The optics of the loss last night did not reflect a playoff team. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.
Tonight was a new night with new hope to clinch the NL Central title outright or inch one game closer to it. Thanks to the Rockies win last night over the Brewers, the Cards’ Magic Number stood at 2. IT was a national broadcast on Fox, if you’re into that kind of thing.
The long-time rivals sent veteran starters to the hill to apply guile : Adam Wainwright and Cole Hamels. Hamels dealt with shoulder fatigue the past 10 days or so and was scratched from his previous start last Saturday. (I’m assuming this pertained to his throwing shoulder.) He’s a free agent next season and apparently wanted one more chance to show potential suitors his arm was still attached.
Wainwright has been healthy all season and met all the performance goals of his incentive-laden contract, especially enjoying home-cookin’ at Busch. Originally scheduled to pitch the last regular-season game of the year, instead, Waino was moved up to start tonight.
Maddon put a few wrinkles in his lineup, removing Zobrist, Contreras, and Almora. The new faces were Bote, Lucroy, and Russell. Shildt sent out the regulars you’ve been seeing.
THE BIRD’S-EYE VIEW
Wainwright’s command early on was hit and miss. The problem was, when he missed location, the Cubs didn’t miss. He did have three strikeouts through three innings, but he also gave up 6 hits, 2 of them homers that gave the Cubs an early 3-0 lead. He wriggled out of allowing more base runners in the 4th without giving up a run, but the wheels came off in the 5th, as he gave up another 3 runs on another pair of homers, which ended his night. All told, he gave up 12 hits (4 of which were homers) and runs.
The Cards offense actually produced, but only after they got beyond Hamels.
Hamels shut out the Cards through four, but he was pulled at that point because of his recent shoulder troubles. The Cards mustered just one hit (a single), 1 HBP (Yadi), 0 walks, and 6 Ks. The Cards immediately went to work on the Cubs’ bullpen, putting a three-spot on the board via a solo Bader home and a 2-run Edman triple.
The Cards then tacked 2 more runs on in the 7th to make it a one-run game. Edman came through again, singling in a run with a bases-loaded single. The second run came in on a double play Goldy hit into.
The Cubs got 2 runs right back in the 8th off of Miller, who could not escape the first and second, one out jam he inherited from Brebbia giving up a single and sac fly to make it 8-5.
The Cards did not cave, getting one run back on a solo DeJong dinger in the 8th to make it 8-6. But the score didn’t move from there, as the Cards lost.
But the Rockies saved the Cards’ bacon for the second straight night, walking off the Brewers in 10 3-2!!! Magic Number now 1!!!
THE FLIGHT PATH
Top of 1st
Waino’s Uncle Charlie was inconsistent in the early going, and it cost him. Tony Kemp thought he’d catch old-man Waino napping and attempted a drag bunt but it dribbled right back to Adam, who fielded it easily and tossed it to first for a one-pitch out. He next schooled rookie Nico Hoerner on a 2-strike curve, striking him out swinging on three pitches. Kyle Schwarber has been to school before, though, as he ambushed a first-pitch hanging Waino curve that sat on a platter middle-middle, and he deposited it into right for a homer, to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
Ian Happ also eyed a rolling curve that hung up and out over the plate, and he banged it over the shift for a 2-out single. Waino finally got his third out by striking out Jonathan Lucroy on a cutter way down and beyond the outside corner.
Bottom of 1st
Hamels started off getting poor swings and weak contact. Dexter Fowler worked Hamels to 3-1 but then bit on an outside change-up, topping it meekly back to the mound for an easy out one. Recapper Alert: Tommy Edman is either growing a mustache, or a balding caterpillar was perched on his upper lip. The Mustachioed Microwave, however, got caught looking at a cutter that nicked the up-and-in corner, perfectly placed for strike 3. Paul Goldschmidt than got a bit of luck, swinging on the exact pitch Edman watched for strike 3, but Goldy got just enough of it, fisting it into shallow left for a bloop 2-out single.
