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Cards Eat White Castles to Prepare for Sliders; Logic Backfires in 6-2 Loss

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Hitters question game plan after Corbin’s 11th strikeout

MLB: Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals
Corbin’s illegal “slider” pitch
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The second head of the Nats’ three-headed pitching monster in this series was a sinister lefty, Patrick Corbin. What did he bring for the Cards from the Leftorium?

He’s a heavy slider/sinker guy: Slider (36.9%); Sinker (33.8%), with a fastball to keep hitters honest: Four-Seamer: (20%), and two other pitches thrown in for the heck of it: Changeup (5.7%), and Curve (3.6%). This season, 139 of his 218 strikeouts have been on his slider. I worried for the bottom of the order with Edman and Bader trying to deal with that pitch.

He’s 10th in the NL with a 10.32 K/9; but just outside the top 10 (in the bad way) at #13 with 2.91 BB/9. And while his 48.8% GB% is #10, his 13.1 HR/FB rate is middle of the pack at #16 with a 13.1 HR/FB ratio. He’s good, but he can be had, is what I’m sayin’.

I faxed my suggestions in to Jeff Albert: Make him get the ball up. Use that HR/FB stat against him. Profit.

Miles was going for the Cards, and in his trying season, he’s been bitten by the long ball to the tune of a 16.2 HR/FB ratio. All of his ERA flavors came in at over four: 4.28 (ERA);
4.23 (FIP); 4.13 (xFIP). The last time he pitched into the 7th was on August 6th against the Dodgers (only one out into the 7th), and he hasn’t pitched past the 7th since his July 15th shut-out against Pittsburgh. He didn’t make it there tonight.


THE BIRD’S-EYE VIEW

Corbin was dang-diddly-o as good as advertised in the early going, striking out a whopping 7 Cradz by the third inning. But he did give up 4 hits and a walk during the initial third of the game, and his pitch count was at 65.

The Nats pushed the right button in starting the veteran Howie Kendrick. But hey, he was 6 for 8 lifetime against Mikolas. Of course, Kendrick had three hits, one hit short of the cycle, including a triple, homer, and single, scoring twice.

Both teams parlayed mis-plays into initial early runs. In the second, Kendrick skied a long fly to center that Bader got turned around on, and the ball bonked off his glove for a triple (should’ve been an error), and Howie was subsequently sac-flied home. In the third, the Cards got a gift of their own, as they scored a run on a bases-loaded error on a grounder that Trea Turner bobbled to knot the game at 1-1.

Miles pitched well enough to keep the Cards in the game, as he went 6 full and gave up 3 runs. His downfall was his inability to put away hitters in two-strike counts.

The Cards kept it close, as they scratched across a single tally in the 6th to make it 3-2. Harkening back to Whiteyball, they turned a walk, single, and double steal into a run when the catcher’s throw to second went in to center, allowing Edman, the lead runner, to jog home.

The Nats’ bullpen has been bad, touting a 5.89 ERA coming in to tonight’s action, but you wouldn’t know it from this game, as two relievers covered the final 3 innings and gave up no runs and just 1 hit and no walks. The Cards had their chances throughout the game, getting runners on base in 6 of the innings. Despite walking four times and getting Corbin out by the 6th, the Cards’ combination of just 6 hits and 14 Ks overall did them in. If it weren’t for the Nats’ 2 errors, the Cards might not have scored at all.


THE FLIGHT PATH

Top of 1st

Miles got a first-pitch strike on each of the three hitters he faced. Trea Turner continued his 0-fer this series (0-4 last night) by flying out to right center to Dex on a fastball up in the zone on the second pitch. Mikolas then dispatched Adam Eaton via a 4-pitch strikeout on a 2-seamer again up in the zone. Miles then nicely got ahead of Rendon 0-2 but his third-pitch slider, while good, caught too much of the outer zone, and Rendon grounded it up the middle for a single.

Lastly, Juan Soto topped an outside curve about half-way down the first-base line, where Miles barehanded and under-handed it to Goldy for the out.

Bottom of 1st

Dexter Fowler got two fastball on the first two pitches, letting the first go by for a strike but swinging at the second, which was well-placed down and away, flying out to shallow right. Kolten got three fastballs himself and got behind 1-2 before succumbing to Corbin’s first slider of the night, getting Kolten to swing over it for a strikeout.

