina being charged with a passed ball. Murphy scored to cut the Cards’ lead to 8-2, with the other runners moving to 2nd and 3rd. Gant finally struck Nunez out for the first out, and it took 26 pitches to get an out. Hampson grounded out to Goldschmidt for out #2, with McMahon scoring to cut the Cards’ lead to 8-3. Daza moved to 3rd on the play. Lefty Yonder Alonso pinch hit for McGee and flied to left to finally end the game.

Odds and Ends

The Cards are now half-a-game in front of the Cubs for the division lead after the Cubs got trounced by the Nationals 9-3 earlier today. Jon Lester allowed 9 H and 6 ER in just 4.1 IP. The Cubs are currently going with only a 3-man bench and a 9-man pen, which will be impossible next year if the new rule sticks...Down 2-1 in the bottom of the 9th, the Pirates scored 2 runs and Pablo Reyes hit a pinch-hit walkoff single off of Raisel Iglesias to lead the Bucs to a 3-2 win at home over the Reds...The Brewers scored 3 runs in the first inning off of Diamondbacks’ starter Merrill Kelly and that was enough to hold on for a 6-1 win. Jordan Lyles got another win for the Brewers...Memphis beat Omaha 9-1 with Dylan Carlson starting the game on the bench. Tyler O’Neill started the game in LF and went 1 for 3 with 1 BB and 2 SO before yielding to Carlson in the top of the 8th. Starter Austin Warner went at least 7 innings for the first time since May 19th in picking up the win. Memphis continued with the homers, as Randy Arozarena hit a 3-run shot, Adolis Garcia hit a 2-run shot and Andrew Knizner hit 2 solo shots...Springfield outhit Midland 12-10 but lost 7-5. Starter Johan Oviedo was yanked from the game after getting just 1 out and allowing 2 H, 4 ER and 3 BB. Ronnie Williams also walked 3 in 2.2 IP of relief and gave up a homer, but Merandy Gonzalez pitched 4 innings with no walks and 5 strikeouts. Yuan Yepez hit a solo shot and Johan Mieses hit a 2-run shot...Palm Beach lost 8-3 to Fort Myers. Austin Gomber’s option was transferred to Palm Beach to get him some work in a game for the first time since May 13th. He started the game, only recorded one out amongst a single, double, 2 walks and a wild pitch, and was charged with 3 ER. Griffin Roberts was charged with another 5 ER in 1.1 IP and walked 4. Carson Kelly’s brother Parker took the loss for Peoria after allowing 9 H, 7 ER, 3 BB and 2 HR in 5.1 IP.