2020: A Space Oddity
Earth’s denizens have spent the last six months putting social space between themselves (or not), the Cards included. Perhaps if the Slam Diego Padres had spaced their homers from last night out more, moving one of them to Game 1, the Cards woulda taken both contests (or not).
And by virtue of not pitching until tonight’s deciding Game 3, Jack Flaherty came in with 6 days of non-pitching space since his last start on September 25th against the Brewers, in which he lasted 5 innings and gave up 3 ERs on 4 hits (1 a HR). And while he did strike out 5 then, he also walked 4. He’ll need to not do that against the Padres.
I’m sure Jack and the Cards put mental space between those disappointments and tonight’s contest as soon as Game 2 was in the books. Last night, the yellow-orange Harvest Moon turned the Friars into Werewolves feeding on the flesh of harmless baseballs. Tonight, the Cardinal-Red Planet Mars rose in tandem with that moon, signaling a new battle.
With two of their starting pitchers off the roster with injuries, it was all arms on deck for the Padres. They went with a bullpen game, giving righty reliever Craig Stammen the ball inning 1, with the Cards prepared to face a different reliever possibly in every inning after that. Stammen threw one inning of relief in Game 1 Wednesday, and gave up 1 hit and 1 walk but struck out 2 and gave up no runs, using 26 pitches.
San Diego used 6 relievers to cover 13 2⁄3 innings in Games 1 and 2. The Cards’ Alex Reyes and Andrew Miller didn’t appear in Game 2, so they were candidates to be the first out of the pen if needed.
Remembering the 16 total runs produced by the lineup of hitters used in the first two games, Manager Mike decided to stick with ‘em. Bold choice.
The Bird’s-Eye View
This was the only game left in the Wild Card round. The Cards were the last Central team still standing in either league. At the end of the night, the Central was no more.
Game 3 was a stark contrast to the surprising run-scoring machine the Cards had become in Games 1 and 2. The Birdos had plenty of pitchers to choose from to score some runs. Any runs. As it turned out, they didn’t find any of the 9 arms to their liking. That’s not to say they didn’t have any chances, they did. They ended up 0-6 with RISP, leaving 9 runners on base total.
Their calling cards all year, pitching and defense, did show up...through the first two-thirds of the game. Jack kept the Slam Diegos at bay, giving up just 1 run through 6. But the Padres made him work and got his pitch count up. He ended his night at 110 pitches, but just 65 for strikes.
As expected, San Diego brought in a different reliever each inning, giving the Cards’ hitters different looks and pitching styles, from side-arming lefties, hard-throwing righties, and conventional dudes. It wasn’t until the 4th and 5th that the same reliever appeared in consecutive innings.
Both teams had a bases-loaded situation early, but with 2 outs, and neither could cash in. The Padres had theirs in the second, the Cards the third. Each team toyed with mostly mini threats through the first 5 innings, but neither could get the big hit, and the score stayed scoreless through the 4th.
The first extra-base hit of the game didn’t even occur until the 5th. Unfortunately, it was in the Padres’ half of the inning, and they actually got two of them: doubles from Tatis and Hosmer that made it 1-0 San Diego. What stung a bit more was that the second double came with 2 outs on a mistake first pitch by Jack that was too meaty.
The Cards finally got their first extra-base hit in the 6th, a one-out double from Yadi, but the bottom of the order couldn’t string anything together, and the Birdos remained off the Board-o. That was the last RISP the Cards had on the night.
In such a tight game, especially one getting late, a lone run feels like 5. Well, the Padres got two of them in the 7th, and instead of just 3-0, it felt like 11-0. Remember above when I alluded to defense failing the Cards? This is when it happened.
With Alex Reyes in for Jack, the young fireballer gave up a lead-off single to 9th-place hitter Jake Cronenworth. No biggie, as Alex immediately got a ground ball to second off of next hitter and lead-off man Trent Grisham. But Kolten Wong’s throw was high to second, and it rolled into the outfield, which made it first and third, one out. Shildt intentionally walked Tatis to load the bases, which actually woulda worked, if not for another error. Machado bounced a high chopper to Edman at third who tried to touch the bag but missed then made an errant throw home allowing a run to score to make it 2-0 and the bases still loaded.
