No intro, no background, no pitcher stats. Performance is now measured in moments, not 600 at-bats or 250 innings. You know the sitch-ee-a-shun. Final series with the NLC crown on the line. Magic Number 3. Go.
THE BIRD’S-EYE VIEW
Despite Maddon not giving a (*bleep*) about playing his B Squad, the Cards’ relievers could not keep the scrubs from posting a 7-run 7th. To that point, the game had been tied in a tidy knot, 1-1, due to the teams trading solo homers; first, by Matt Carpenter in the 4th, then next on Ian Happ’s dinger in the 6th.
The Cards could only muster a single run in their own half of the 7th, and that’s where things stayed, with a downer of an 8-2 loss. Dakota Hudson was in real command for four of his five innings. He worked around a long, perilous third that ballooned his pitch count and kept him from going deeper. In the end, though, he kept the Cubs scoreless through 5, striking out a career-high 10(!) in the process (but,..er, also walking 5; sheesh). Still!
Thursday’s day off didn’t do anything to re-charge most of the bullpen or the hitters. The reliever culprits were Gallegos, Miller, and Helsley. Gallegos gave up the game-tying solo homer on his first pitch in the 6th, but unlike the other two listed here, he actually made it through a full inning.
I don’t know how to characterize Miller’s outing, but it was more bad than unlucky. He walked his first batter. (Bad.) He struck out the next. (Good.) Bloop single. (Unlucky.) Double just inside the right-field line hit only at 81 mph EV. (Unlucky.) Wild pitch. (Horrid.) Hit batter. (Enough already.) So if the soft hits ended differently, perhaps it’s a different inning. Maybe. But after the smoke cleared, he gave up 4 ERs.
Helsley also managed only one out in the 7th after Miller, giving up 3 ERs himself on a home run, double, and single. Cabrera had to be brought in just to get the last out of the 7th. Three relievers in the 7th, 7 runs. Ballgame.
Meanwhile, the Cards’ offense continued to perplex. They had at least one runner on base every inning except the 8th. Perhaps Yadi’s first two at-bats were the harbingers of what kind of night it was to become. Yadi got robbed twice by a guy that initially wasn’t even supposed to play.
Power-hitting right-fielder Nicholas Castellanos was a late scratch, moving Matt Kemp from center to right. But more importantly for the Cubs’ defense, Maddon plucked excellent center fielder Albert Almora Jr. from off the bench and into center.
With two on in the first-inning, Yadi sent a long fly to the wall in center that was caught on a nice play by Almora that would’ve been off the top of the wall. Then in the 4th, Yadi led off, again sending a deep fly Almora’s way in left center. This time, the dude robbed Yadi of a solo homer.
But all told, when your hitters go 1-9 with RISP with 13 left on base, you better suppress the other side’s runs, which you now know, they decidedly did not.
THE FLIGHT PATH
Top of 1st
Hudson Hudson started things off by striking out Tony Kemp looking, hitting the edges of the zone nicely (perhaps getting a slightly generous call that caused a way-too-early-even-for-Maddon head shake.) Ben Zobrist then padded Hudson’s ground ball rate by rolling out easily to Tommy Edman at second. Third-place hitter Kyle Schwarber yanked a mistake sinker not far enough down or away over Dex’s head in right that one-hopped the wall for a ground-rule double. Dex should’ve had that one.
Dakota next worked Wilson Contreras mostly in, in, and in again. After going to a full count, Hudson got his second backward K on a “sinker” that skimmed the top of the zone for called strike 3.
Bottom of 1st
Dex led things off by watching a 2-2 inside fastball tail back into the zone for a called strike 3. MicroPlug Edman, though, said, “I can lead off, fellows,” and promptly mis-hit one just the correct amount, blooping it into right just past the second baseman at 70 mph EV. Paul Goldschmidt couldn’t advance Tommy, though, as he struck out swinging on an up-and-away fastball. Marcell Ozuna, however, worked a 2-out walk, bringing up Yadier Molina with a chance to get at least one on the board.
Mills flashed his 66-mph eephus curve ball, which floated into the mostly middle part of the zone. Yadi timed it well, launching it deep to straightaway center. Albert Almora also flashed good timing however, as he leapt and caught the deep drive at the top of the wall, tumbling on his back after for a terrific catch to end the inning. (It would’ve bounced off the top of the wall otherwise.)
