The Cards haven’t played in 17 days—also the last time I recapped. I got some pent-up gifs:
Let’s (not) Do the Time Warp Again - Been a Rocky start, but we didn’t Picture this Horror Show.
No Time To Waste - Each of the 41 members of the Cards’ traveling party—including Dylan Carlson(!)—drove a rental car to Chicago. (What’s the volume discount point on rental cars?) Dylan chose wisely.
Some Didn’t have GPS - Poor Shoeless Joe was just tryin’ to catch up.
Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan - So the “plan” is to play 55 games in 44 days (though only 53 are scheduled; the postponed DH vs Detroit has yet to be rescheduled.) That’s to include 11 DHs, starting with today’s.
Who’s on First? - And the current COVID tally is 18 positive tests total, including 10 players. Ten new players who have not appeared in a game this season, will be on the 28-man roster. Half of coaching staff will be different Saturday because of the outbreak, and Willie McGee decided to opt-out. Jose Oquendo will come in to coach third, and Russ Steinhorn will serve as as new Lead Hitting Coach.
Oh Yeah, the Game - For the first 7-inning game, the Cards called on Cool Uncle Charlie, Adam Wainwright, to provide a calming presence. He last pitched July 25, going 6 innings vs. the Pirates in a win, throwing 83 pitches. He gave up 1 run on 3 hits with 5 Ks and walked 1.
Your new-look lineup saw Tommy in a familiar 2-hole but playing SS for the first time in The Show. Dylan debuted in LF, batting 6th. Knizner sighting(!)
No one we would rather have leading us today! pic.twitter.com/MuqfY9X7ZG— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) August 15, 2020
The Cards had a tough draw right out of the gate, as the White Sox countered with righty Lucas Giolito. In 2019, just his 2nd full season of starting, he was an All-Star and 6th in the Cy Young Award voting, with a 3.41 ERA and 3.4.3 FIP throwing 176.2 innings. He also led all of MLB last year with 3 complete games and 2 shutouts, so covering 7 innings likely isn’tting to him, weird season or no. He also had fantastic rate stats last year, with an 11.6 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9.
In 2020, Giolito came into today’s game having thrown 22.2 innings over 4 starts, giving up 11 ER and striking out 27 over that span.
VEBers still salty about the Cards not landing shiny outfielder Luis Robert, will take comfort knowing in 2020 over 79 PAs, he’s produced only 20 hits, including a paultry 2HRs, 5 2B, and 6 BB, slashing just .274/.325/.425. Pfft.
The Bird’s-Eye View
One could forgive the Cards if they exhibited all manner of rust after such a lengthy lay-off and missing key players. While I don’t thumb my nose at the 5-1 win, the team did have more than its share of luck and a couple of base running blunders. But they did exhibit lots of hustle and solid defense to support Adam Wainwright, who went five and gave up just 1 run on 2 hits and had 3 Ks.
But...there were key “buts” to go around.
Wearing the Victory Blues and a lot more masks/gaiters than in their first 5 games, the Cards got off to a huge start, batting around in the first inning. Kolten led off with a walk, which was oddly calming. Tommy singled him to second, then the fun began. After Paul Goldschmidt struck out, the Cards parlayed back-to-back (literally) HBPs for Matt Carpenter and Tyler O’Neill and singles by Dexter Fowler and Andrew Knizner to make it 4-0!
But Dex then failed in trying to score from second on a tapper near the mound by Bader (that Bader was safe on). This was after Dex had slipped around 2B after Knizner’s hit forcing him to stay put, but I won’t count that a blunder.
(And side note: Dylan Carlson’s first AB came with the bases loaded, but he struck out.)
The other lone tally was produced in the 4th inning by hustle, but they both were related to dribbling batted balls. Dex beat out an infield hit and after a Bader walk (which was nice), Tommy reached on an error that would’ve been an out if he had not be busting his rump.