But Goldy got himself a 2-out hit to extending the inning, shooting a liner to left-center that Robles did a nice job to cut off on the backhand, but Pauly G, hustling and still faster than we remember, made it into 2nd for a double.

Ozuna got ahead 3-0 and likely had the green light, but he wisely watched a two-seamer on the very edge get called for a strike. However, he then waived over two straight back-foot sliders to strand Goldy.

Top of 2nd

Apparently Mike Maddux has a saying: “It’s not how good you are on a good day, it’s how good you are on a bad day.” (Or something.)

Howie Kendrick got the count full and banged a deep fly to straightaway center that Bader initially turned the wrong way, reversed, got his feet tangled, jumped, but the timing was off, and the ball actually hit off the heel of his glove, dropping to the grass, just like his butt did. Meanwhile, Kendrick made it to third on what was ruled a triple. I disagreed.

Asdrubal Cabrera then hit a sac-fly to deep left to easily score Kendrick, making it 1-0 Nats. To re-start the suckiness, Mikolas had a curveball pop out of his hand early and it plunked Victor Robles on the front shoulder. But Miles got ahead of the next hitter Yan Gomes 0-2, and retired him on an over but under-the-zone slider that Gomes went down to get, lining out hard (98 mph EV) directly to Bader in center.

At least the pitcher was up next, and he got himself out, swinging on a first-pitch
four-seamer up and in that he rolled to Paul DeJong for the easy final out.

Bottom of 2nd

DeJong became the third strikeout already (out of 5 hitters on the night) on—yep, a down-and-in slider. Molina got a fastball middle-away and lined it into right-center. For a moment, I thought he might try for two, but he wisely stayed at first. Young Edman then got schooled on three straight sliders after an initial ball for the second out. The other youngster very susceptible to sliders, Bader stepped in. He did work a 3-2 count but of course got the slider and of course swung and missed it.

Top of 3rd

Trea Turner heard about me noting his hitless series and banged a single to right an a two-seamer that caught too much of the heart of the plate. Mikolas came back to strike out Adam Eaton for the second time (of Miles’ 2 Ks on the night). Miles then got a nice visit from his best friend, as Rendon grounded into an easy 6-4-3 double play on all things a 95 mph fastball in the upper-middle third of the zone.

Bottom of 3rd

The NL did not get the DH between innings, so Mikolas had to bat—but hey—he got a gift in a hanging slider middle-above the zone and pulled it into left for a single. What do I know, yo? Dex then got the barrel out in front of an inside fastball, also lining it into left, making it first and 2nd, no outs.

Wong stepped in, and the helpful Fox Sports Midwest broadcasters told me he might bunt, and they were right, as he indeed bunted one deftly down third, almost beating it out. Now up in a spot he’s paid the big bucks to produce in, Goldy worked the count fouled one off, then took an inside fastball off the plate for ball four to load the bases for The Big Bear.

Not surprisingly, Corbin literally threw nothing but low sliders to Ozuna—none even close to being strikes—and struck him out on a 2-2 one. Trying not to waste a great opportunity, DeJong got good looks and got the count to 3-0. Swinging on that count, he next got a good fastball middle-away, but he topped it to short; however, Turner lost the handle when bringing the ball from his glove, bobbled it, and everyone was safe as Dex scored on the error to tie it 1-1!!!

Next, on a 2-2 count to Yadi, Corbin went back to the slider in the dirt, and he couldn’t resist, swinging and missing, for the 7th Cards strikeout already.

Top of 4th

Miles went full to Soto to lead off and struck him out swinging on a nice low 3-2 curve. Unfortunately, Mikolas next hung a freakin’ 0-2 curve to Miles killer Kendrick, who smushed it into deep center to bump the Nats’ lead back up to 2-1. Yadi wanted that one in the dirt, and the replay showed Yadi immediately hanging his head when Howie made contact.

A miffed Miles threw his next two fastballs at 97 to Cabrera, who ultimately grounded out to short on an actually not-hung 1-2 curve. Finally, Robles flied out to short right, as Dex ran in for the catch to end the inning.

Bottom of 4th

Tommy Edman repeated his initial at-bat by striking out, but at least it was a fastball and not a slider. Bader did the same, striking out his second time on a dirty slider. Miles next got a first-pitch fastball and made contact, but it was weak, and he grounded out slowly to first for a 1-2-3 nine-pitch inning.