Top of 2nd
Ian Happ started the 2nd by grounding out in just three pitches, with Edman taking care of him. Edman’s Mom always told him to stay busy to stay out of trouble, so he also fielded the next batter’s ground ball, snagging this one straight at him in the grass, retiring Victor Caratini. Nico Hoerner then became Dak’s third strikeout victim, swinging over a nice sharp sinker that bottomed through the zone for out three.
Bottom of 2nd
Despite hitting 6th in the lineup, Matt Carpenter got an early chance to re-live his lead-off days by leading off the inning. Belying that past, he didn’t take a bunch of pitches, instead hitting a shift-beating single on the second offering into the CarpZone, over the 2nd baseman and in front of the right fielder.
Paul DeJong, struck out next, though, maddeningly whiffing on a 91 mph four-seamer up and away. Time that up, son. Next up, Harrison Bader flashed bunt but pulled it back twice in the first three pitches. Ahead at 2-1, he ditched that strategy and went into swing mode; alas, he ultimately succumbed to his nemesis, the down-and-away slider, striking out. (Perhaps an off-season visit to make a deal down at the Crossroads is in order.) Dakota then predictably did the kind of thing hitting pitchers do, and ground out softly to short to end the inning.
Top of 3rd
Dakota lost his way a bit in this inning after getting the first two outs. Facing the 8th-place hitter Almora, Hudson dispatched him via swinging strikeout, using a 2-2 sinker at the bottom of the zone. Dakota similarly sat down his counterpart, also striking out pitcher Mills on an identical sinker, showing nice late-dipping action. Flipping back to the top of the Cubs’ order, Dakota went to 3-2 on Tony Kemp, losing him by holding on to the sinker too long, throwing it way down and in, walking Kemp for their first free pass of the night.
After throwing the first two pitches for balls against next hitter Zobrist, Yadi visited Dakota to tap the re-set button. Dakota didn’t get the message, as he walked Zobrist on four straight, now giving Schwarber a chance with first and second, two out.
Suddenly contracting a severe case of wild-itis, Hudson also walked Schwarber on 4 straight, bringing his not-strike string to 9 at that point and loading the bases. Miles Mikolas actually began warming up as the Shoulder-Squeezer visited. Dakota then responded with an actual first-pitch strike to Contreras! [Mental note: Wacha’s shoulder problems due to preponderance of shoulder-squeezing mound visits? Possibly.]
After a foul tip got the count to 0-2, Hudson sealed the deal, getting a swinging strike three on an excellent sinker now suddenly re-harnessed.
Bottom of 3rd
Back to the lead-off hitter Dexter, he couldn’t get anything started, grounding into the shift, getting thrown out by the second baseman playing well into the grass. Never fear, however, as Edman followed by yanking one to the base of the wall in right-center for a double. (The right fielder seemed to give up on it at the last second, but whatever.) With another RISP chance, Goldy stepped in. Alas, he did not produce, flying out to shallow right off the end of his bat, not deep enough even for the zippy Tommy to advance.
Marcell could not “cleanup” the runner, either, getting a bit unlucky, grounding out at 104 EV to Happ at third for the third out.
Top of 4th
Hudson didn’t start this inning like he wanted, giving up a first-pitch ground-rule double to right off the bat of Happ. The pitch was well outside, however. Then, Caratini annoyingly battled Hudson in a 10-pitch at-bat. Fortunately, the 10th pitch was a back-foot slider Caratini swung over for the first out. Sticking with all sinkers to next batter Hoerner worked out well, as he struck out swinging, getting tied up on a down-and-in version, tying him up nicely.
Now with two outs and Happ still at second, the Cards intentionally walked 8th-place batter Almora, Jr. to get to the pitcher. Dakota made him his 9th strikeout of the night, using three sliders to do it, not risking anything straight he might’ve squared up.
Bottom of 4th
Both Yadi and Almora repeated their display from the first inning, unfortunately. Yadi again sent a deep fly to center that Almora again made a leaping catch at the wall for an out, again robbing Molina! (This one would’ve been a homer!)
However, seeing enough of that $hit and the shift, next batter Carpenter took a low-and-away fastball to left center, that Almora chased but could only watch fly over the fence for a solo homer to make it 1-0 Cards!
