Since Jack Flaherty beat the Cubs 8-0 on Thursday August 1st, the Cardinals had scored 6 runs total in 4 straight losses leading up to today’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the first 2 games of the Dodgers series, the Cards had scored only 2 total runs. And while Shildt’s decision to start Tommy Edman in RF this afternoon did not give anyone comfort that things would be different today, Cards fans had a sliver of hope that Flaherty could deliver another strong performance to at least give us a chance.
Flaherty did just that, only allowing 4 hits with no runs allowed, only 1 walk and 10 strikeouts in 7 IP. His fastball had life, and his slider was working real well for him. The game was largely a pitcher’s duel through 6 innings, with Flaherty toiling against 6’6” righthander Dustin May, whose contract was just purchased by the Dodgers on August 2, and who was making his 2nd career start in the major leagues. The Cards and Dodgers matched each other hit for hit, until Marcell Ozuna pushed us ahead. Unfortunately, the Cards fell short for the second game in a row where they were tied with the Dodgers at 7 hits a piece.
The bullpen let the Cards down today, and one concerning issue I have is the number of days of rest several of our pitchers have received lately. Before Michael Wacha’s start to open the series on Monday night, he had received 8 days of rest. He had been designated as the Cards’ long man before Shildt decided to swap he and Daniel Ponce de Leon in the rotation-again. Even in the days when the 5th starter was skipped when there were true #1 and #2 starters, the 5th man would throw some in the bullpen a couple of days before the 5th starter’s spot was needed to stay sharp.
Before entering the game last night, Andrew Miller had 6 days of rest. Carlos Martinez had 7 days of rest before pitching today. And while Carlos did look real good today in many respects, most especially with his changeup, there is such a thing as too much rest. I can’t sit here and prove that had anything to do with the outcomes, and I realize throwing on the side exists. But going forward, we might find it desirable to try to get everyone some work on a more regular basis.
Today’s game was only available on YouTube, and while I was initially skeptical, I have to say that it was a much better experience than the Facebook game last year, as that platform wasn’t necessarily designed for streaming and locked up at critical times. This production had no blips or stalls, and I enjoyed the Statcast graphics on the screen. Jason Marquis and Nomar Garciaparra may not have been anyone’s favorite color analysts, but I felt they were a welcome break from the Cardinals’ crew. Rich Waltz, a former Miami Marlins announcer, handled the play-by-play and did a fine job to my ears. I could have done without some of the commercial offerings like Jack Flaherty and Harrison Bader shopping for Mike Shildt, but in an effort to reach the casual fans, items like that were hardly unexpected. I am sorry for the viewers who did not have access to a computer or mobile device, and were not able to watch the Cardinals today, but hopefully such games will be kept to a minimum in the future. I don’t believe, however, that you will see them eliminated, as the number of cord-cutters continue to increase every year. For those of you who missed the game due to work and would normally have recorded such a game on a DVR, the announcers did say that the game will be archived on YouTube.
In the top of the 1st with 1 out, Tommy Edman grounded an outside fastball just inside the 3rd base line and over the bag, and due to the shift, no one was there to defend it. The ball went towards the sidewall, and Edman ended up at 2nd with a double. But our big bats could not drive him home, as Paul Goldschmidt popped to 2nd and Marcell Ozuna grounded out to 2nd to end the inning. In the bottom half, Matt Wieters caught a foul tip from Joc Pederson with his bare hand for strike three. Max Muncy worked a 3-2 walk, but was retired when Justin Turner looked at a fastball down the middle for strike three and Cody Bellinger grounded out opposite the shift to strand the runner.
After Paul DeJong couldn’t handle Brian May’s high heat and struck out on 3 pitches, Matt Carpenter worked a 3-2 walk with 1 out in the top of the 2nd. But Wong struck out after being ahead in the count 2-0 and Wieters lined to center field. In the bottom of the 3rd with 2 out, Pederson lined a low-and-away fastball that hit the very top of the center field wall, just missing a homer by inches, But Pederson did not run out of the box, and the play at 2nd base was much closer than it should have been. It turned out not to matter because Flaherty struck Muncy out swinging on a good slider inside.
With 2 out in the top of the 4th, DeJong looped an inside fastball for a base hit that dropped mostly because of positioning. Carpenter lined a low-and-away fastball for a base hit up the middle to move DeJong to 2nd base. But the Cards again stranded the runners, as Kolten Wong struck out looking on a questionable call of a back-door cutter that looked just outside the corner. To be fair, however, the home plate umpire was calling that outside pitch off the plate a strike for both teams all game long. With 2 out in the top of the 5th, Dexter Fowler lined a fastball close to the right field line that rolled to the wall for a double, but Edman flied a hanging slider to center, and the Cards failed to take advantage once again. With 1 out In the bottom half, Edwin Rios launched a center-cut fastball off of the left field wall for a double, but Flaherty struck out the rest of the side to escape without any damage.