Alex then walked home another run to make it 3-0. The only fun thing that inning was the Cards turning a 4-2-6 double play.
Just for the heck of it, Cronenworth cranked a 2-out homer in the 8th to produce the 4-0 score that became the final.
The Flight Path
Top of 1st - No baserunners, no threat.
Kolten Wong got down 0-2, ultimately tapping one barely in front of the plate that catcher Austin Nola pounced on and fired to first to get Kolten easily to start things out with an out. Likewise, Tommy Edman began with an 0-2 count, then grounded slowly to short. Tatis circled it, backhanded it, and fired it to first to just nip Tommy for the second out.
Stammen tried to get Paul Goldschmidt to chase two first offerings out of the zone, one down and away and one up and away, but he refused, getting ahead 2-0. Goldy did hack at pitch 3, though, an up-and-in 93 mph “sinker” that was in a good spot, and Paul got under it, popping it up to Tatis for the third out.
Bottom of 1st - A one-out walk to Tatis was not harmful.
Lefty-swingin’ Trent Grisham led things off for the Padres, facing nothing but fastballs between 93-96 mph from Jack. On a 2-1 count, Flaherty cracked Grisham’s bat, getting in his kitchen, producing a weak grounder to Goldy fielded near the bag, allowing him to take it himself.
Tatis was in the two hole, and Jack went with a mix of heaters and sliders. On a full count, he walked him. Manny Machado got ahead 2-0 on fastballs below the zone, but Jack evened things with two called strike fastballs, one placed well on the outer edge and the other on the lower border. Jack then broke off a good slider low and away, getting Manny to wave over it for a first-out strikeout.
Now with Eric Hosmer up, Tatis broke toward second on pitch 1, a curve, a strike, but he stopped and retreated to first. Yadi fired a strike to the bag, but Tatis dove back safely. Jack then got Hosmer to tap the next pitch to Goldy, who stepped on first to log his second unassisted put-out of the game.
Top of 2nd - Heads-up baserunning put a runner on second with one out, but he was left there.
Cleanup hitter Dylan Carlson got worked away with all but one pitch. On a 2-2 count, he flared a fliner to right-center on a down-and-away knuckle curve for a lead-off single. Yadier Molina just missed a down-and-in sinker, golfing it to deep center (374 ft), slamming his bat in frustration as he trotted to first. Dylan, however, saw the throw sail high toward the infield, so he slyly tagged up and took second to give Paul DeJog a RISP shot.
Pauly D did not come through, getting jammed on a 94 mph sinker middle-in, flying out to shallow right-center, keeping Dylan at second.
The Padres then brought in their first (of many) relievers, lefty side-armer Tim Hill, to face Matt Carpenter.
Carpenter got ahead 2-0 but pulled a grounder to first that Hosmer gloved to his right and tossed to the covering Hill to end the inning.
Bottom of 2nd - A walk and 2 singles (one a fluke) created a threat, but Jack leaned on the strikeout.
Fifth-place hitter Tommy Pham started the inning by working the count full but swinging through a slider that started as a strike then dove out of the zone low and away for out 1. Mitch Moreland got the Padres first hit, singling to right-center on a 1-0 fastball down the middle above the knees.
Will Meyers then got into the good-hitter 3-1 count. Jack didn’t give in, slinging a slider that ended barely out of the outside corner for ball four.
Looking for a ground ball, Jack tried to touch the lower zone against Austin Nola, but missed with two to make it 2-2. Jack then just fired a 94 mph heater right down the middle, and the location possibly surprised Nola, who watched it go by for strike 3.
Then the Padres got a huge break, as Jake Cronenworth got severely jammed, flaring a dying quail toward DeJong. It had tons of spin on it; plus, Pauly got it on an in-between hop. He was only able to knock it down, with everybody safe to load the bases.