Yadi was the first one out of the dugout to congratulate Carpenter. Recapper’s Sheepish Admission: I mockingly flipped Almora the double-bird through my TV.
Paul DeJong followed up the joyousness with a walk, only the second given up by Mills on the night. The Cubs’ bullpen stirred. Up next, Bader couldn’t advance Pauly D, as he repeated his first at bat, striking out swinging on a low-and-away slider, somehow looking worse this time around. Dakota then became Mills’ 9th strikeout victim, with a kinda generous called third strike over, and just below the bottom of the zone.
Top of the 5th
The 5th brought the third time through the lineup and the top of the lineup in the same person of Matt Kemp. Hudson induced him to hit a grounder to Edman’s right, who backhanded it cleanly and threw strongly across his body, and more importantly, accurately, nailing Kemp easily at first.
Dakota then got his 10th strikeout in the person of Zobrist, using 2 sliders as book-ends around 5 sinkers to do it for out 2. Pitching carefully to Schwarber, the bulky lefty hitter battled Dakota for 9 pitches, and Dakota couldn’t get him to chase a 3-2 slider down and away, walking him.
Contreras then topped a grounder to Dakota’s left that he deflected toward second. Edman had been moving up the middle toward the ball’s initial expected path, but he quickly reversed field, snagging the grounder to his left, and getting a throw off to Goldy. The call on the field was safe, but upon review, he was called out. It was a bang-bang play, but it was the right call.
Bottom of 5th
Fowler lead off and remained hitless, striking out for the second time tonight, swinging unfruitfully on an elevated 89 mph “fastball.” Coming in 2-2 on the night, Edman took Mills to 9 pitches, clunking a weak grounder toward second. However, the second baseman was paying deep in the grass, and Edman’s speed carried him safely to first easily for another base hit.
Edman the Savior showed that speed tool again, stealing second with no prob, giving Goldy another RISP chance. However, he got fooled on a change-up, which dripped like a droplet from the leaky sink in your kitchen, onto the inside-bottom corner for a called strike three. Goldy paused wordlessly before retreating to the dugout, his version of protest.
Continuing to mix pitches and their speeds, Mills next made Ozuna look silly, first getting him to swing through a one-ball, one-strike 66 mph curve down and away then a 91 mph fastball way up and away out of the zone for strike three.
Top of 6th
A bit surprisingly, Giovanny Gallegos now entered, replacing Hudson, who left at 97 pitches. It started poorly and was a 27-pitch slog.
It didn’t take long for the change to make its mark on the game, as Gio’s first pitch, a hanging slider, was deposited into the right-field seats by Happ to tie the game 1-1.
While we waited for a 3-2 pitch to next batter Caratini, the scoreboard-watching crowd suddenly applauded gleefully, noting the Brewers-Rockies score changed from 4-2 Rox to 8-2 on a grand slam!
After the applause subsided, Caratini lined out softly to Bader on an easy play in straightaway center. Next batter Hoerner, though, hit a similar fliner to center, just a bit softer than Caratini’s, and it dropped for a one-out single. Ryan Helsley began warming up.
Next, during Almora’s at bat, he grabbed his upper calf after swinging and missing. Later in the at bat he hit a hard grounder slightly to Edman’s left, who spun and threw to second for the force-out. The throw was a bit high and to DeJong’s left, but he caught it cleanly. DeJong ate the ball, opting not to throw to first. Almora was visibly limping to first, and DeJong had a shot at the DP had he continued the play.
Now with two outs, and a gimpy runner on first, pinch hitter Robel Garcia came up. Gio went to a full count but walked him to make it first and second. Maddon then picked another hurt player from his bench, Javier Baez, to pinch-run for Almora. But his legs weren’t hurt. At least Almora couldn’t rob Yadi any more from the bench.
After an infield mound conference to discuss wedding gifts and to prolong the long inning even further, the frame finally ended, as Gio got Tony Kemp to ground out right back to him on the second pitch for the third out, finally.
Bottom of 6th
Gull-wing righty and former Cardinal Steve Cishek now entered to face Yadi, who sent his third well-hit ball to center, but while this one was at 100 mph, it had a much lower launch angle, and it was caught easily by the new center fielder Tony Kemp. Zobrist moved from second to right. Garcia remained in the game to play second.
