The Fan Graphs pre-game Win Expectancy odds were quite un-favorable to El Birdos: 61.8% Cubs; 38.2% Cards. But that’s no big surprise given the uncertainty surrounding the Redbirds’ re-start to the season.
The pitching match-up certainly provided for uncertainty, pitting uber-prospect but little-seen Alex Reyes, with 54 total pitches thrown in The Show (46 of them waaay back in 2016) and rookie righty Tyson Miller, who’s thrown [looks at his B-Ref page] 0.
Alex “I’m Still Here” Reyes - Since 2016, Alex threw just 4 IP in 2018 and 3 IP in 2019, because of various injuries (one self-induced). Alex did shine in his 1 inning of work so far this season last Saturday vs. the White Sox, hitting 100 on the gun, striking out the side on 18 pitches. Oh, you tease.
Tyson “Bible Thumper Miller - The Cubs countered with someone I’ve not heard of and for good reason. Tyson Miller, a 25-year-old righty, bounced between AA and AAA in 2019. A 2016 4th-Round pick out of California Baptist University and the Cubs #25 prospect, Tyson logged 136.2 innings last season, resulting in a 4.35 ERA , giving up 132 hits but striking out 123 and walking 43 for rates of 8.2 K/ and 1.8 BB/9. So the Cubs saw something in him is what I’m sayin’.
The jerseys the Cards donned for Game 2 were still grey, but they were “home greys,” as El Birdos served as the home team.
After everyone thoroughly washed their hands not just to remove germs but also the sticky juice from orange slices delivered by Mrs. Shildt, Game 2 went down.
The Bird’s-Eye View
Both teams took the same approach with their pitching staffs in this game: throw youngsters out there in brief stints for a bullpen game. While it wasn’t pretty, it worked great for the Cards until the 6th, when the Cubs put 4 on the board to ruin everything.
Alex Reyes starting should’ve given you a clue this was to be a game of penned bulls. Hard to say what the initial plan/hope was for his outing, but Wild Alex showed up, and his 24 pitches ended his night after a nutty first frame. Those 24 pitches (10 strikes!) produced two strikeouts but also 3 walks and 1 wild pitch.
A trio of the next Cards’ relievers actually kept the Cubs hitless until 1 out in the terrible 6th. Sure, they gave up 6(!) walks during that time, but hey! No hits!
Despite all those walks by the youngsters, it was a key one by 30-year-old Tyler Webb that helped turn the game in the 6th. But Webb wasn’t missing bats with his strikes, either.
With a runner on first and 1 out in the 6th (can you tell the 6th was key?), Webb promptly gave up a run-scoring double to make it 4-2. But the bigger sin was walking the next batter to bring the winning run to the plate. Next batter David Bote became just that, as he deposited a homer to center to put the Cubs on top 5-4. Webb walked another guy just for good measure.
That fateful inning spoiled a “Have a Night” night by Brad Miller, who was 2-2 with 2 dingers and a walk. And immediately after Miller’s second homer, which put the Cards on top in the 4th 3-1, Max Schrock got his first Major League dinger in that cool, back-to-back way to make it 4-1 Cards.
When the Bullpen Musical Chairs stopped, the teams used 12 pitchers total, 6 each. The Cards’ arms did not like using their defense, getting 10 strikeouts but also issuing 9 walks. With all the walks, the Cubs didn’t need many hits, and they had just 3 total.
It’s just that one of them was a difference-making 3-run home-run.
The Flight Path
Top of 1st - The Yin and Yang that is Alex Reyes was on display, and it put the Cubs on the board.
LOL. On a 1-2 count, Reyes broke off a cray-cray hook wide of the plate that Kris Bryant couldn’t hold up on, as it caromed off the back wall. Adam Knizner retrieved it in time to throw out Bryant at first for a strikeout. (Technically a strike-’em-out/throw-’em-out, no?)
