Mike Shildt’s one-game reprieve that is officially over. We were all waiting to see how he was going to use his outfield with Marcell Ozuna being activated from the injured list today. It should have been a whole lot easier for him with Tyler O’Neill removed from the equation due to his 2nd IL stint of the year. With the DH in play today in Oakland’s stadium, what does he do? Although Jose Martinez isn’t necessarily up to his 2018 self (in large part due to his struggles against cutters and sliders, and an increase in ground balls), I can’t fault Shildt for installing him as the DH tonight, because DH is his best position. But instead of giving Lane Thomas his first start in the outfield since he was recalled from AAA Memphis on July 31st, he again deliberately employed a worse defensive outfield with Dexter Fowler in center field and Yairo Munoz in right field. Of course Munoz needs more plate appearances. Of all MLB players with at least 140 PA, he has the 4th worst O-Swing% in the game at 46.7%, so he needs to work on that by playing every day in the outfield.
With that out of the way, however, tonight the Cards lost tonight because their pitchers were constantly behind in the count. The home plate umpire’s zone was inconsistent tonight, it is true. Sometimes he called the low strike, sometimes he didn’t. Sometimes he called pitches that were a few inches outside strikes, sometimes he didn’t. But Hudson had already thrown 61 pitches after 2 innings, and a lot of those pitches were nowhere near the plate. For the most part, he couldn’t get his slider over. The umpire could have given Hudson some more close pitches, but the Cards’ hitters got breaks too, and there were times Hudson got some pitches called his way.
The main troubles this evening were Hudson getting behind in the count with too many pitches, too many 3-2 counts, and his inability to throw his slider in more enticing locations. Hudson also failed to put away Marcus Semien in the 2nd inning when he was ahead, and the Oakland A’s hitters just had good batting eyes. Matt Wieters’ passed ball certainly did not help either, and the tail end of Mike Mayers’ outing and the bomb off of Tyler Webb put the icing on the cake. Meanwhile, Cards’ hitters could do nothing when A’s starter Mike Fiers hung breaking pitches.
With 2 out in the top of the 1st, Paul Goldschmidt skied a ball to medium left field. Robbie Grossman lost it in the shadows, took a very late break, charged forward and missed the ball trying to make a sliding catch. Although he should clearly have caught the ball, Goldschmidt was credited with a generous double. He was stranded there, however, as Marcell Ozuna struck out looking at an outside fastball to end the inning. With 1 out in the bottom of the 1st, Grossman grounded a fastball for a base hit up the middle. Matt Chapman worked a 3-2 walk. On the 3-2 pitch, Hudson threw a slider that was called inside as Grossman took off to try to steal 2nd base. It looked like Wieters would have thrown him out at 2nd base had that been a live play, but the walk mooted it. Wieters jabbed a bit with the home plate umpire, who made a late call, and although the pitch was close, according to the strike zone box on the television showed it was off the plate a bit. Matt Olson walked on 5 pitches to load the bases. The 2-1 pitch did look like it was a strike on in the lower part of the zone. Hudson had gotten that call on an earlier batter. Hudson struck Khris Davis out on a 1-2 high fastball, but Mark Canha lined a high fastball to center to score Grossman and Chapman, move Olson to 2nd and give the A’s a 2-0 lead. Hudson then hit Stephen Piscotty on the left elbow with a 96 mph fastball to load the bases again. Jurickson Profar lined an inside fastball for a shot towards the line in right, but Munoz ran over and grabbed it to stop the damage. Hudson threw 30 pitches in the inning.
Chris Herrmann worked a 3-2 walk to start the bottom of the 2nd and the umpire is not giving anything to Hudson that is remotely borderline, as his 3-2 slider looked real close to the corner if not on it. Marcus Semien lined an inside fastball off the base of the wall at the 330 foot sign in left for a double. Ozuna made a nice barehanded play and quick throw to hold Herrman at 3rd. Grossman flied a ball to left, deep enough to score Herrman on the Sac Fly to extend the A’s lead to 3-0 and allow Semien to tag up and go to 3rd. Chapman worked another 3-2 walk after Hudson had him behind in the count 0-2, throwing 4 pitches after that point that were nowhere near the plate. On the 2-2 pitch to Olson, Hudson threw a slider that broke down sharply, causing Olson to swing and miss for the strikeout. Wieters, however, seemed surprised by the pitch, not expecting the slider to break down towards the ground as much as it did. We might never know if he and Hudson got crossed up, but he got his glove down too late, the ball went off of the bottom of it, and it rolled to the back stop. Semien scored to give the A’s a 4-0 lead, Wieters was charged with a passed ball and Chapman advanced to 2nd. This run that Hudson allowed was unearned, as Official Rule 9.16 treats passed balls by the catcher as errors. Davis struck out for the 2nd time on a 3-2 fastball to end the inning. By this time, Hudson had already thrown a total of 61 pitches.