Now the lineup turned over, and on the fourth pitch, Grisham swung violently and missed, spinning his helmet off, which ended up hitting Yadi’s throwing hand. It hurt enough or possibly caused a “stinger” of sorts, and Yadi’s throw back to Jack fell merely a few feet in front of home. He was smiling with the ump about it, so he must not have been in too much pain. (For him, anyway.). He kept looking at his finger, but seemed none the worse for wear. (For him, anyway.)
Jack got a break, then getting a called strike three on an a ball that looked to be a bit out of the zone up and in to end the inning.
Top of 3rd - Good scoring chances came and went without a run.
Dexter Fowler worked a full count but chased a horrible 92 mph fastball well outside to strike out. Ninth-place hitter Harrison Bader then reached by taking one for the team, getting plunked just above his left elbow, which was fine, ‘cuz he had swung through 2-straight high fastballs right before that.
Kolten tapped a grounder back toward the mound that Hill jumped on and fired to second. The throw was high, but Tatis stretched and somehow kept his foot on the bag to get the force-out, but he was unable to finish the relay, allowing Kolten to reach.
Only one shortstop makes this play. pic.twitter.com/gggdmvSRga— San Diego Padres (@Padres) October 3, 2020
With righties coming up, the Padres switched out lefty Hill and brought in righty Pierce Johnson.
On a full count, Tommy Edman got just enough of a curve that stayed up at the top of the zone, topping it up the middle, deflected by a diving Tatis, as Kolten motored to third. That made it first and third 2 out for Goldy.
Pauly G got four breaking balls but stayed patient, and took a walk to load the bases now for Dylan. Johnson threw nothing but curves against him, with Dylan watching the first three to produce a 1-2 count. Dylan swung over the fourth one to end the threat.
Bottom of 3rd - Jack set down the 2-3-4 hitters with ease.
In a nice visual, Tatis led off, so no baserunners on for him. Jack got the better of him on a 1-0 92 mph fastball over but toward the bottom of the zone, getting him to tap one back to him. Jack plucked it and having to hurry, threw a side-arm 90-plus heater to first that Goldy had to stretch a bit toward second but stayed on the bag for out 1.
Then on a 2-2 count to the next dangerous hitter Machado, Jack fooled him and got a break as Manny check-swung on a slider over but low, but made contact none-the-less, producing a slow liner right to Goldy for the second out.
Jack then notched his 5th K, getting Hosmer watching heat dot the outside corner.
Throwing heat, but leaving them frozen! pic.twitter.com/2ZmIrSSap8— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) October 3, 2020
Top pf 4th - Lefty Adrian Morejon became the 4th pitcher for the Padres. Yadi again sent one deep, but not deep enough.
Yadi led things off and for the second time in his two at-bats, sent a deep fly to center (395 ft). Trent Grisham, though, caught it in front of the track for a long out 1. DeJong then got ahead 2-0 but got fooled on a 85 mph splitter on the corner, was out in front, and tapped it to the pitcher. Morejon leapt, gloved it, and fired to first for the second out.
Carpenter got a great pitch to hit just above the belt down the middle, and he pulled it into the hole between first and second. But keystoner Cronenworth dove to his left and snagged it, popped up and threw out Matt with plenty of time.
Bottom of 4th - Back-to-back one-out singles didn’t translate to any scoring.
Jack got fortunate against lead-off hitter Pham, having a 2-2 slider that Tommy nailed, but it went right to DeJong for the out.
Moreland then jumped a first-pitch sinker on the outside corner, grounding it up the middle. DeJong, who was positioned on the 2nd-base side of second, ranged to his right, back-handed it, but threw wide of first (Moreland woulda likely beaten a good through anyway), but the runner remained at first.
Myers then followed by banging a hard line-drive into center on a 2-2 94 mph fastball in and actually off the plate to make it first and second, one out.
Jack got ahead 0-2 against Nola, then on a 1-2 fastball, Nola golfed a deep fly to dead center that Bader flagged down right in front of the wall for out 2. Moreland tagged and went to third easily.
Jack used three breaking balls to start with against Cronenworth, then dotted a 1-2 sinker at the bottom of the zone that produced an easy ground-out from Kolten to Goldy.
