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Cardinals Strike Out 15 Times in 4-1 Loss to Brewers

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

Although the Cardinals actually outhit the Brewers 7-6 today, it certainly did not feel like it. Since July 7th, Jack Flaherty has been one of the best pitchers in baseball, with the best ERA (0.80), WHIP (0.76), OPP AVG (.144) and OPP OPS (.442). And although his defense let him down a bit early in the game, and he did pitch well enough for the Cards to have a chance to win, he was not as sharp as he had been in the past. Although Brewers starter Jordan Lyles only lasted 5.1 innings, he struck out 9 Card batters, who had a difficult time with his curveball. The Brewers bullpen (Junior Guerra and Josh Hader) threw 3.2 IP with only 1 hit allowed, no walks and 6 SO. Kolten Wong had 3 of the Cards’ 7 hits and was a triple short of the cycle. Since July 5th for all batters with a minimum of 25 PA, Wong is leading the league in batting with a .374 AVG. Yadier Molina had 2 hits to go along with a bunt single from Flaherty, and a single by Paul Goldschmidt.

Flaherty had Trent Grisham in a 2-2 count, and didn’t get a call on a close fastball near the inside corner to start the game. After fouling off a pitch, Grisham lined a slider into right for a base hit. After Yasmani Grandal flied out to left, Christian Yelich chopped a fastball to Wong, who fielded it as he was streaking back a bit. He made a hurried and off-balance throw to DeJong at short that arrived at the bag before DeJong did, and went under DeJong’s glove scooting all the way to the Cardinals’ dugout because the club was lined up in the shift. The fielder’s choice, E4, resulted with Grisham at 3rd and Yelich at 2nd base. Keston Hiura grounded out to short with the infield back. Grisham scored to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead. Eric Thames struck out to end the inning.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals can’t hit Brewers starter Jordan Lyles, who struck out 4 of the first 5 Cardinal batters. With 2 out in the top of the 2nd, the Brewers were lined up in a very strange defensive alignment for Yadier Molina’s plate appearance, so strange that you would probably have to see it to believe it. 3B Corey Spangenberg was playing close to the line at the edge of the outfield grass. SS Orlando Arcia was stationed in the outfield grass, with a huge gulf between him and the base. 2B Keston Hiura was playing at double play depth on the usual side of the bag. Molina grounded a ball in that gulf. Arcia raced over, fielded the ball, spun around and throw, but it was too late to get Molina, and he had a base hit. I would like to see the analytics that claims that alignment is a good idea. Edman struck out looking at a questionable curveball that looked a tad high and outside, and Lyles is getting all sorts of calls on the edges for his breaking balls.

Ryan Braun sliced a low-and-away fastball to the right-center field gap that one-hopped the wall for a double to start the bottom of the 2nd. Spangenberg grounded out to 1st base with Braun moving to 3rd. Arcia flied an inside fastball to right for a Sac Fly to score Braun and extend the Brewers’ lead to 2-0. Fowler made an effort, but the throw wasn’t close to being in time. The pitcher Lyles popped out to 2nd to end the inning. After Bader flied out to center to lead off the top of the 3rd, Flaherty laid down a surprise bunt to the left of the mound that he beat out for an infield hit. After Fowler hit a lazy fly to left, Wong lined a center-cut fastball to center field for a base hit to move Flaherty to 2nd. In the process, Danny Mac treated us to a recent history of the Milwaukee franchise and all of its moves around baseball over the years. Goldschmidt struck out swinging at an outside fastball to strand 2 runners and give Lyles his 6th strikeout of the game. In the bottom of the 3rd, Flaherty got a call on the outside corner to strike Grisham out. With the Cards defense lined up in the shift, Grandal tapped a ball to the right side that DeJong actually charged for, fielded and flipped the ball to 1st for the out on a good play.

Flaherty struck Yelich out looking at a high-and-outside 2-2 curveball, and it looks like the umpire is going to call that pitch for both sides now.

Lyles made quick work of Ozuna and DeJong with a groundout and a fly to the track in left in 4 total pitches to start the top of the 4th. Molina blooped a slider to center for a base hit with 2 out. Edman lined to the track for Yelich in right to end the inning. In the bottom of the 4th, Hiura led off the inning by smoking an up-and-in 3-0 fastball into the left field seats for a solo HR to extend the Brewers’ lead to 3-0.