In the top of the 3rd, Wieters struck out looking on a 1-2 curveball that looked like it should have been called a ball high. Munoz worked a 3-2 walk, but Tommy Edman softly lined a ball to Semien at short, who doubled Munoz off of 1st base to end the inning. The ball was hit softly enough and right to Semien, that you’d think Munoz could have gotten back safely to first in time. Canha lined a hanging slider to left for a base hit to lead off the bottom of the 3rd. But Hudson escaped this inning with strikeouts of Piscotty and Profar and getting Herrmann to ground to 2nd. Profar thought he had a walk on the 3-1 pitch, which was fastball that actually looked a bit outside and trotted to 1st. After he realized the umpire called it a strike, he ended up getting fooled and striking out on a slider that brought him to his knees.
With 1 out in the top of the 4th, Goldschmidt chopped a ball to the hole. Semien was playing very deep at short and Chapman raced over from the edge of the grass on the 3rd base line and made a strong throw to nip Goldschmidt at 1st. With 2 out, Ozuna lined a 2-2 changeup through the hole to left for a base hit. Paul DeJong lined a fastball to left to move Goldschmidt to 2nd, but Kolten Wong flied to the edge of the track in right-center to end the inning. Semien led off the bottom of the 4th by lining a hanging slider through the hole to left for a base hit. But Hudson struck Grossman out on a 3-2 slider and Wieters threw Semien out trying to steal 2nd base on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play, with Wong tagging Semien out hard on the top of the helmet. Chapman worked a 3-2 walk, and this time Hudson benefited from the umpire giving him a strike on a 2-1 fastball that was clearly too low. With Hudson wild and just having given up his 5th walk, Shildt brought in Adalberto Mejia, who hadn’t pitched since July 25th, to make his Cardinal debut to pitch to the lefty cleanup man Olson. The umpire didn’t give Mejia the call on a low-and-away slider on the 2-2 pitch, but Mejia got the lefty Olson to fly out to left on the next pitch to end the inning.
With 1 out in the top of the 5th, Matt Wieters skied a center-cut fastball to the track in right-center, but Piscotty raced over and made a jumping catch. The wall is very high in that location, and if he had missed it, it would not have been a homer, but he saved extra bases for sure. Munoz popped a fastball to the catcher Herrman behind the plate in foul territory to close out the inning. Davis lined a center-cut fastball to left for a base hit to start the bottom of the 5th. After Canha chased ball 4 on an outside 3-2 pitch to foul it off, he struck out looking on a fastball that looked a bit outside. Piscotty lined a low-and-away fastball to left for a base hit to move Davis to 2nd. Profar flied out to right-center, deep enough to allow Davis to tag up and advance to 3rd. With 2 out and runners at the corners, Herrmann hit a hot shot to Edman at 3rd base that took a bad hop. Edman knocked the ball down and spun around and threw to 1st, but Herrman barely beat his throw to 1st. Davis scored to extend the A’s lead to 5-0. Piscotty moved to 2nd and Herrmann was credited with a single on the play. Semien flied out to center to strand the runners.
With 1 out in the top of the 6th, Jose Martinez lined a hanging curveball off the glove of the diving Chapman at 3rd for a base hit to left. Goldschmidt lined a low-and-away fastball through the right side for a base hit to move Martinez to 2nd. With 2 out, DeJong sliced a high fastball for a liner to right center for a base hit to score Martinez, cut the A’s lead to 5-1 and move Goldschmidt to 2nd base. With A’s starter Mike Fiers at 94 pitches, they made a pitching change and brought in lefty Jake Diekman to pitch to Wong. Wong got ahead in the count 3-0. But after he took what looked like a high slider on the 3-1 pitch, he whiffed at a better slider for strike 3 to end the inning. Earlier in the plate appearance, Wong took a low-and-away slider that looked like it could have been called a strike, but was not.
