After last night’s bullpen meltdown, Cardinal fans were hoping that Adam Wainwright would continue with a start like his last one on September 2nd against the Giants. Any time the offense scores 10 runs, you would typically expect any analysis to focus on the offense. While it is true that every lineup regular except Paul Goldschmidt got a hit tonight—Wainwright even helped himself out with a single and double—the story is really about Wainwright’s performance. Until tonight, Wainwright had not made back-to-back starts of 7 IP or more since a three-start stretch he had in July of 2016! Tonight was his 5th start of the year that lasted at least 7 IP, and again, he hasn’t had that many in a season since 2016, when he had 8 such starts. Only 1 of his 8 starts in 2018 lasted that long, and let’s just say you would have had many doubters if you had predicted back then that Wainwright would perform such a feat this year.
Going into the game, Wainwright had a 21.2% K percentage. In the last 2 games, he has fallen well under that percentage, but he has maintained his good curveball, batters have made weak contact, and out of 42 possible outs across the 2 games and 14 IP, Wainwright has induced 20 ground ball outs. Twelve of those came in tonight’s ball game. If the Cardinals’ rotation continues like this the rest of the month, it will be tough to wrest the division lead from them.
Fowler flied a first-pitch low-and-in fastball from LHP Steven Brault to the track in right field that RF Jose Osuna caught up against the wall. Wong struck out chasing a slider low-and-away that was outside the zone. Goldschmidt walked. Brault’s 0-2 pitch to Marcell Ozuna was high-and-outside and high enough that it bounced off of catcher Elias Diaz’s outstretched glove for a wild pitch to move Goldschmidt to 2nd base. Ozuna worked the count to 3-2, but lined an inside fastball right at Pirates’ LF Bryan Reynolds to end the inning.
Kevin Newman grounded a curveball to Edman at 3rd to start the bottom of the 1st. Edman bobbled it at first, then picked it up and threw a little wide to Goldschmidt at 1st base. But Goldschmidt made a full extension to his right to catch it, while barely keeping his left foot on the base to ensure the out. Reynolds beat the shift with a grounded base hit through the right side on a center-cut fastball. The ball died a bit in the grass while Fowler was jogging in from his position deep in right to get it. Reynolds hustled all the way, and slid in safely under the tag at 2nd base for a double, despite Fowler’s strong throw. At least that’s how it was ruled initially. The play was very close, too close in my judgment to overturn. But on the Cardinals’ challenge, the umpires overturned the call on the field and ruled that Reynolds was out. The Cardinals caught a break there, because Starling Marte sliced a center-cut fastball inside the first base line and off the side wall. The ball took a carom that eluded Fowler and scooted all the way to the right field wall. Marte stood up at 3rd base with a triple. Josh Bell worked a 3-2 walk after taking a very close 2-2 curveball. Colin Moran grounded a curveball towards the bag at 1st base that Goldschmidt grabbed in head-up fashion before it could go foul and stepped on the base to end the inning. Somehow the Cardinals got out of all that unscathed.
With 2 out in the top of the 2nd, Brault hit Edman in the back with a 1-1 fastball. Brault threw the 1-1 pitch to Bader in the dirt, with it getting away from Diaz for a wild pitch to allow Edman to move to 2nd. But he was stranded there when Bader struck out looking at a fastball to end the inning. Wainwright retired the Pirates in order in the bottom of the 2nd with 1 strikeout. To start the top of the 3rd, Wainwright chased an 0-2 fastball that was high-and-outside and out of the zone, but laced it into the gap in left-center that rolled to the wall for a double.
Fowler had the green light on 3-0 and lined a low fastball up the middle to center field for a base hit to score Wainwright and give the Cards a 1-0 lead. Wong laid a surprise drag bunt on a slider and reached 1st base safely before Bell could flip the ball to Adam Frazier covering the base. With runners now at 1st and 2nd, Goldschmidt worked the count to 3-2, but popped an inside fastball to short for the 1st out. Brault then balked by stepping off the rubber with his back foot then going into the stretch. This was a direct violation of Official Rule 6.02(a)(7), which says that it is a balk for a pitcher to make any motion naturally associated with his pitch while he is not touching the pitcher’s plate. That balk advanced the runners to 2nd and 3rd for Ozuna, who crushed a 1-0 outside fastball for a lined shot over the right-center field wall and a 3-run HR to give the Cards a 4-0 lead.