Top of 5th

On a 1-2 count to 8th-place hitter Gomes leading off, Miles made a good pitch, zipping a 95 mph heater off the outer edge, but Gomes reached out and poked it lightly down the right-field line for a double. The pitcher Corbin flashed bunt but pulled back and slashed a single past DeJong to move Gomes to third as Bader made a strong throw directly to Yadi who didn’t have to move at the plate.

The Cards got some luck against next hitter Turner, who lined out sharply to a leaping DeJong to keep the runners at first at third, now with one out. Miles made a good pitch to Eaton with a low slider that he lunged at and popped out to Marcell in short left, not nearly deep enough to score Gomes from third.

Now trying to wiggle out of the leadoff double, Miles went to a full count to Rendon. Miles ultimately prevailed, getting him to fly out to deep right, where Dex grabbed it one step on the track.

Bottom of 5th

Now at the third time through the order, the Cards sought to apply some learning against Corbin. It didn’t start well, as Dex got a first-pitch fastball he couldn’t pass up, but it was on the outer edge, and he pulled it on the ground to short for the out. Kolten fared no better, next tapping a third-pitch slider back to Corbin for another quick second out. But Goldschmidt and Ozuna worked back-to-back walks to start a mini rally.

The first two pitches to DeJong were balls, the 7th and 8th in a row. He next got a fastball, but it was a pitcher’s pitch at the very bottom of the zone, and Paul couldn’t resist swinging. He hit it hard (101 mph), but into the ground to short for the force at second.

Top of 6th

Miles entered the 6th at a sane 74 pitches. But on a 2-2 pitch, Miles threw an inside fastball not inside enough, and Soto banged it into right-center. He chugged into second as Bader cut it off, spun, and made a strong accurate throw to the bag. Soto was called safe on the field, and after the Cards challenged, the call was upheld. Replay showed Soto seemed to slide off the bag with the tag still applied, so apparently New York didn’t deem it conclusive enough to overturn. Couldn’t find video of the play, but here’s the replay reaction:

Miles next finally retired nemesis Kendric on a flyout to short right, not deep enough to allow the runner to tag up from second to third. On the first pitch to Cabrera, he induced a comebacker that Miles grabbed cleanly. Soto was far enough off second that Miles could’ve nailed him, but he took the safe out at first.

Now with two outs, a Miles slider caught too much meat of the plate, and Robles banged it into center for single. Bader charged and gloved it, but his throw was way off the plate toward first, and Soto scored to make it 3-1 Nats.

The Cards issued an intentional walk to Gomes to get to the pitcher Corbin. After Gomes stole second, Miles focused to strike out Corbin swinging on a fastball well above the zone.

Bottom of 6th

Corbin was at 91 pitches entering the 6th. He started this frame by making Molina his 10th strikeout, as he watched a fastball on the inner half go by. Tommy, however, earned a free base by watching 4-straight not strikes go by. Next youngster Bader made good contact on an outside fastball just beyond the zone, shooting it into right for a single, sending Edman easily to third.

This prompted a mound visit, presumably to buy time for the Nats’ bullpenners to warm up. Now with first and third one out, Shildt sent Martinez up to pinch hit. (I’m sure because he’s 3 for 9 lifetime off Corbin.) With the count full, the Cards pushed the action, sending Bader. Martinez struck out swinging, but the catcher’s throw to second went to the left of the bag and in to center, allowing Tommy to score and Bader to scamper to third, making it 3-2 Nats.

Dex, however, ended the rally by topping a first-pitch fastball off the outer edge on a slow roll to short, but Turner charged and gloved it cleanly, nipping Dex for the third out.

Top of 7th

Giovanny Gonzales came in to replace Miles, and got his first hitter Turner by striking him out swinging on a below-the-zone slider. He repeated the strikeout thing against next batter Eaton, and got a little break, as a slider backed up high and away but was called strike three. Gio finished the inning by getting Rendon to pop out behind the plate to Yadi for a 13-pitch 1, 2, 3 inning.