Meanwhile, Adam mixed his pitches well in the early going, cruising through the first two innings and getting nicked for just one run in the 3rd from a double, sac fly, and ground out. He never was in any real trouble after that, making it through 5 full innings, using 67 pitches.
But, he was fortunate quite often, as the Sox hitters produced 7 hard-hit balls (over 95 mph Exit Velocity), 4 of which were hit at over 100 mph EV for outs. Throw in a little wildness with 3 walks in just 5 innings, and if the Sox had a little better luck/sequencing, it coulda been a very different game.
But, that’s the way it goes. And while several things went the Cards’ way today, they also made their own luck to produce a victory in their first game back!
The Flight Path
Top of 1st (In Play, Run(s)!) - Rust? What rust?
Kolten Wong led off doin’ work in an 8-pitch at bat, fouling off touch pitches and not offering at off-speed and breaking pitches to get the count full and ultimately earn a walk. Tommy Edman followed that up by slapping a single to left on an 0-2 mistake Giolito likely left up too much to advance Wong to second.
Paul Goldschmidt then skied the second pitch to the LF corner. It brushed the netting on the way down and despite left fielder catching it, he also trapped it against the net, resulting in foul ball. Both runners tagged up but were sent back. Goldy couldn’t move the runners, as he waved at a slider way out of the zone for out 1.
Canadian Strongman and Clean-Up Hitter Tyler O’Neill was plunked in the left lat on the first pitch to load the bases. Matt Carpenter followed by also realizing a little pain is worth it, as he got plunked on an up and in 93 mp fastball to earn an RBI and make it 1-0!
Dylan Carlson then made his debut with the bases loaded! He got schooled on change-ups and fastballs, ultimately striking out swinging on an up-and-away heater.
It was then up to Dexter Fowler to take advantage of the base path largess. He came through, driving in two with an opposite-field single to left-center to make it 3-0! He just got enough of an 0-2 fastball that Lucas didn’t get high enough beyond the zone.
Andrew Knizner then came through, going the other way, singling between first and second, just past the diving second baseman’s reach to score Carpenter. Fowler slipped going around second, so it was first and second for Harrison Bader. (Jim Edmonds noted the Sox were apparently notorious for over-watering their field.)
Bader Tots tapped a slow-roller to short, and he beat the throw! Alas, Fowler, perhaps trying to make up for his previous slip, instead made things worse, trying to score. He was out by a mile.
That’s okay. 4-0 Cards!!! Even better, they made Giolito throw 34 pitches in the process.
Bottom of 1st - Uncle Charlie’s experience showed.
Tim Anderson was introduced to Uncle Charlie, as Adam Wainwright broke off a good one on a 1-2 count, getting him to chase it in the dirt. Yoan Mocada next made hard contact (109 mph EV) on Adam’s other breaking ball, a cutter, grounding out sharply to SS Edman, who actually was positioned on the 2B side of the bag for out 2.
Tough customer Yasmani Grandal was next, but he swung from his heels on a 71 mph curve, popping out to Carpenter, your 3B-man positioned at the SS spot.
Waino only hurled 13 pitches.
Top of 2nd - Giolito remained in and regrouped to set the top of the order in order.
Kolten started the 2nd like the 1st, leading off. Always cool. Giolito got him this time, inducing a ground-out to second on a change-up. Tommy then also offered at a change-up, popping up to the first baseman near the mound. Goldschmidt then tomahawked a sinking liner to center that Luis Robert made a base running-type, feet-first slide to catch. Fancy.
Bottom of 2nd - Waino worked through a 2-out error and walk.
Waino pitched cleanup man Jose Abreu carefully, going 3-0 on him, then walking him on the 5th pitch to start the second. No matter, as Adam called upon his best friend, getting a tailor-made DP ball off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion: Carpenter, to Wonger, to Goldy.
Eloy Jimenez followed by also grounded to Carpenter’s backhand. He backed up a step to snag it and didn’t stride forward fully, short-hopping his throw. Goldschmidt couldn’t dig it out (it seemed diggable, especially for Goldy), but the runner reached safely.