That’s where things ended, though, as it took Hamels all of 3 pitches to down Marcell Ozuna, who swung wildly on a 78 mph curve over but well below the zone.
Top of 2nd
The Cubs put runners on again, but Adam wriggled out of it. Waino was fortunate to get Victor Caratini to ground out weakly to second on a curve that was center-cut. Addisson Russell next was fortunate that Waino failed to field his position, as Russell sent a sharp bouncing grounder right back at Adam at 107 mph EV, but he whiffed on it, as it continued into center for a single.
Looking for the Pitcher’s Best Friend, instead, Adam induced 8th-place hitter Bote to strike out swinging on a cutter well outside for Waino’s third K of the night. Pitcher Hamels then got jammed and floated a fly ball down the left-field line that the Dancing Bear chased but pulled up on at the last second, watching it bounce in front of him just fair for a single, making it 1st and 2nd, 2 out and the Cubs’ fourth hit already.
However, no harm, no foul (heh, heh), as Kemp grounded out easily to Tommy for the third out.
Bottom of 2nd
A brief brouhaha suddenly erupted as Hamels brushed leadoff hitter Yadier Molina’s elbow with a 91 mph fastball. It wasn’t crazy inside; Yadi barely moved. Hamels did not stare Yadi down; in fact, he had immediately turned his back to Yadi, angry at himself. Yadi initiated the staring, then barked at Cole as he carried his bat walking down first. Hamels said something back, Yadi slammed his bat, then the benches and bullpens emptied to meet around the mound and do nothing but pretend to be tough and ask each other what the hell they were doing out there. No swings, no pushing. Nothing more came of it, yet Yadi was still barking at the Cubs’ bench while standing on first. It was weird.
Benches clear in St. Louis during the 2nd inning of Cubs-Cardinals. pic.twitter.com/5PtmR2yD6C— MLB (@MLB) September 29, 2019
Also weird was next Matt Carpenter attempting to bunt against the shift with two strikes, fouling it off for out 1. Guess Carp didn’t like his chances against the lefty pitcher. Paul DeJong next got good wood on one, lining it to left at 96 mph EV, but right at Schwarber for out 2.
With Bader up, Cole sent an up and in fastball around his shoulders on a 2-1 pitch, inducing a loud groan of disapproval from the crowd. Bader ultimately stuck out, however, on a cutter at the top of the zone.
Top of 3rd
The Cubs made Adam pay again by not missing a mistake for their second dinger of the game. Nico Hoerner inside-outed a well-placed grounder just beyond the reach of Goldy diving to his right and Edman diving to his left, trickling into right for a lead-off single. With the shift on against Schwarber, Kyle screwed up a double play by grounding to DeJong, who was positioned normally at short. But with Edman too far from second to reach the bag for the force, Pauly D had to take the one out at first.
So instead of nobody on and 2 out, it was a runner at second and one out, which Waino made worse by misplacing a sinker that didn’t, and Happ ripped it into center for a 2-run dinger, making it 3-0 Cubs.
Adam then got fortunate, as Caratini topped a high curve, bouncing it slowly to Carpenter, who charged it toward the mound and threw in time to get the out at first.
Bottom of 3rd
The Brewers/Rockies game began during the bottom of the third. The scoreboard watching began again in earnest, especially given the early score of this game .
Hamels set the Cards down easily in order. He began by retiring by Wainwright and Dexter via the strikeout; Waino via foul tip, and Dex looking at a not-strike inside two-seamer off the plate. Tommy Edman got jammed on a perfectly spotted fastball up and in, flying out to shallow center.
Top of 4th
Despite the poor start to this point, Waino entered the 4th at just 49 pitches. More clogged bases this inning caused more stress, but he escaped unscathed with the help of poor Cub base running.