With 1 out, Braun worked a 3-2 walk, but he was erased when Spangenberg grounded into a 3-6-3 double play with a tag to end the inning. Lyles struck out 2 more Cards in the top of the 5th for 8 strikeouts total. With 2 out in the bottom of the 5th, Grisham lined a hanging curveball to the gap in right-center that rolled to the wall for a double. He was stranded there when Grandal flied out to left to prevent any further damage.

In the top of the 6th, Wong gave us a scare by fouling a pitch right onto his bad toe. On the very next pitch, however, he crushed a low-and-in slider into the right field seats for a solo HR to cut the Cards’ lead to 3-1.

Goldschmidt golfed a low curve for a grounder through the hole to left for a base hit. With a 3-2 count on Ozuna, Ozuna swung and missed at a curveball to strike out. Goldschmidt was running on the pitch, and I felt like that he would almost certainly have been thrown out for a double play, but Grandal dropped the ball behind the plate. With a runner on 2nd and 1 out, DeJong worked a 3-2 walk. With Lyles now at 97 pitches, Brewers manager Craig Counsell didn’t want Lyles facing Molina, and brought in righty Junior Guerra to pitch on no rest. Molina grounded a 2-0 low-and-in fastball for an inning-ending double play.

To lead off the bottom of the 6th, Yelich squibbed a ball off the end of the bad opposite the shift to the shortstop area near the hole for an infield hit. Edman did have to move a bit to get that ball, but he did bobble it. The scorer must have concluded that Yelich would have been fast enough to beat it out had Edman fielded it cleanly. But Flaherty would bear down and escape by striking out the side, and ended the inning with 101 pitches. Guerra struck out the side in the top of the 7th, getting Edman to chase a changeup in the dirt, Bader to watch a fastball near the middle of the plate, and Matt Carpenter (pinch-hitting for Flaherty) to chase a changeup in the dirt. The 3 strikeouts took 11 total pitches. John Brebbia came out for the bottom of the 7th and the defense behind him was great this half-inning. Wong made a nice grab on Spangenberg’s grounder, then Edman made a sizzling play at 3B. Arcia grounded a pitch towards the line. Edman slid over past the foul line, hopped up and made a strong throw on a bounce to Goldschmidt, who stretched and picked the ball out of the dirt for the out. Manny Pina pinch hit for Guerra and struck out to end the inning.

Now the Cardinals had to face Josh Hader for the first time this series, and he is pitching on 2 days of rest. The Brewers did not make a double switch, but changed their defensive alignment, bringing in Lorenzo Cain to play CF in Ryan Braun’s #6 spot, and moving Trent Grisham from CF to LF. After Fowler flied to left, Wong sliced a 97 mph fastball from Hader into the left-center field gap for a double. Goldschmidt struck out swinging at a fastball for his 3rd strikeout of the day. Ozuna then struck out swinging at a 97 mph fastball that was high and out of the zone for the 3rd out.

Tyler Webb came out on 3 days of rest to pitch the bottom of the 8th. After he retired Grisham and Grandal on flyouts, Webb walked Yelich on 4 straight pitches. Shildt brought Dominic Leone in to pitch to Hiura. Hiura laced a center-cut fastball down the left field line and into the corner for a double to score Yelich all the way from 1st base and give the Brewers an insurance run for a 4-1 lead.

After Leone got to a 3-0 count on Thames, he was just intentionally walked. Cain flailed at a cutter that was way outside to end the inning. Hader came back out for the top of the 9th and got DeJong to strike out swinging at sliders, got Molina to chase a high fastball and fly out to right and got Edman to fly out to left to end the game and pick up his 26th save.

Odds and Ends

Nothing to report in baseball action the rest of the day, as the Cards’ game is the only one on the slate that is finished. The Cards have a day off tomorrow, before playing 4 games in 3 days in St. Louis starting Friday. Kyle Hendricks and Thor duel it out later tonight in New York. The Brewers also have the day off tomorrow, and will host the Cubs for a 3-game series starting Friday after the Cubs close out their series with the Mets tomorrow... Memphis split a doubleheader with New Orleans yesterday and are still not out of the race for the playoffs. The Iowa Cubs have a magic number of 2 with 6 games to play, and the Redbirds and Cubs square off for the last four games of the AAA season.