The Big Bear has taken flight! pic.twitter.com/9xXRNZydNv— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 8, 2019
DeJong squibbed a low-and-away changeup inside the first base line that Bell fielded. Bell spun around with his momentum taking him into foul territory and fired wide to Brault covering the bag. The ball got away, and DeJong reached first base safely. A good throw would have retired DeJong and Bell was charged with a throwing error. Molina grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
After the pitcher Brault grounded out to lead off the bottom of the 3rd, Kevin Newman lined a center-cut fastball to left for a base hit. With Newman running on the 3-2 pitch, Reynolds struck out swinging at a curveball in the dirt. Newman stole 2nd base on the play and barely made it safely. Marte softly lined a low-and-away curveball for a bloop hit to right to score Newman and cut the Cards’ lead to 4-1.
Bell grounded out to 2nd into the shift to end the inning. With 2 out in the bottom of the 4th, Frazier broke his bat and blooped an inside cutter to right for a base hit. But he was stranded there when Wong made a great running grab on Diaz’s soft grounder up the middle and threw across his body to nip Diaz at first base.
Brault retired the Cards in order on 3 grounders in the top of the 5th. The pitcher Brault led off the bottom of the 5th by blooping a low curveball for a base hit to right. Newman grounded a curveball deep in the hole at short, but the Cards were still able to turn the 6-4-3 double play. Reynolds worked the count to 3-2, but whiffed at a Wainwright curveball for strike 3 to end the inning.
Ozuna walked to lead off the top of the 6th. Brault’s 1-0 pitch to DeJong was a changeup low and almost in the dirt. The catcher Diaz lost sight of the ball, which went behind him a bit. The passed ball allowed Ozuna to advance to 2nd, but he just barely made it in there safely. DeJong flied an outside changeup deep to the track in right near the corner. Osuna was in position and jogged to it, but he dropped it. Ozuna went to 3rd on the play and DeJong had to stay at first base. Osuna was charged with an error on the play. With Molina at the plate, DeJong stole 2nd on the 1-2 pitch. Molina sharply grounded a ball towards the hole, but Moran made a diving stop to throw him out. Edman grounded a ball through the hole past the glove of the diving Newman to left for a base hit to score Ozuna, extend the Cards’ lead to 5-1 and move DeJong to 3rd. With runners at the corners, Bader ripped a fastball to left for a base hit to score DeJong, extend the Cards’ lead to 6-1 and move Edman to 3rd. Righty Clay Holmes came out to pitch to Wainwright. With Wainwright at the plate, Bader stole second, and the catcher threw directly to 3rd base instead, almost picking Edman off. Wainwright struck out looking at a 2-2 slider that looked like it was above the top of the zone by a few inches. Fowler struck out to strand runners at 2nd and 3rd.
Kolten Wong led off the top of the 7th by lining a center-cut fastball to the gap in left-center. Marte cut it off at the track before it went to the wall, but Wong still slid in safely with a double. Goldschmidt worked the count to 3-2 before striking out looking at a low-and-in sinker that looked just a bit inside. Ozuna also worked the count to 3-2 and walked. The 3-2 pitch to Ozuna was a low-and-away fastball on the corner and looked like a strike that was a much better pitch than the one on which the home plate umpire rang Goldschmidt up. DeJong crushed a high hanging curveball off of the center field wall for a double to score both Wong and Ozuna to give the Cards an 8-1 lead.
Molina grounded out to 3rd, with Bell having a lot of time to pick Moran’s throw out of the dirt, bobble the ball, then maintain possession of it for the out. Edman struck out looking at a curveball for the third out that looked like it was too high. Wainwright retired the Pirates in order in the bottom of the 7th on 6 pitches.