Bottom of 7th

Jaunty-capped 42(!)-year-old Fernando Rodney replaced Corbin, as all Cards hitter breathed a sigh of relief at no longer having to worry about dat slider. Wong got the count to 3-2 but grounded out meekly to second. Goldy then was sat down looking at a 95 mph fastball dotted on the bottom-left corner of the zone for strike three. Then on a 3-2 count on Ozuna, Rodney got in his kitchen, and Marcell couldn’t pull his hands in quickly enough, dribbling a grounder to third for the final out.

Top of 8th

Gallegos remained in, and at 0-2, Soto was granted time late, as Gio started his leg kick. Justice was served, however, as he struck him out on a nasty slider. That was it for Gio, and I wasn’t sure why. Gant, who’s had control issues of late (10 walks in his last 7 innings), entered. After getting knocked down on the second pitch he saw, Howie Kendrick sent the next one on a hard line into left for a single on a middle-up 94 mph fastball, his third hit of the night.

Gant then went full on Cabrera and lost him, walking him on a fastball way up and away out of the zone. That was it for Gant. Ryan Helsley came in and promptly spiked a fastball to the backstop to Yadi’s right, but in a huge break, the ball bounced hard right back to your catcher, who plucked it from the ground, spun, and threw a strike to third to nail Kendrick.

Immediately forsaking that good fortune, however, Helsley gave up a single to left to next hitter Robles, scoring Cabrera to make it 4-2 Nats. Continuing to not fool anyone with his straight fastball, Helsley gave up a double next to Gomes, scoring Robles from first, as the relay sailed way above Yadi past the plate, upping the Nat’s advantage to 5-2. Gerardo Parra pinch-hit for Rodney to get in on the fun. Finally, Helsley induced an out, getting Parra to ground out slowly to Goldy to end the inning.

Bottom of 8th

Righty Daniel Hudson came in to face DeJong, who he got down 0-2 then struck out swinging on a way-high fastball on the fourth pitch. Yadi came through next, though, sending a liner into left-center that just got past Robles, allowing Molina to rumble into second for a stand-up double, which apparently had a milestone attached:

Edman than skied a lazy fly ball into left for the second out, leaving it to Bader to try to keep things going. Down 0-2, Bader likely was prepared for a slider but got a 97 mph heater middle-in that froze him for strike three.

Top of 9th

Lanky lefty Genesis Cabrera entered and walked Trea Turner, with 4 pitches not close. Adam Eaton failed on 2 attempts to bunt and down 0-2, he topped one halfway down the first-base line. Cabrera got to it quickly and attempted to backhand it, and it went directly into Eaton’s back. He was running outside of the lane in the grass but it wasn’t called.

The Nats then pulled off the double steal, despite Yadi’s perfect bullet to third. Turner was safe, only because Tommy dropped the ball. Soto got a fastball up and away and sent it the other way, sending a deep fly to Ozuna. That scored Turner to make it 6-2, and Eaton tagged and moved up to third.

Now with 2 outs and a runner on third, Kendrick came up with a chance for the cycle with a double. He walked instead on a full count. Cabrera made the final out next by grounding out to third.

Bottom of 9th

Matt Carpenter came in to pinch-hit. Very odd to see a squeaky-clean Carp uni in the 9th inning of any game, but that’s his reality right now. He golfed a short fly-out to right. The current leadoff man followed the former by nubbing a ground-out to first. Last hope Kolten battled for 8 pitches but ended up flying out to shallow left to end the game.

Cards lost, 6-2.



THE BOTTOM LINE

  • Patrick Corbin didn’t play high school baseball in his Freshman or Sophomore years. Instead, he spent that time after school in the Physics Lab studying sliders.
  • Kendrick’s homer in the 4th was the Nats’ 215th as a team, tying their single-season high. Good for them.
  • Half of the Nats’ 12 hits (that would be 6) came on 2-strike counts.
  • All Cards’ runs in this series have come with 2 outs. Better late than never, I guess.
  • The Cards had more than twice as many strikeouts (14) as hits (6). Bad ratio.
  • Cards were 0 for 9 with RISP. They had their shots.
  • The Christian-less are coming: Brewers won the 9th of their last 10, moving into a 2nd-place tie with the Cubs, who lost to the Reds (always liked the Reds).
    They have identical 82-69 records, both 2 back of the Cards.
  • The Cards go for a much-needed series win tomorrow in a business-person’s special, starting at 12:15 CT, with Waino defending your honor against [checks website]: Scherzer.
    Everything will be fine.