Grossman worked a 3-2 walk to lead off the bottom of the 6th. Chapman struck out swinging on a high-and-outside fastball before Olson lined a first-pitch center-cut fastball to center for a base hit. With a righty coming up, Shildt brought Mike Mayers in to pitch to Davis and Mayers struck him out swinging on a 3-2 fastball right down the middle. Canha grounded out to 3rd to strand 2 runners. Fowler worked a 3-2 walk to start the 7th. On the 2-2 low-and-in slider the first base umpire ruled that Fowler held up his swing, but it looked like he went around. On an 0-2 high-and-outside fastball, the first base umpire ruled that Wieters held up, when again it looked like he swung. Wieters then lined a 2-2 center-cut fastball to left for a base hit to move Fowler to 2nd. The A’s brought in righty Yusmeiro Petit to pitch to Munoz. Petit bounced an 0-2 pitch a foot or more in front of the plate that hit the catcher Herrmann’s shinguard and went back to the backstop for a wild pitch to move the runners to 2nd and 3rd. Munoz struck out swinging on an outside hanging cutter. Edman grounded a high-and-outside changeup to the right side to the 1st baseman Olson. He flipped to Petit, who was covering 1st base for the out. Edman hustled to make it close, but he was out by a step. Fowler scored to cut the A’s lead to 5-2 and Wieters went to 3rd. Jose Martinez popped a first-pitch hanging curveball that didn’t really curve up to 2nd base to strand the runner at 3rd base.
Piscotty golfed a fastball that would have been a ball low for a lined base hit to center to start to the bottom of the 7th. Profar lined a center-cut fastball on a shot right to Wong, who easily doubled Piscotty off 1st base for a double play. After Herrmann worked a 3-2 walk (with the last pitch arguably a low strike) and Semien walked on 5 pitches, Shildt brought in Tyler Webb to pitch. Righty Chad Pinder pinch hit for the switch-hitting Grossman and smoked a low changeup into the seats over the left-center field wall at the 362 foot sign for a 3-run HR to give the A’s an 8-2 lead. Webb struck Chapman out to end the inning. Pinger stayed in the game in LF for the top of the 8th and righty Joakim Soria came out to face the heart of the Cards’ order. After Goldschmidt struck looking on a filthy curveball, Ozuna worked a 3-2 walk. DeJong struck out on another filthy curveball and Wong flied out to left to end the inning.
After Webb retired the side in order with 1 strikeout in the bottom of the 8th, lefty Wei-Chung Wang came out to pitch the top of the 9th. Lane Thomas pinch hit for Fowler and launched a center-cut fastball over the left field wall and just inside the foul pole for a solo HR to cut the A’s lead to 8-3. But it was too little, too late as Wang retired rest of the side in order with 2 strikeouts to end the game.
Odds and Ends
We were told during the broadcast that Matt Carpenter has flown to Oakland and is likely set to be activated before the August 4th game. Look for Rangel Ravelo to be optioned to AAA Memphis to make room when it should be Munoz instead...With the Cubs’ 4-1 victory over the Brewers, the Cards are now a half-game out of 1st place. Albert Almora hit a solo shot off of Junior Guerra in the bottom of the 7th to break a 1-1 tie...Ahead 3-2 in the top of the 8th, the Mets took a lead from the Pirates that they would not relinquish when Wilson Ramos hit a 2-run HR off of Kyle Crick. Ramos then hit a bases-clearing double off of Chris Stratton and the Mets went on to win 7-5...Tucker Barnhart’s RBI-single in the top of the 9th tied the Reds with the Braves 4-4, but after 2 walks and a sacrifice in the bottom of the 10th, Ronald Acuna walked it off for the Braves with an RBI-single off of Jared Hughes...Memphis released starter Harold Arauz on August 2nd, making him the 3rd pitcher that club had released in 4 days’ time. Tied 3-3 in the bottom of the 8th, John Nogowski hit a 2-run HR to give Memphis a 5-3 victory. Yadier Molina started the game, struck out looking, got an RBI on a squeeze bunt, then was removed in favor of Jose Godoy in the top of the 5th. Harrison Bader went 1-2 with a walk, single and got hit by a pitch. Genesis Cabrera lasted the longest he has so far this year with 7 IP with only 1 BB and 9 SO, but 2 of his 4 hits allowed were homers...Springfield C Julio Rodriguez’s 2-run single in the top of the 4th was enough to allow the Cards to hang on with a 2-1 win. Alex Fagalde only lasted 5 innings and gave up 6 hits, but struck out 8...Down 5-3 in the top of the 9th, Palm Beach 2B Nick Dunn hit a 3-run HR to give the club the 6-5 win. Yuan Yepez went 4-4 with a double, Nick Plummer hit a solo shot and Patrick Dayton picked up the win with 3 innings of relief...