The Cards finally broke through in the top of the 6th. After Muncy made a great sliding stop and throw on Goldschmidt’s grounder to 2nd, Marcell Ozuna ripped an outside fastball over the center field wall for a solo HR to give the Carda a 1-0 lead. After DeJong flied out deep to the track in right-center, starter Dustin May was removed after 83 pitches in favor of sidewinding lefty Adam Kolarek. Carpenter sliced a low-and-in fastball just inside the 3rd base line. The ball girl seated on a bucket or cooler next to the side wall made a valiant effort to get out of the way, but it hit her in the shins with a ricochet back to the field, and Carpenter was limited to a single. Wong worked a 3-2 walk, and Kolarek was replaced by righty Yimi Garcia. Wieters gave a fastball a ride, but it died at the track in right-center to stop the damage.
In the bottom of the 6th with 1 out, Kolten Wong made a wonderful running stop of a grounder by Muncy, spun around and threw to first for the out. Turner popped a ball to foul territory near 1st base. Goldschmidt got a glove on it, but tumbled over the edge of the wall into the stands, losing control of it in the fall. Turner then hit a high fastball with top spin for a base hit to center. Bellinger hit a 2-1 outside fastball to the opposite field for a base hit in a perfect spot to beat the shift between Carpenter and the 2nd base bag. Turner moved to 3rd base on the play, but Seager grounded out to 2nd base on the first pitch to preserve the Cardinal lead.
At 85 pitches, Flaherty hit for himself in the top of the 7th and struck out, and recorded his 10th strikeout of the game in the bottom half, with Fowler making the first diving catch in center I’ve ever seen him try to make on Martin’s bloop for the 3rd out. Righty Joe Kelly came out for the top of the 8th and made the Cards look silly when cut through the heart of order by striking out the side. Giovanny Gallegos came out to pitch the bottom of the 8th for the Cards. A.J. Pollock pinch hit for Kelly and struck out looking on an 0-2 slider low-and-away, which even the most blatant homer would have to agree was a very generous call. And Nomar was wrong when he said that Wieters is known as being one of the best framers in the business, as Wieters didn’t even frame that pitch. Pederson sharply grounded a ball through the right side between the fielders to beat the shift for a base hit, but Muncy struck out swinging at a slider in the dirt and Turner popped to short to strand the runner.
Righty Casey Sadler came out for the Dodgers in the top of the 9th and hit Carpenter on the top of the left foot with a 3-0 slider. Carpenter yelped in pain and was limping around, so Lane Thomas ran for him as a precautionary measure. Wong sacrificed Thomas to 2nd base, and Wieters lined a 1-2 slider over the shift for a base hit to right. Pederson was playing relatively shallow in right field, charged and made a perfect hard strike to the cutoff man to keep runners at the corners. It was the correct decision not to send Thomas. As fast as he is, he would have been thrown out easily. Jose Martinez pinch hit for Gallegos. With Wieters running on the pitch, Cafecito grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning with the Dodgers still being able to get the lead man just barely.
In the bottom of the 9th, Andrew Miller came out on no rest to pitch. Thomas stayed in the game to play CF, Fowler moved from CF to RF and Edman moved from RF to 3B. Bellinger smoked a fastball up the middle that looked like it was going to knock Miller down at the mound. But Miller moved out of the way, and DeJong was positioned perfectly right over the 2nd base bag, with the hard-hit ball ending up nothing more than a groundout. Miller then hit Corey Seager square in the back with a fastball. With righty Will Smith announced as the pinch hitter for the lefty Matt Beaty, Shildt brought in Carlos Martinez, who had 7 days of rest before this afternoon’s game.
Smith lined a fastball past the glove of the diving DeJong near short for a base hit to move Seager to 2nd. Rios struck out badly on 2 good changeups low and outside of the zone for the 2nd out. On the first pitch to Russell Martin, Carlos threw a slider about 2 feet outside that Wieters couldn’t stop in time, and it went to the backstop for a wild pitch to move the runners to 2nd and 3rd. After 4 straight offspeed pitches, Carlos threw a 2-2 99 mph fastball up and with a little too much plate. Martin softly grounded it up the middle between the fielders for a base hit, and both Seager and Smith scored to walk it off for the Dodgers and give them the 2-1 victory and the sweep.
Odds and Ends
The Cards have the day off tomorrow before coming home for a 3 game series with the Pirates...Alex Reyes has had another setback and the likelihood is going down for his availability to the Cardinals this season...The Cards fell further in the standings as the Cubs trounced the A’s today 10-1, limiting the Athletics to 3 hits. Jose Quintana pitched 7 innings of 2-hit ball, walked none and struck out 7. Ian Happ hit a grand slam and Kyle Schwarber hit a 3-run homer. The Brewers are also beating the Pirates 4-1 in the bottom of the 4th at the time of this writing and the Reds have the day off.