Top of 5th - For the first time on the night, the same Padre reliever appeared in consecutive innings, as lefty Morejon started the 5th. He threw just 12 in his previous inning of work. A single and hustle from two runners gave the Cards a RISP with 2 out, but they couldn’t scratch one out.
Morejon took care of Dexter and Bader easily, striking out both, using just 7 pitches to get the two outs. Kolten kept the inning alive, inside-outing a 97 mph fastball, dunking it into left for a single.
Tommy then hit a harmless grounder to short, but while Tatis fielded it cleanly, he peeked toward second to see if he had time to get the force-out. But Kolten was hustling, so Tatis fired to first, but that slight pause and Tommy busting his butt down the line, forced him to rush his throw at the end of the play, resulting in a high throw that allowed Tommy to reach.
Now with Goldy up, the Padres brought in righty Austin Adams.
That worked, as on a 2-2 count, Adams got Goldy looking on a slider that actually was a strike, down and away.
Bottom of 5th (In Play, Run(s)) - The Padres broke through with two doubles.
Jack struck out lead-off hitter Grisham on a 3-2 94 mph heater. Tatis followed, however, with the Padres’ first extra-base hit, yanking a hard grounder off a 2-0 pitch down the third-base line for a double.
Machado, eager to cash in, hacked at the first offering, which was a good slider under the zone. Manny lofted it into short right, but Kolten tracked it down with an over-the-shoulder catch. Tatis had gone toward third, wanting to score if it fell, so he had to scramble back, and barely made it to second before Kolten’s throw.
Hosmer came through for the Padres, getting a first-pitch fastball out over the plate at the knees that Jack didn’t get far enough outside, slamming it into left-center, trading places with Tatis at second to make it 1-0 Padres.
Jack’s reaction says it all:
That was all the scoring, though, as Pham bounced to Edman, who tagged out Hosmer, who ran into the final out.
Top of 6th - Righty Luis Patino entered for the Padres. The Cards got their first extra-base hit, but ended up with a zero.
Dylan rolled over on a 89 mph changeup, grounding out to second. Yadi got a 1-1 slider in and not down enough, and the veteran hooked it down the third-base line for a double. DeJong then chipped a chunk of his bat off, cuing one down the first-base line. Patino quickly fielded it and tagged him out as Yadi advanced to third.
Now looking for their first key hit, on 3-1, Carpenter got jobbed on a bad called strike 2, which actually was ball 4 easily below the zone. Justice was served, however, as Carpenter earned a walk ultimately to make it first and third for Dex.
Fowler put a charge into a 2-0 97 mph fastball, sending a fly deep to right-center, but it stayed in the park, as center fielder Grisham merely needed to trot over to glove it right before the track.
Bottom of 6th - A clean inning for Jack, and at 110 pitches, his night was done.
Mitch Moreland started the 6th by whiffing on a 2-2 slider that Jack fell down after throwing, but he was fine.
Jack then got Myers to ground out to DeJong’s backhand. Pauly D, however, threw it in the dirt on an in-between hop to first, but Pauly G fortunately gloved it for out 2. Jack then finished the clean inning, striking out Nola on a 95 mph fastball down and in that was declared a strike but was p much a ball.
Top of 7th - Righty Emilio Pagan entered for the Padres and set the Cards down in order.
Looking for offense, Shildt pinch-hit Brad Miller for Bader to lead off the inning. That didn’t work, as Miller lofted an easy fly-out to left. Kolten got down 0-2 on a pair of 96 mph heaters and ultimately flew out to Pham in left on pitch 6.
Edman almost became the third out to left, sending a long fly that Pham chased right up to the side wall, but it clanked into the seats to give Edman a life. After fouling off six pitches during his at-bat, Tommy fought and fought, but on pitch 9, Edman grounded out softly to second.
Bottom of 7th (In Play, Run(s)) - Alex Reyes came in for the Cards. Two errors helped the Padres expand their lead.