Righty Geoff Hartlieb came out to pitch the top of the 8th and walked Bader on 4 pitches to start things off. Despite Wainwright being at 95 pitches and the Cards having a 35-man active roster, and a 12-man bullpen, Shildt sent him up to hit for himself. Wainwright blooped an outside fastball to right for a base hit to move Bader to 2nd. Fowler struck out looking at a 2-2 low-and-in 98-mph fastball that looked like it should have been called a ball. Wong grounded a ball to Bell, who threw to Newman at 2nd for the 3-6 force. Newman made the catch despite Bell’s throw hitting Wainwright in the back of his left shoulder. Bader went to 3rd and Wong to 1st on the fielder’s choice. Hartlieb’s 1-2 pitch to Goldschmidt was a slider in the dirt that got briefly away from the catcher for a wild pitch to allow Wong to advance to 2nd base. Goldschmidt worked the count to 3-2 then walked on a slider that was just barely outside. With the bases loaded, Ozuna got jammed on a self-defense swing and tapped back to the mound to end the inning.
Even though Wainwright hit for himself in the top of the 8th, Junior Fernandez came out to pitch the bottom half for the Cards. He retired the Pirates in order in the inning, with the third out on a nice play by Edman on Reynolds’ grounder near the hole. Righty Parker Markel came out to pitch the top of the 9th. Edmundo Sosa pinch hit for DeJong. Markel hit Sosa with a 1-2 up-and-in 97-mph fastball, and it looked like it was on the fleshy part of his right palm. Molina lined a low fastball up the middle for a base hit to move Sosa to 2nd. Andrew Knizner ran for Molina. Edman popped out to 3rd. Bader launched an outside fastball deep to right-center field. It went over the wall, but that was only because a Cardinal fan in a powder blue jersey reached over the wall with both hands and caught it.
Bader was given a ground rule double on the grounds of fan interference. Sosa scored to extend the Cards’ lead to 9-1, with Knizner awarded 3rd base. Rangel Ravelo pinch hit for Fernandez, and slowly grounded to short to score Knizner, extend the Cards’ lead to 10-1 and move Bader to 3rd. Randy Arozarena pinch hit for Fowler and flied out to center to end the inning.
The Cards made a bunch of changes for the bottom of the 9th. Sosa stayed in the game in the #5 spot to play 2B. Knizner stayed in the game in the #6 spot to catch. Ravelo stayed in the game in the #9 spot to play 1B. Arozarena stayed in the game in the #1 spot to play RF. Yairo Munoz came into the game in the #2 spot to play SS. Tyler O’Neill came out to play LF in the #4 spot. Finally, Daniel Ponce de Leon came into pitch on 5 days of rest since his September 1st start in Game 2 of the doubleheader. This configuration resulted in every spot in the order and on the field being occupied by a player who had spent time in Memphis that was not on a rehab assignment. Pablo Reyes pinch hit for Marte and worked a 3-2 walk. Steven Baron--who played briefly for the Cards last year as the backup catcher—pinch hit for Bell and struck out looking at a curveball. Moran struck out swinging at a 95-mph fastball. Osuna struck out looking at a borderline high-and-outside slider to end the game.
Odds and Ends
The Cardinals picked up another game on the Cubs to lead the division by 3.5 games after the Brewers beat the Cubs 3-2 in Milwaukee. Addison Russell hit a solo HR off of Brewers starter Gio Gonzalez to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the top of the 5th. The Brewers tied it in the bottom of the 6th when Cubs reliever Kyle Ryan walked both Christian Yelich and Eric Thames with 2 out and gave up an RBI-single to Ben Gamel. In the top of the 8th, Brewers reliever Junior Guerra allowed 2 walks and a single to load the bases with nobody out. Josh Hader came in and struck out Nicholas Castellanos, but walked Anthony Rizzo to force in a run. But Cubs reliever David Phelps gave it right back in the bottom half, when he surrendered a solo HR to Yasmani Grandal. In the bottom of the 9th, Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler came out to pitch. Tyler Austin pinch hit for Hader and reached on a throwing error by Addison Russell. With 2 out, and despite the Cubs lined up in a no-doubles defense, Yelich slided an outside fastball that one-hopped the left field wall and eluded LF Kyle Schwarber for a walk-off double to win the game 3-2. Cubs SS Javier Baez had an MRI today that revealed a hairline fracture in his left thumb, an injury which he sustained when stealing a base in the club’s September 1st game against the Brewers. You can check out a video of the play here. Baez has not played since that date, and could be lost to the Cubs for the rest of the season.