I was mildly excited before tonight’s game when I saw that neither Tommy Edman nor Yairo Munoz were listed in the lineup in right field. But then I realized that Lane Thomas was still on the bench and Michael Wacha was set to take the hill. The Cards went up against RHP Tony Gonsolin, who was converted to a starter last year and just had his contract purchased by the Dodgers on June 26th. After a couple of options to AAA, he only has 2 career games under his belt—one 4-inning start, and one 4-inning save. The Cards’ bats were silent with only 4 baserunners all night and only 2 hits, the first of which came in the top of the 5th inning.
Wacha had good velocity on his fastball and a good working changeup at times, but he just left most of everything right down the middle of the plate, getting smoked even when the Dodgers made outs. The Cards’ outfield defense was just downright disgusting on a couple of plays that cost the Cards some runs, and the only thing you can say about it is that you hope that Mike Shildt finally sees that something needs to be done about it. I don’t hold out any hope for that, as this is hardly the first time we have seen it, and nothing has been done to this point.
Something has to be done about the 5th rotation spot, and I don’t pretend there are any easy answers. There’s probably no reliable help in Memphis. Daniel Ponce de Leon is eligible to be recalled on August 10th, but he hasn’t inspired any confidence recently when he has had a scheduled start. He did throw 4 IP in a Memphis start on August 4th with no hits allowed, but he gave up 3 walks and took 84 pitches to do it. Genesis Cabrera had a strong outing on August 3rd for Memphis, going 7 IP with only 1 BB and 9 SO, but gave up 2 HR. He also failed in an earlier trial with the big club, but they might take another look, as other candidates’ failures have not stopped them from getting additional tries. Helsley is not a candidate to pitch more than 3 innings, as he has only pitched more than 3 innings in a game once this year, and that was a 4-inning outing on April 6th. He simply has not been stretched out to do it.
The Cards do have an open 40-man roster spot, and Jake Woodford has to be added to the 40-man by next November 20th to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, so what about purchasing his contract now? Although he pitched in the AAA All-Star Game, he hasn’t been great this year. It is true that his 105 SO is 4th in the Pacific Coast League and his K% of 20.2% is 8th among only 23 qualified pitchers. But if you expand the pool to pitchers with 50 or more innings pitched, he’s 51st out of 98 in K%, which makes more sense in light of Fangraphs’ rough guide stating that 20% is average. He’s among the leaders in the counting stat because he’s been there the whole year. One of Woodford’s main problems is walks, and if you continue with that 98-player pool, Ponce de Leon and Woodford have the 6th and 7th worst BB% in the league at 12.7 and 12.3%, respectively. Woodford also has the worst ground ball rate of his career, a 5.49 FIP and a 6.37 xFIP. The one thing you can say about Jake is that he has eaten innings better than anybody on the Memphis staff, failing to pitch 5 innings in only 3 of his 21 starts this year. But he doesn’t look like the answer right now.
The best thing the Cards can probably do in the meantime is stall, as with off-days coming on Thursday, August 8th and Monday, August 12th, they can avoid using a 5th starter until Saturday, August 17th while still giving the other 4 starters at least 4 days of rest. Although some may start to clamor for it, I highly doubt you’re going to see Wacha designated for assignment any time soon. In the meantime, he can go to the bullpen for long relief, and perhaps the Cards could use the opener strategy, using a planned combination of Helsley, Wacha and Mejia for a few innings each. The Cards have not tried the bullpen game strategy since the days of Luther Hackman and Mike Timlin, but it wouldn’t hurt to give it a shot. Waiver trades have been abolished, so they’re going to have to figure out an internal solution. But you wanted to know what happened in this abomination of a game, so I’ll quit babbling and get to it.
The Cards faced RHP Tony Gonsolin, who has pitched 2 career games all this year, having just had his contract purchased late this past June, with only 1 4-inning start and 1 4-inning save under his belt. He struck out the first 2 batters in the top of the first before retiring the side in order. Joc Pederson started the Dodgers off in the bottom of the 1st with a sharp grounder past Wong’s glove to his right for a base hit on Wacha’s first-pitch fastball. Max Muncy worked a 3-2 walk. Justin Turner sharply grounded a 2-0 fastball that was headed for deep in the hole towards short. Matt Carpenter dove to his left, stopped the ball and made a throw from his knees to just barely retire Muncy at 2nd base on a force play to save a run. With runners now at the corners, Cody Bellinger just destroyed a 1-1 center-cut fastball deep up into the 2nd deck inside the foul pole in right field for a 3-run HR to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead. Matt Wieters was set up inside and Wacha missed the desired location. Will Smith grounded out to short on a very hard-hit ball. Corey Seager hit a changeup for a hot shot headed for a hole in the right side, but Paul Goldschmidt made a full-extension dive, fielded the ball and threw to his knees to Wacha covering at 1st to end the inning. Even when the Dodgers made an out, they crushed the ball.