Reyes next walked Anthony Rizzo, however, an a full-count 97 mph fastball just barely wide. Javier Baez had a similar fate as Bryant, as he couldn’t hold up against a curve ball, this one that bounce in front of the plate that Knziner successfully blocked.
Forgoing the curve ball against Kyle Schwarber, young Alex fired all fastballs. Unfortunately, none hit the zone for a 4-pitch walk to make it first and second 2 outs.
He went back to the slider/fastball combo against Wilson Contreras and went to 3-2 but walked him. Then on the first pitch to Ian Happ, he threw a wild pitch that brought home Rizzo. Knizner initially had trouble corralling it at the backstop, so Schwarber also broke for home. Andrew got the ball in time, though to throw out the burly Schwarber.
Bottom of 1st - A 2-out walk was it for the first frame.
Tommy Edman bounced a ground-out to short for out 1. Dylan Carlson then smoked a hot-shot grounder (107 mph EV), but it was right at the sure-handed second baseman Baez, who fielded it cleanly and tossed him out at first.
Paul Goldschmidt kept it from becoming a 3 up, 3 down inning by working a walk on 6 pitches. Canadian Strongman Tyler O’Neill ended things there, however, grounding out to Bryant at third, who forced Goldy at second for out 3.
Top of 2nd - Reyes’ night was done after his one inning of 24-pitch work. Another Cardinal debut came in the form of lefty Ricardo Sanchez, who faced 3 lefties and one switch hitter.
Sanchez got a nice memento as a result of striking out lefty Ian Happ swinging for his first K in The Show, and Knizner rolled the ball in the dugout for safe keeping.
Sanchez next faced one-time brief Cardinal lefty Jason Heyward, getting him to sky out to -deep-ish center into Harrison Bader’s glove.
Perhaps getting ahead of himself, Ricardo next walked righty-swinging Victor Caratini on four straight pitches. Veteran Jason Kipnis stepped in to get back to the lefty-on-lefty action, and Sanchez induced a fly-out to right fielder Dylan Carlson.
Bottom of 2nd (In Play, Run(s)) - The Cards got on the board with a LOUD homer. Even their outs were loud, which was good to hear.
Matt Carpenter busted out an oldie but a goodie: the lead-off walk. Then Brad Miller absolutely ambushed a first-pitch “PLEASE HIT ME” 92.8 mph fastball up in the zone that he crushed loudly (106 mph EV), sending it deep into left-center (420 ft) for a 2-run homer, making it 2-1 Cards!
Max Schrock next got good wood on one of his own (99 mph EV), but unfortunately, it lasered right to Heyward in RF for out 1. Knizner thought that was a good thing to try, and he smacked a liner to left (97 mph EV), but likewise, it was an out that landed in Schwarber’s mitt.
After Bader drew a walk, he broke for 2B before the pitcher even made a move, forcing him into a balk (but he would’ve made it anyway).
Now the Cards turned the lineup over, but Tommy Edman couldn’t take advantage. Not without trying, though, as he also had hard luck, hitting a hard grounder (101 mph EV) but right at Anthony Rizzo, who dove at the bag to beat the speedy Tommy.
Top of 3rd - Sanchez remained in. and continued to do well, keeping the Cubs at bay.
Ricardo got himself another strikeout, making lead-off hitter Bryant his second victim tonight, getting him to swing through a fastball.
The youngster, however, next walked Rizzo (his 4th walk on the day), who didn’t bite on the inside pitches Sanchez hurled.
Ricardo then did a good thing against free-swinging Baez, throwing a 2-2 change-up near the dirt that he swung from his heels at, popping up to Schrock at second for out 2.
He didn’t need as many pitches to set down Schwarber, striking him out on 3 offerings, the last a nice sweeping slider.
Bottom of 3rd - Righty Ryan Tepera replaced Tyson Miller for the Cubs. He was in love with his slider.