Waino got Russell to ground out to DeJong but Bote singled just over the outstretched glove of a leaping Edman. Bote then successfully stole second. Yadi’s throw was there in plenty of time, but it sailed up and away a bit, and DeJong couldn’t get the tag down in time. Hamels then chopped one back at Waino, who stabbed at it, and it ricocheted off his glove toward the hole at short, where no one could field it.
Now with first and third and 1 out, Kemp grounded out slowly to short, but Bote did not break on contact, opting to remain at third. DeJong then threw Kemp out at first, for a big break, as Hamels advanced to second. Now with second and third and 2 out (instead of a runner on second with 2 out and a 4-0 deficit), Hoerner ended the threat of further scoring by flying out harmlessly to Ozuna.
Bottom of 4th
With a shaky Waino hanging by his fingernails, and a just as shaky bullpen, this inning felt like a great time to actually score some runs. Or a run. Neither happened.
Pauly G became Hamels’ 7th strikeout victim, swinging over the top of a sub-90 mph very hittable cutter that caught a good chunk of the meaty part of the zone. Marcell followed by tomahawking a sharp grounder at 98 mph into the dirt to short for the second out. Showing no ill effects from his nick on the elbow from a Hamels’ pitch in his first at-bat, Yadi was in full-on swing mode, as he offered at a change-up off his shoe tops, pulling it softly into left for a two-out single to keep the inning alive with just the Cards’ second hit of the night.
Carpenter ended the inning, however, by swinging over a middle-down change-up.
Top of 5th
Wainwright’s luck ran out in the fifth, as several of his misplaced pitches were crushed by random Cubs, to the tune of an additional 3 runs.
Schwarber sizzled a hot grounder to Edman’s left, who was playing deep into the grass. He dove, stabbed it cleanly, and tried to roll over and throw from his butt in one motion, but couldn’t get anything on the throw, and Schwarber reached safely.
Happ, the owner of a homer in his last at bat, doubled that production by sending a 2-run homer over the wall in the left-field corner to now make it 5-0 Cubs. It seemed like a harmless deep fly-out at first, and it kept going. Members of the Cards’ bullpen began throwing.
Waino got fortunate against Lucroy, as he left a fastball up, and he hit a laser right at Ozuna for out 1. Next hitter Caratini did not miss Waino’s very next offering, which was a high cutter, and the burly first baseman crushed it high into the right-field seats 434 ft. away to make it 6-0.
Still not fooling anyone, Waino then next gave up a hard single to left off the bat of Addison Russell, the 12th Cubs hit of the night. That was all for Wainwright, as Shildt replaced him with Dominic Leone.
With one on and one out, Leone retired the first hitter he faced, Bote, to fly out harmlessly to Dex in right for the second out. Former Cardinal Daniel Descalso pinch-hit for Hamels but was no match for Leone, striking out swinging on a slider just off the dirt.
Bottom of 5th
Lefty Kyle Ryan replaced Hamels, who was dominant, throwing just 67 pitches, striking out 8 and giving up but 2 hits; but, I’m sure his recent shoulder issues played a role in the decision. The Cards broke through off of Ryan then tacked on two more off his replacement David Phelps, who escaped even more runs via great outfield defense.
Paul DeJong provided more of the same result against the different pitcher, striking out on an 89-mph high fastball out of the zone. But his good buddy Harrison Bader got the Cards on the board, walloping a center-cut cutter deep into left center, dropping in to the Cubs bullpen, making it 6-1 Cubs.
Tyler O’Neill pinch-hit for Waino and drew a walk to get the inning back to the top of the order, and Dex did the same to make it first and second one out. That brought Maddon out to replace Ryan with righty David Phelps. For good measure, while waiting for Phelps to appear, with the camera focused on him, Maddon complained about balls and strikes with the ump.
Edman then stepped in and scorched a down-and-away knuckle-curve into left-center, scoring both Dex and O’Neill, and speeding into third for a triple to cut the Cubs’ score in half, 6-3!!!
In the dreaded man on third, one-out scenario the Cards haven’t done well with this season, Goldy continued that trend, swinging at a horrible pitch way off the plate for the second out. (And the infield was playing back, conceding the run.)