Carpenter worked a walk to try to get something going in front of DeJong. Pauly D rolled a slow grounder in the hole at short. Hoerner backhanded it and got the force at second, but Pauly reached first safely. Bader was up next, and immediately showed bunt on pitch 1, an indication of how Harrison’s previous at-bats have gone as well as facing a weird-throwing righty. He pulled back, however, then went into swing mode.
Actually getting into a hitter’s count at 3-1, Bader walked, making it first and second, 2 outs. Gio Gallegos’ spot was up, and Shildt initially was to pinch-hit Matt Wieters. Maddon countered by replacing Cishek with flat-brimmed lefty Brad Wieck. So Shildt counter-countered with Jose Martinez. Wieters had been announced, so he was burned for the night without appearing.
Starting the count at 3-0, Wieck got it back to full. With the runners running, Martinez was in obvious swing mode, but flailed ridiculously at a 74 mph knuckle curve that stayed well above the zone, striking out to end the threat.
Top of 7th
This inning was bad. Cubs-batting-around bad.
Andrew Miller came on to keep the Cubs where they were. He didn’t help himself or the team by walking the first batter Zobrist on five pitches. The first was a strike down the middle, and the rest were nowhere near the zone. He rebounded, however, to harness the slider nastiness to strike out Schwarber on nothing but sliders.
The Cubs then got lucky, with Edman was playing in a bit at double-play depth, Contreras flipped a dying quail just over the head of the scrambling second baseman, and it dropped into very shallow right for a single, as Zobrist made it to third.
Ian Happ continued to put the Cubs on his back, reaching out and poking an outside slider that was not a bad pitch, just inside the right-field line for a double, scoring Zobrist and moving Cotreras to third. It was now 2-1 Cubs.
With Caratini up, Miller uncorked a wild pitch that got wilder when it hit the backstop between the padding around the corner of a sign and the brick, making a right-angle turn, hitting the bat boy, and scoring Contreras to make it 3-1 Bad Guys.
For good measure, Miller then hit Contreras, and his ugly night was done. Helsley came in to clean up the first and third one-out mess. He did not comply, as he didn’t get an 0-2 pitch out of the zone enough, leaving a cutter up and out over the plate that Hoerner smacked into center for single, scoring Caratini, making it now 4-1.
Former briefly good player Jonathan Lucroy made a pinch-hitting appearance, and flew out to shallow right, leaving the runners where they were. Now with 2 down, Helsley couldn’t get the third out from the next batter lefty Robel Garcia, who creamed a straight, down-and-in 98 mph fastball for a no-doubt homer into deep left to make it 7-1.
The bleeding continued unclotted, as Tony Kemp got in on the fun by shooting an 0-2 pitch that this time actually was out of the zone up and away, to the left-field corner that tentative sort-of outfielder Ozuna tippy-toed toward, lunged at, and whiffed on, allowing Kemp to reach second for a double.
And hey, just for good measure, Zobrist knocked an over/low fastball into right for a single, scoring Kemp to make it 8-1. Shildt had finally seen enough, I guess, as he then pulled Helsley, bringing in the mercurial lefty Genesis Cabrera.
Okay, to re-set: guy on first, 2 outs. Schwarber up. Of course, Cabrera went to 3-0 on him. But, he did get it full, as Kyle watched 2 strikes go by. Ultimately, Schwarber skied a long, deep fly to left that immediately, of course, seemed as if it would be a homer. But the GOB showed mercy, causing it to die at the track into Marcell’s glove.
Thank GOB the Brewers were losing 11-4 in the 8th at this juncture.
Bottom of 7th
Lefty reliever Kyle Ryan entered; David Bote came in at third; Happ moved from third to center; Kemp went from center back to right.
Dex lead off looking to reach base in any way for the first time tonight. He didn’t, tapping back weakly to the pitcher for an easy first out. Entering with a 3-3 night at the plate, Edman kept that perfect mark by walking. Goldy, working on an o-fer night himself, got under an off-speed, down-and-in cutter, lofting it toward the wall in left-field foul territory that Schwarber moved under like a dancing bear but caught for out 2.
Marcell kept the inning going by lacing a line-drive single to center to move Edman to third. Maddon then switched out lefty Kyle Ryan for righty Rowan Wick. Despite Almora no longer in center, Yadi decided to hit one somewhere else, smacking a hard liner to right for a single, scoring Edman and moving Marcell to third to make it 8-2.