Marcell Ozuna worked a 3-2 walk to lead off the top of the 2nd. Paul DeJong popped a high 3-1 fastball up to short. Jose Martinez flied an inside fastball to right field for an out in foul territory. With the count 1-1 on Kolten Wong, Ozuna got a good jump and stole second base, but Wong grounded out into the shift towards 2nd base to end the inning. To lead off the bottom of the 2nd, Kristopher Negron grounded a curveball up the middle right over the bag at 2nd base. Wong was positioned very close to the bag, and could have easily made an out, but the ball took a hop that bounced off of the heel of his glove and he booted it. He tried to recover and make the throw, but it was too late. Negron was generously credited with a single. Matt Beaty grounded a high fastball up the middle. DeJong fielded it, and then raced to his right to touch 2nd base to get the force on a close play, but that delay forced his throw to 1st base to be late, and Beaty reached 1st on a fielder’s choice. The pitcher Gonsolin sacrificed Beaty to 2nd base, but Wacha struck Pederson out on a very low changeup to end the inning.
With 1 out in the bottom of the 3rd, Turner worked a 9-pitch plate appearance then grounded a fastball through the right side for a base hit. Bellinger flied out to shallow left. With Smith at the plate, Wacha threw a changeup in the dirt. Wieters tried to backhand it instead of shifting and getting in front of it. The ball got by Wieters, but he didn’t realize where the ball went. The wild pitch allowed Turner to move to 2nd base. Smith grounded a high cutter up the middle. Wong made a nice running stop, but because of his momentum and the fact that he had to throw across his body, he could not throw Smith out in time. Smith’s single moved Turner to 3rd, but a run would have scored had Wong not stopped the ball. With runners at the corners and 2 out, Seager ripped a center cut fastball to the gap in left-center, and here it seemed to me that the Cards looked like the Bad News Bears in the outfield. Although Fowler was shading Seager just a bit to hit the opposite way, it looked like Ozuna was closer, and he headed for the ball. Fowler started to lightly jog over to the gap from his position, then turned it up a notch when he realized he might not get to the ball in time. Ozuna stopped when he saw Fowler coming, and the replay showed Fowler calling Ozuna off. The ball dropped on the track between the fielders just out of reach of Fowler’s outstretched glove and went over the wall for a ground rule double. Turner scored to give the Dodgers a 4-0 lead, and Smith went to 3rd, which was a break for the Cards because he would have scored easily had the ball not gone over the wall. Negron worked the count to 3-2 before striking out swinging at a changeup right down the middle to strand the runners at 2nd and 3rd.
With 2 out in the bottom of the 4th, Wacha had Pederson down in the count 1-2, making him look silly with a changeup and a high fastball where he was pulling his head out. The next pitch was a low curveball that got too much plate and Pederson launched it over the right-center field wall for a solo shot to give the Dodgers a 5-0 lead. After Muncy worked a 3-2 walk on a real close fastball near the inside corner, Shildt summoned Adalberto Mejia on 1 day of rest for some long relief. Wacha had already thrown 92 pitches in only 3.2 IP. Mejia’s first pitch to Turner was a fastball thrown about a foot behind him that went to the backstop for a wild pitch to move Muncy to 2nd. Turner smoked a middle-in fastball down the left field line that rolled to the wall for a double to score Muncy and extend the Dodgers’ lead to 6-0. Bellinger grounded out to 1st to end the inning.
Meanwhile, it is now the top of the 5th, and the Cards have had just 1 baserunner and no hits. Wong broke up the no-hitter with 2 out when he drove a fastball off of the right-center field wall for a double, but Wieters struck out swinging at a 3-2 slider and stranded him there. With 1 out in the bottom of the 5th, Seager lined a low-and-away fastball for a base hit to left-center. With Negron at the plate, Mejia had a 1-0 changeup slip out of his hands way out outside and out of Wieters’ reach for a wild pitch to move Seager to 2nd. Then more Romper Room time in the outfield. Negron hit a slider for a fly ball to right-center in the gap. Fowler and Jose Martinez were both playing deep, but the ball was hit high in the air long enough for one of the two guys to call it and run under it. But neither guy had any urgency, neither guy sprinted, neither guy dove, Fowler let up, and the ball just dropped between the two of them. It was Fowler’s responsibility to take charge of that play, and he was the closest to it. Negron was given a single on the play to move Seager to 3rd. Next, Beaty hit a hanging slider on a rope to right-center. Martinez was playing deep and drifted back for it, but it went off the top of his glove and landed on the track. Beaty had a double on another ball that probably should have been caught. Seager and Negron both scored on the play to extend the Dodgers’ lead to 8-0. The pitcher Gonsolin worked a 10-pitch plate appearance to a 3-2 count before lining out to Fowler in center. Beaty decided to take off from 2nd base on contact and mercifully got doubled off to get the Cards out of the inning.