Adam then walked next batter and VEB favorite Luis Robert on four straight, getting jobbed on the 4th pitch that did catch the down and in part of the zone.
Now with first and second, 2 out, Adam calmly got next batter Nomar Mazara to ground out directly to Wong (though it was hit at 103.9 mph) for the final out.
Top of 3rd - Giolito settled in more, getting another 1, 2, 3 inning.
TON led off the third, not smarting, like whatsoever from his previous inning’s HBP. Giolito fed him a steady diet of sliders that he ignored (2 for strikes) but got caught looking at a borderline high and away fastball called for strike three.
There was a little confusion with the count during Matt Carpenter’s at-bat. But it got straightened out for a 2-2 count. Like Tyler, Carp received a backward K, watching an up-and-in fastball called a strike but was a little out of the zone.
Dylan stepped next, and shattered his bat on a jam-shot slow grounder to 1B. Abreu scrambled and beat Dylan to the bag to end the inning.
Bottom of 3rd (In Play, Run(s)) - But it was just a single tally.
Ninth-place hitter Danny Mendick started things off, sending a long fly to right-center that even Bader’s speed couldn’t chase down (and Dex got nowhere near). Bader had been shading him toward left. (Of course, that happened right after Danny Mac informed the audience that if Waino went a “full” 7 innings giving up no hits, it wouldn’t be an official no-hitter. Thanks, Danny.)
Now against the top of the order, Wainwright got lead-off man Tim Anderson, but it was a very deep fly to center that had Bader’s back near the wall. So, Mendick easily tagged and advanced to third. Yoan Moncada cashed in grounding out to Goldy but scoring the runner without a throw to get the Sox on the board and make the score 4-1.
Grandal next battled Waino well, working a walk on 7 pitches. Not to worry, as next hitter Abreu grounded a bouncer to Tommy’s backhand, who snagged it cooly, and went the short route, flipping it to Wong at second for the force-out.
Top of 4th (In Play, Run(s)!) - Hustle helps Cards tack on.
Dexter Fowler, trying to remember what it was like leading off, led off. He took a full, strong swing on a change-up, but it produced a tapper to Giolito’s right. He bounded off the mound, initially bobbled it, then fired to first. Dex hustled and initially was called out, but Shildt challenged. After a lengthy review, the call was reversed. Hustle rewarded.
Knizner next sent one in nearly the same spot as Dexter, but it rolled past the pitcher, and third baseman Moncada charged it and nailed him at first.
Now with Dexter at second and 1 out, Bader had a RISP shot. He worked a walk(!) on four straight to bring up the top of the order.
Wong watched 2 borderline fastballs get called for strikes to get in the quick hole. After fouling off 2 tough down-and-in sharp sliders, he grounded to first. Abreu gloved it cleanly, spun, and thought about throwing to second. Instead, he got the safe out at first, making it second and third, two out, for Tommy.
The Cards caught a break, but it was produced by Tommy’s speed and hustle. He was out in front on a change-up, tapping to Abreu at first, who bobbled it for an error and had no play, as another run crossed to make it 5-1 Cards.
Pauly G couldn’t keep things going, as he popped out to the catcher behind the plate, who made a nice catch right up against the screen.
Bottom of 4th - Dylan announced presence.
Dylan Carlson flashed some leather, as Edwin Encarnacion sent a laser (105.9 mph EV) that began diving away from him. He cooly slid and reached out to his right to snag it for out 1.
Adam then got a favorable call against Eloy Jimenez who struck out watching a 90 mph fastball nick the corner of the zone down and away for out 2.
Adam next got Luis Robert down quickly 0-2, then got him to wave over a 74 mph curve that bit down nicely for his third strikeout.
Top of 5th - Another base running mistake and a near Dylan tater resulted in no runs.
Tyler O’Neil led off. At the beginning of the at-bat, Jimmy Ballgame predicted a dinger today from TON. Tyler showed him he’s more than power, as he lined a down-and-away slider (actually out of the zone) into right-center for a single. In a different timeline, he woulda waved over that.