Trying to pick up the 2-out RISP, Ozuna blasted a screaming deep liner to right that Tony Kemp snared at the wall, despite getting turned around, making an athletic catch reminiscent of Almora’s shenanigans last night, stealing a run from the Cards and ending the inning.
Top of 6th
Tyler Webb now came on in relief and set the Cubs down in order for the first time on the night. First, he got lefty-hitting Kemp to fly out in front of home plate, caught by Yadi with his back to the infield.
Webb then followed that up by getting Hoerner to hit a liner that hung up enough in right center for Bader to catch on the run for the second out. With Schwarber up, Webb got ahead of him 0-2 and got a gift ball call on a perfect down-and-away fastball. Webb didn’t let that bother him, getting him to strike out swinging over a biting curve.
Bottom of 6th
The Cards could not build off their productive 5th, getting sent down in order. Yadi tapped one down the line and was thrown out easily to begin the 6th. Carpenter then donned the Golden Sombrero, striking out for the third time in the night. DeJong then popped out to short, at least battling for 9 pitches.
Top of 7th
Ian Happ, producer of 2 homers on the night, almost got his third. Webb put an 0-2 fastball in what he thought was a safe 2-strike pitch spot high above the zone. It wasn’t really high enough, as Happ banged it to dead center, sending Bader up against the wall but catching it for out 1. Lucroy next flied out to right center on the second pitch he saw. Lastly, Webb got Caratini to ground out (sharply) to Edman to set them down in order for the second inning in a row.
Bottom of 7th
The 7th saw two more Cubs relievers, their third and fourth of the night, lefty Brad Wieck, and righty Steve Cishek, and the Cards tacked on 2 runs to pull within one. Wieck promptly started his night by plunking lead-off man Bader in the left tricep with a 92 mph heater. Rangel Ravelo entered as a pinch hitter, and on the third pitch, Wieck uncorked a wild pitch, moving Bader to second. Ravelo battled well, earning a free pass on the 8th pitch (4 of which he had fouled off).
Now Dex was up as the tying run with no outs and runners on first and second. On a 3-1 count, Dex was in total swing mode, whiffing on a high fastball out of the zone. Wieck decided to repeat that pitch, and this time, Dexter held up (or so the first-base ump declared; it was close).
With the biggest of rally situations you can have, bases loaded and nobody out, Maddon brought in righty Cishek with Edman coming up. Edman came through again, shooting a down-and-away sinker (a tad out of the zone) to shallow left for a single. It was shallow enough to only score Bader to keep the bases loaded and make it 6-4 Cubs.
Now with one out, Goldy entered in another big spot but couldn’t come through, grounding into a third-to-first double play, but Ravelo scored, making it 6-5 Cubs.
So this gave next hitter Ozuna a 2-out RISP shot with the good speed of Edman at second. With first base open, Cishek issued an “unintentional intentional” walk to Ozuna, who didn’t take the bait, and instead took his free base. This brought the situation to Yadi. As he often does, he jumped on the first offering, sending a deep-ish fly to center but Happ caught it easily for the third out.
Top of 8th
John Brebbia now came in to keep the Cubs where they were. Addison Russell led off by scorching a hot grounder to Edman’s left. Playing in the grass, he dove an snared it, got quickly to his feet, but his throw couldn’t beat the speedy Russell for an infield hit. After getting ahead of the next batter Bote, Brebbia lost him, giving up a free pass to him.
This prompted a mound visit from Maddux, who didn’t shoulder-squeeze Brebbia. I think the beard creeped him out too much.
Maddon brought in Almora to bunt, but instead of using a true sacrifice bunt technique (squaring around early), he bunt as if trying for a hit, and instead popped it up to Brebbia for a gift first out.
With lefty Tony Kemp up next, Shildt brought in Miller, inhering the first and second, one out situation. His first pitch was a slider (duh), but it spun right into the middle-middle zone, and Kemp struck a ground-ball single past a diving Edman into right to score Russell, making it 7-5.