Lane Thomas pinch hit for Wacha to lead off the top of the 6th and struck out looking at a high curveball. Bellinger made a nice diving grab on Carpenter’s grounder for the 2nd out. With 2 out, Fowler blooped a high split-finger to right for a base hit, but Goldschmidt struck out to strand him there. With the Cards feeling like they’re out of the game, Shildt packed it in and let the kids play. I couldn’t believe my eyes, when I saw that Thomas stayed in the game in the #9 spot to play CF. Ryan Helsley came in to pitch in the #3 spot, and Andrew Knizner came in to play 1B in the #2 spot. With Fowler and Goldschmidt now out of the game, why not go ahead and take Jose Martinez out so Tommy Edman can continue his tutorial in right field? With 1 out, Muncy worked a 3-2 walk. Turner popped a pitch into right-center and I held my breath, as Thomas sprinted over, but Jose Martinez actually called him off and grabbed it. Bellinger grounded out to end the inning.
Righty JT Chargois came out to pitch the top of the 7th. Ozuna struck out looking on a real close slider low-and-away. Yairo Munoz pinch hit for DeJong and got robbed by Muncy. The grounder was a chopper up the middle. Muncy made a sliding grab, popped up and threw to 1st in the process of getting up. Chargois must have had the scouting report on Jose Martinez, because he threw him mostly sliders and Martinez struck out swinging at one to end the inning. Helsley came back out for the bottom half of the 7th, with Munoz staying in the game at SS. Smith worked a 3-2 walk to lead off the inning. Seager lined a shot right at Jose Martinez for the first out. Negron struck out looking at a 99 mph fastball on the inner half. Beaty broke his bat on a 99 mph inside fastball and blooped it to center for a base hit to move Smith to 3rd. Tyler White pinch hit for Chargois and grounded the ball for Carpenter at the line at 3rd base. Carp bobbled it at first, but stuck with it, and his looping throw got White by a step at 1st to prevent any further damage.
The Dodgers made a litany of defensive moves in the top of the 8th. White stayed in the game at 1B in the #9 spot. Bellinger moved from 1B to RF, Pederson from RF to CF, and Negron from CF to SS. Russell Martin replaced Turner at 3B. Righty Casey Sadler came out to pitch in the #6 spot, and Seager came out of the game. Sadler hit Wong with a cutter on the right quad, but he was erased when Wieters grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. Thomas took a few borderline pitches to work a 3-2 walk. Carpenter drove a pitch to the track in left center, which Beaty caught snugged up against the wall. Helsley went back out there for his 3rd inning of work in the bottom of the 8th. Pederson worked a 3-2 walk to start things off. Muncy forced Pederson at 2nd. Helsley hung a cutter but froze Martin to strike him out looking. Bellinger worked a 3-2 walk. Smith flied out to center to end the inning. Sadler retired the side in order in the top of the 9th to finish the game.
Odds and Ends
The Cubs extended their lead in the NL Central to 2.5 games with a 6-5 victory over the A’s. After Javy Baez tied the game 2-2 in the bottom of the 6th with a solo shot, the Cubs scored 4 in the next inning on a solo HR by Ian Happ, an RBI double by Nick Castellanos and another Baez homer. Castellanos also got the Cubs’ 1st run of the game with a solo HR of his own. Steve Cishek almost gave the lead back, allowing 3 runs on a double and back-to-back homers, but Brandon Kintzler stranded the tying run at 3rd base. When he got in trouble with 2 out and 2 on in the top of the 9th, newly-acquired reliever David Phelps got his first save of the year...Christian Yelich went 4-5 with 2 solo HRs to help the Brewers beat the Pirates 9-7. The Reds scored 5 runs in the 1st inning off of Taylor Cole and that was enough to beat the Angels 7-4. Reds’ starter Luis Castillo went 7 innings and struck out 13, while only walking 1...Memphis outhit El Paso 14-3 in a 10-4 win. Yadier Molina went 2-4 including a 3-run HR. Rangel Ravelo and Edmundo Sosa each hit a homer and Ramon Urias hit 2. The Redbirds went with a bullpen game, and Chris Elllis (2 IP) and newly-acquired lefty Zac Rosscup (just 1 IP) each walked 5 batters. That’s 10 walks total over 3 IP just between those two, so it was fortunate Memphis turned on the offense...Springfield lost 6-2 to Tulsa, which just happens to be the AA affiliate of the Dodgers. Jedd Gyorko, with Tulsa on a rehab assignment, started at 1B and went 2-3 with a 2-run HR and a walk. Springfield had 3 singles all game. Starter Evan Kruczynski struck out 10 in 6.2 IP, but gave up 3 homers...Palm Beach and Peoria were both rained out and will play doubleheaders later in the week...Johnson City got skunked 13-0, and it could have been worse because the Burlington Royals left 10 men on base. Alex Gallegos gave up 9 H, 9 R, and 9 ER all in 1.2 IP with 2 BB, 0 SO and 1 HR. A 20-year old young man out of Colombia named Wilman Madera, pitching stateside for the first year of his career, threw 3.1 IP in relief in what looked like a planned bullpen game for the GCL Cardinals and struck out 7 with no walks.