Dylan Carlson led off, and Danny Mac jinxed him by calling his first Big League home run, forcing the youngster to immediately strike out on a down-and-in slider for out 1. The young hurler also got Goldschmidt to wave over a slider for back-to-back Ks. Guess what? After third hitter O’Neill laid off a 2-2 slider to get the count full, he swung over another slider to strike out. (Okay, Gameday called it a cutter, but that ruins this half-inning’s theme.)
Top of 4th - Lefty Rob Kaminsky now toed the rubber in relief. He faced the minimum guys necessary to get through an inning.
Rob started off by inducing Contreras to ground out to Carpenter at third off a slider. Next batter Happ next hit a low fastball on the ground to Tommy at short, who retired him for out 2. Bored with grounders, Rob mixed it up by striking out Heyward with a nicely placed 92 mph fastball on the outside corner that tipped into Knizner’s mitt for an inning-ending K.
Bottom of 4th (In Play, Runs(s))- Lefty Kyle Ryan replaced Tepera. A couple of Cards’ hitters turned their backs on him.
I think Brad Miller likes hitting at Wrigley. After homering in the 2nd, dude hit another one, going oppo, lining one out to left into the basket to make it 3-1!
Up next, Schrock also duplicated his hard contact in the 2nd, but this time, instead of it landing in a glove, it landed over the fence for his first Major League homer to up the lead to 4-1!
A Schrocket— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) August 18, 2020
...and a back-to-back jack! pic.twitter.com/oAutVuUeOu
[Jimmy Ballgame noted that Yadi texted him after Miller’s homer to say he’s hitting so well because he’s wearing #15. LOL Yadi.]
Perhaps Knizner was a little too anxious to get his back into one, as Ryan re-grouped to strike out the young catcher on three pitches.
Bader then stepped in and cranked a one-hop sizzler (105 mph) to the shortstop area that the shifted 2nd baseman Kipnis fielded. The velocity backed him up a step, and he threw high to first, and the lightning-fast Bader busted down the line to beat the throw. He hit the base awkwardly, and limped a bit after, but stayed in.
Edman next rapped a hard grounder to Baez’ left, as the shortstop dove but could only knock it down with no throw for an infield single as Bader advanced to second.
Righty Duane Underwood, Jr. came in to relieve Ryan.
Young Dylan, looking to get in on the fun and his first hit of the night, instead looked at a called third strike go by, a 1-2 change-up right down the middle he couldn’t pull the trigger on, looking like he was looking for something else.
Top of 5th - Lanky lefty Genesis Cabrera came in to get outs from the Bullpen Carousel. Kolten Wong came in to play 2B. The on-field microphones were good.
Genesis did not start off well, walking lead-off hitter Caratini on 4 straight. After going to a full count on Kipnis, Cabrera got him to swing through a curve that actually was up and in, a bit out of the zone, inducing a clearly heard F-bomb from the disappointed hitter.
Kris Bryan then got jammed on a high and tight heater, floating it to Tommy at short, who easily gloved it and fired to first. Goldy, having to move to his right a bit with Caratini diving back into the bag, dropped the very catchable ball that would’ve been an inning-ending DP.
No harm, no foul. Cabrera kept calm and induced a weak, pop-out off the bat of Rizzo Wong caught on the grass.
Bottom of 5th - Underwood remained in to pitch for the Cubs, he set the Cards down in order.
Goldy started things off by sending a deep fly to right, but Heyward caught it a step in front of the track just to the left of the well for out 1.
Next, Tyler got totally jobbed on a called strike 3 that was well outside of the zone. To his credit, he just headed to the dugout.
Carpenter went the other way, flying out to Schwarber in left for the final out.
Top of 6th (In Play, Run(s))- The one where a pitcher with an age that doesn’t start with a 2 came in to pitch. The old guy didn’t do well.
A Cabrera/Baez match-up was the height of unpredictability. You never know where a Genesis pitch will end up, and you never know what Baez will swing at. This time, a Cabrera curve hit Baez on the lower-left leg. That’s about right.
After swinging and missing on the first two heaters, Schwarber tried to bunt and struck out by fouling it down the 3B line. Guess he didn’t feel good about his swing.