Cronenworth led off by greeting Alex with a bouncing grounder up the middle for a single. Grisham next grounded one to Kolten’s left. As he’s done successfully so many times before, he gloved it cleanly, and spun to throw to second to start a DP. This time, though, his throw was high, going over DeJong’s head, rolling into left-center, allowing Cronenworth to continue to third.
After a mound visit, the decision was to put Tatis on intentionally to face Machado with the bases loaded and nobody out. Reyes got behind 2-0, but then Machado hit a high chopper to Edman at third right near the bag. Tommy attempted to step on third, but his foot missed its. He immediately threw home but it bounced, and Yadi couldn’t come up with it. So the run scored to make it 2-0, and the bases stayed loaded with nobody out.
Reyes added to the misery, walking Hosmer on 5 pitches, only one even close to the zone, to make it 3-0. Pham next grounded to Kolten, who threw home for the force. Hosmer had paused going from first to second to avoid being tagged by Kolten. That was enough of a window for Yadi, who fired down to second to complete the rare 4-2-6 double play.
Now with first and third two outs, Alex got behind Moreland 2-0. Pham easily took second without a throw. Alex came back to get the count even at 2-2. Then on a full count, Alex broke off a curve to freeze Moreland to end the inning.
Top of 8th - Righty Drew Pomeranz entered to bridge the game for San Diego. Jurickson Profar replaced Pham in left. A two-out walk did not a rally make.
Goldy bounced out to third to start things off meekly. Dylan also grounded out, but at least did so sharply, zipping one to second for out 2. Yadi kept the inning on life support, drawing a walk on 5 pitches. DeJong then got sawed off on a 1-0 down-and-in 94 mph fastball, floating a dying fliner toward short. Tatis broke to his left toward it, dove, and snared it for the final out with flair.
Bottom of 8th (In Play, Run(s)) - Tyler O’Neil came in to play left. Dylan moved to center. The Padres tacked on with a solo homer with 2 outs.
Reyes got first hitter Myers to pop out to Edman at third on pitch 2. Nola then struck out on a foul tip. But with 2 outs, Cronenworth got a low-in sinker and didn’t miss it, cranking it to center to up the Padres’ lead to 4-0.
Grisham struck out to end the inning.
Top of 9th - Trevor Rosenthal came in to close the Wild Card Championship out. He did in style, getting three backward Ks.
After seeing three 98 mph heaters, Matt Carpenter was rung up on an 87 mph changeup that nicked the bottom of the zone. Dexter also was retired on a backward K, also a changeup for out 2.
Mike Shildt sent in Austin Dean to hit (instead of O’Neill, who had originally replaced Bader in the lineup the inning before). Starting Dean with the same formula of consecutive fastballs, Trevor went to a slider instead of a change-up. It was off the plate, but the ump saw strike, and declared Dean out looking to end the game and the season.
Cards lost, 4-0.
Bottom of 9th
The Bottom Line
- Jack’s line: 6.0 IP, 1 R on 6 H, 2 BB, 8 SO
- This was Jack’s 4th post-season start, the third in which he received zero run support.
(The other game was the 13-run barrage against the Braves last year.)
- The Padres made MLB history, as this was the first time 9 pitchers combined to produce a 9-inning shut-out, playoffs or otherwise. Like ever.
- The Cards’ 6 through 9 hitters went 0-12 with 1 walk. That hurt.
- The Cards overall had just 4 hits and 3 walks.
- The Cards had just 6 instances of hard contact.
3 of those were by Yadi.
Just 1 of the 6 went for a hit (Yadi’s double).
Not a formula for run-scoring.
- If the Cards hadn’t made the two errors in the 7th and got out of it still behind just 1-0, who knows what magic might've happened. (Or, maybe they woulda lost 1-0.)
- The Cards are now 1-162 in their post-season history when trailing by at least 3 after 8.
(The one win was a certain World Series game in 2011.)
- This was the Padres’ first post-season series win in 22 years.
- Hey, the Cubs got blanked 2-0 by the Marlins to get knocked out, so that was cool.
- Your final graph of the season depicts a good game until the 7th.