Next, the Cards got a break, as Wick barely nicked Matt Carpenter’s right sleeve, to load the bases. Wick yelled at Carp after, and the infielders gathered ‘round Wick to calm the beast down.
Now with a chance to dent the Cubs’ lead, Pauly D dug in, wielding an all-black bat that I don’t think I’d seen him use previously tonight. DeJong got lucky with a foul fly off the first-base line, as burly first baseman Caratini barely missed making a nice play, as the ball tipped off his mitt into the crowd.
Getting a life, DeJong toughened up, to get the count to 3-2. Now with the runners on the move, and the crowd on its feet, Paul got pretty good wood on one (92 mph EV), but lined it right to the center fielder to end the big threat. Black bat didn’t work.
But then a message came from the heavens: the Brewers finally lost, 11-7!!!
Top of 8th
Reliever Mike Mayers next came into the game, replacing Cabrera, and thankfully set the Cubs down in order. (Thank the Busch pitcher’s park dimensions a bit.) He got his first man, Contreras, on a fly ball to Dex in right a step in front of the track. Keeping with the deep-fly strategy, Mayers retired next batter Happ on a long one, this time to Bader near the track in center for out 2. Switching things up, he went to 3-2 on Caratini before getting him looking on a nice low slider.
Bottom of 8th
Off-center-brim righty reliever Pedro Strop appeared now for the Cubs. Your favorite defense-first center fielder Harrison Bader led off, grounding out to third for out 1. Rangel Ravelo then got a pinch-hit chance, and he got jobbed on a 3-2 pitch outside the down-and-away corner that was called a strike for out 2. Dex then flew out to center on a full count to send the Cards down in order.
Top of 9th
Junior Fernandez came in to finish things off. He got Hoerner to ground out to DeJong in the hole for the first out. After plunking David Bote with a pitch to put him on first, he then got a grounder from Robel Garcia to short. The Cards got the lead man, but the ball was hit too softly and I guess Garcia ran well enough to beat the throw to first.
Lastly, on a full count, the Cards caught a break, as the ump called a ball a strike, as Tony Kemp watched a 97 mph sinker below the zone become strike three.
Bottom of 9th
Righty Brandon Kintzler replaced Strop for the Cubs. Addison Russell for some reason came in to play second. Sure, Maddon. Whatever.
The Cubs finally solved Edman, who led off by lining out to right, making his first out of the night. Goldschmidt closed out his horrid night by striking out for the third time in five trips, missing a sinker on the outside corner. Ozuna then smacked a hard grounder to third that Bote dove to his left to stop but his throw was off the mark, allowing him to reach first.
Next during Yadi’s at-bat, Maddon was yelling at the
clouds ump, complaining about a called ball. Two outs bottom of the 9th, 3-2 count, in a meaningless (for the Cubs) game his team was leading by 6, and he still needed attention. Yadi paused getting back in the box, presumably to give the ump time to toss him. Sadly, he didn’t take the bait.
In a nice LOL moment in an otherwise crappy game, Yadi then singled hard on a liner to center to keep the game alive. That was for you, Crazy Joe. The “rally” was short-lived, however, as Carpenter flew out to center to end the game.
Cards lost, 8-2.
But that Magic Number, tho!!!
THE BOTTOM LINE
- MAGIC NUMBER IS 2!!!
- Hudson notched his season high for strikeouts in a game, tallying 10.
- Dak never had double-digit Ks in his pro career, including the minors.
- Super Tommy’s three-hit game was his 6th-straight multi-knock game, the longest of any Cardinal this season.
- Everygame Edman also bumped his hitting streak to 9 games.
- MicroPlugGrandMasterFunkTasticKing came in batting .299 and left at .305, much to the glee of batting average-loving announcer Danny Mac.
- Carp’s homer was his 20th career dinger against the Cubs, tying them with the Reds for the team he’s hit the most off of.
- Tonight’s contest made back-to-back games in which the Cards gave up a 7-run inning.
- Tomorrow night they do it for the second-to-the-last time in 2019, with two oldies banging their antlers, or horns, or whatever against each other, with Waino going against lefty Cole Hamels. Game time: 6:15 PM CT.
- Brewers go for back-to-back losses against the Rox one hour later than the Cards, starting at 7:15 PM CT.
- MAGIC NUMBER IS 2!!!