Matt Carpenter failed to advance him, as he couldn’t catch up to a high heater, striking out for out 1. Dylan, fresh off the adrenaline rush from his sliding catch the inning before, stepped in. O’Neill took off from first before Giolito even made a move. The pitcher calmly flung it toward second, where Tyler was called out. TON didn’t move from the bag, signalling the dugout to challenge, which they did. The out call was upheld.
Now with the focus back on Dylan, he worked the count full and got a good pitch to hit, a fastball only slightly down and slightly away. He got great wood on it (102 mph EV), but it died at the track in right-center. Jimmy Ballgame said the wind in the park does that.
Bottom of 5th - The bullpen stirred, but another double play kept the Sox at bay.
Coming in at a nice 56-pitch total, Wainwright was happy to see the first batter Mazara swing at the first pitch. He hit it hard and deep, but not enough of either, as Dylan caught it a step in front of the track in left.
Next batter Mendick got less wood on a pitch (71 mph EV), but placed it perfectly, looping a single down the right-field line. Waino fell behind next batter Anderson 3-0, but fought back to get it 3-2.
Uncle Charlie struck again, as Anderson rolled a grounder directly up the middle. Tommy gloved it right at the bag and easily turned the inning-ending double play.
Top of 6th - Lefty reliever Ross Detwiler came in for the Sox and worked around a 1-out double.
Stepping in with a perfect 2-2 day, Dex turned around to bat righty. But he flew out to right to end perfection. Knizner, though, next zipped a line-drive into the left-center gap for a double. Robert bobbled it and Knizner briefly thought about third but stayed put. Bader couldn’t cash in on the RISP, as he skied a meaty 91 mph fastball right down the middle into foul territory beyond third that the SS Anderson gloved up against the railing for out 2.
Now Kolten had a shot at a RBI, but he squibbed a grounder to short, and he was thrown out.
Bottom of 6th - Giovanny Gallegos came on in relief. It was sweet relief.
Gallegos looked great against the heart of the Sox lineup (2-4), striking out Moncada, Grandal, and Abreu all swinging, using just 12 pitches total.
Top of 7th - Oh, yeah, I forgot! The last inning! Righty Jose Ruiz came in to pitch for the Sox. Alex Reyes (!) warmed up. The Cards could only muster a single.
Tommy Edman led off, getting jammed and rolling out slowly to second. Pauly G next got his first hit of the day, got jammed a little but muscled a looper into center for a single. Pillar of Meat followed by going to a full count. However, he got rung up on a slider he thought was outside but the ump felt warranted a strike. It was close.
Carpenter next flew out to center to end the inning.
Bottom of 7th - John Gant came in (sporting high socks) to close things out. The Reyes sighting was just a tease. (No offense, John.)
Lanky Johnny got his first man, Encarnacion to ground out softly to Goldy on a backed-up curve. Gant helped further by covering first for the out. Wasting no time, he next mowed down Jimenez on three pitches, handing him a backward K with a 95 mph fastball on the corner.
Gant, however hung a slider next to Luis Robert, who hammered it into the LF corner for a 2-out double (just their third hit today), giving the Sox hope. After going to a full count to Mazara, he got him to go fishing on a beauty change-up in the dirt.
Cards won 5-1!!!
The Bottom Line
- In the first inning, Carpenter’s RBI via HBP was his first ever (in 77 RBIs in that situation).
- Adam last pitched in the South Side in 2006. It’s the second-longest time between appearances in same park. (Jamie Moyer has the record.)
- Waino now has sole possession of third place all-time in Cards’ history in wins at 164. Bob Gibson (251) and Jesse Haines (210) are ahead of him.
- Sox reliever Ross Detwiler was born in St. Louis, played at Missouri State U.
- Goldschmidt’s lone hit today gave him a hit in every single stadium.
- Every Cardinal batter had at least one PA with a RISP.
- The Cards were 3-10 with RISP; the Sox were 0-4.