Now with first and third, one out, Hoerner hit a looping liner to left that Ozuna snagged. But it was deep enough to score Bote on the sac fly. That left a runner on first with two outs and Schwarber up. Miller struck him out on an actually good slider, but the damage was done.
Bottom of 8th
Now facing a 3-run deficit again, the Cards were running out of time. They got one back. The Cubs brought in Pedro Strop as their bridge to the ninth. Matt Carpenter lead off and battled in a 10-pitch at-bat. Problem was, on that 10th pitch, he attempted to check his swing on a low pitch, but the third-base ump rung him up as Matt was halfway up the line toward first. The replay showed he did offer.
That hurt, as that was his fourth K of the night, forcing him to remove the golden sombrero and donning the platinum version. It hurt extra, because next batter DeJong sent a Strop down-and-in cutter into the Cubs bullpen for a solo homer to make it 8-6!!! (8-7 woulda been better!!!)
Next, Tots actually worked a walk, bringing the tying run to the plate, which now was in the form of pinch hitter Jose Martinez. Alas, Cafecito got down 1-2, and looking for a breaking ball, he got a heater, and he couldn’t pull the trigger, watching it go by for strike 3, out 2.
Now it was up to Dex to keep the rally going. During his at-bat, Strop slung a wild pick-off throw, but Bader could only advance to second. But on a 1-2 count, Strop blew a 95 mph fastball by Dex on the outer edge to end the inning.
Top of 9th
Carlos Martinez entered in the unusual situation for him with the Cards losing, down 8-6. Randy Arozarena replaced Dex in right. Carlos retired Happ on a grounder to Goldy, breaking his bat in the process. No more dingers for that bat, Ian.
Jonathan Lucroy then sent a fly ball to center that Bader corralled a bit back and to his left for the second out. Caritini then got lucky and got jammed but got just enough good wood on it to flare a single to left center to force Carlos to continue trying to get the last out. Russell got the same luck, hitting a 100 mph inside fastball off the label, looping it into shallow right. Arozarena charged it and almost threw out Caratini at third.
Now with first and third and two out, Carlos K’d Bote with 97 mph heat for the final out.
Bottom of 9th
Before the start of the the Busch scoreboard showed the Rox tying the Brewers up at 2 with a solo homer in the 9th!
Righty Brandon Kintzler replaced Strop. Edman lead off and immediately reached base by getting plunked on his elbow guard on the first pitch. Goldy, however, got himself out, swinging at a pitcher’s pitch on the first offering, getting jammed on an up and in sinker, flying out to shallow center. Now the chance turned to Ozuna, hitless with one walk to this point.
Ozuna sent a grounder directly at Hoerner at second, who bobbled it, but had time to backhand it to the shortstop at the bag for the force, but Ozuna reached safely to keep things going.
Down to their last out, Yadi stepped in but couldn’t come through, flying out to center for the final out.
Cards lost 8-6.
But thanks again, Rox!!!
THE BOTTOM LINE
- Schwarber’s first-inning homer was only the 2nd homer Waino has given up in September.
- Out of his illustrious 14-year career, tonight was the first time Waino had ever given up 12 hits and 4 homers in a game.
- Cubs had at least one base runner in every inning through the 5th before Webb set them down in order in the 6th.
- The bullpen overall did great, covering 5 innings, giving up just 4 hits and 2 runs and 1 walk.
- DeJong’s dinger was his 30th.
- Edman stretched his hitting streak to 10 games and his NL-leading multi-hit streak to 7 games.
- Tomorrow, Game 162 is at 2:15 CT with pitchers yet to be announced. Mikolas? Jack?
Update: Jack vs. Derrick Holland. (Yes, that Derrick Holland from a 2011 Rangers team you might remember.)
- Will the Cards actually clinch the title via their own effort or rely yet again on the Rockies?
- Will there be a Game 163?