With one on and one out, Shildt pulled Genesis for lefty veteran(!) Tyler Webb.
Contreras greeted Webb rudely doubling off the ivy in left for their first hit of the game, scoring Baez from first to make it 4-2.
Next Ian Happ tried to bunt for a base hit, but Webb fielded it and threw him out while Contreras advanced to third.
Now with two outs, Webb walked Heyward to bring the winning run to the plate in the form righty pinch-hitter David Bote, replacing Caratini. That strategy worked, as Bote hammered a meatball 90 mph fastball slightly down but down the middle, making it 5-4 Cubs.
Still not doing well, Webb next walked (of course), Kipnis. After a mound visit, Tyler finally regrouped to get Bryant to ground into a force-out on a grounder from Carpenter at third to Wong at second, barely beating Kipnis to the bag.
Bottom of 6th - Righty Dan Winkler came in for the Cubs. Contrareras went from DH to catch. Bote stayed in to play 2B. A lead-off walk went nowhere.
Hero of the Day Brad Miller led off with a very lead-off guy thing and walked to put the tying run on. Getting his first at-bat of the night, Kolten Wong stepped in and jammed himself, popping up to the catcher behind the plate.
The inning quickly ended thereafter, as Knizner pounded the first pitch he saw in the dirt to third, and Bryant went around the horn for the double play.
Top of 7th - Bearded righty Nabil Crismatt now came in to do some debut relief pitching. The Cubs threatened, but came up empty.
Rizzo greeted Nabil’s first-pitch curve ball by banging it to right-center for a lead-off walk. He did a smart thing next, though, by throwing mostly not-strikes to Baez, getting him to strike out swinging on a change-up (splitter?) in the dirt for out 1.
After intentionally walking Schwarber to set up the DP, Contreras stepped in to try to do otherwise. Albert Almora ran for Schwarber. It almost worked as Contreras chopped one to Carpenter at third. He flung to Wong at 2B, and Kolten tried to make the turn quickly, but Contreras runs well and beat the throw, which also forced Goldy off the bag.
Now it was first and third, 2 outs, with Happ up. On 2-2, Crismatt broke off a nice low curve, getting Happ to swing over it for strike 3 to get out of the inning unscathed.
Bottom of 7th - Jeremy Jeffress came in to close the game out for the Cubs. Almora stayed in to play CF; Happ moved to LF with Schwarber out. The Cards went quietly.
Dexter Fowler came in to pinch-hit for Bader and promptly grounded out to second on the first pitch he saw. Edman had the same fate as Dex, bouncing out harmlessly to second, just on the 5th pitch. Now it was up to Dylan, and he hacked at the first pitch, a knuckle-curve at the top of the zone, fouling out to Bryant in foul territory.
Cards lost, 5-4.
The Bottom Line
- Of the 132 pitches thrown by Cards’ hurlers, 71 were strikes (54%).
- Brad Miller’s 2-homer night was the 12th multi-homer game of this career.
- The broadcast’s “Bud Light Seltzer Plays of the Game” were Miller’s 2 home runs.
Shouldn’t that be the Miller Light Seltzer Plays of the Game?
- Brad Miller had a WPA of .355; Bote’s was .413. Ballgame.
- Dex went into the RF stands to retrieve Schrock’s first Major League home run ball for him.
- 2 more Major League debuts tonight were relief pitchers:
Ricardo Sanchez: 2 IP; 0 R; 0 H; 2 BB, 3 SO
Nabil Crismatt: 1 IP; 0 R; 1 H; 1 BB; 2 SO
- The Cubs were but 1-4 with RISP. Gee, wonder what that 1 was?
- The Cards were 0-2 with RISP.
- The Cubs still have not blown a save this year despite a 5.88 bullpen ERA.
- The Cards next play a single game (thankfully) against the Cubs tomorrow night with Ponce de Leon going against Yu Darvish at 7:15 CT.