For people unable to watch the game today, the biggest question is probably: “How did Kwang-Hyun Kim look at starter?” The answer is okay. If you were to watch any pitcher make their MLB debut and have a roughly comparable debut to Kim’s, you would neither be swayed into believing in his MLB future nor dismayed at his MLB future. Not that one start should ever impact your opinion of a player’s MLB future, but if one were to, today’s start would answer no questions.
Thankfully, we have a history of Kim in the KBO and we know we have a bright future to look forward to. Through my opening paragraph, I simply hope to express that this specific start was neither encouraging nor discouraging. It was thoroughly mediocre, and if you had to choose a side, it was closer to not great than it was to great. But before it got to not great, Kim managed to keep himself on the right side and only allow one run through 4.2 IP in a pitch count mandated start.
The first inning actually is a good microcosm of his start. Kris Bryant popped up to begin the inning, but then he had trouble pitching to “standing on top of the plate” Anthony Rizzo and walked him on four pitches. Javier Baez lined a double to third and things didn’t look great, but then he made Ian Happ look like he never swung a bat before in his life and David Bote hit a weak groundout to escape the inning with no runs allowed.
After a 1-2-3 inning with no strikeouts in the 2nd, he ran into trouble again in his 3rd inning of work. Bryant singled this time, but he walked Rizzo again. He threw 7 pitches to Rizzo this time and the 3-2 deciding pitch was a pitch that was on the very corner of the strike zone. It probably wasn’t a strike, but it’s one of those things that annoys me because Rizzo gets the inside call too thanks to standing on top of the plate. What didn’t annoy me was the first pitch double play by Baez to just ruin any steam the Cubs appeared to have going. Willson Conteras lined out to Goldschmidt to end the inning.
Unfortunately, Happ looked much less helpless in his second plate appearance of the evening. He homered to left field on a 2-1 count. Kim’s pitch count had reached the breaking point after he got two more outs in the inning, and he was taken out with the bases empty on the 4th inning for John Gant. We’ll get back to Gant, but first let’s look at ht offense thus far.
I exaggerate, but Hendricks was predictably dealing. The first six batters he faced walked back to the dugout without getting on base. It includes two strikeouts, three groundouts, and a popout. Basically the most ideal outs that a pitcher can get. Brad Miller hit a ball to shallow center that Albert Almora made a diving catch on - weirdly this is foreshadowing. Then Dexter Fowler hit a ball that carried... and carried... and soon it was over the fence and 1-0 lead. A 1-0 lead that Happ soon tied. That was all the offense against Hendricks for a while. A 1-2-3 inning in the 4th, although two relatively deep flyouts indicated the Cards were seeing it a little better. An error on a ball hit by Miller was the only baserunner in the 5th. And it was another 1-2-3 inning in the 6th.
In the meantime, John Gant was dealing. He did not screw around. He struck out Almora on three pitches. He came back in the 5th inning and struck out Nico Hoerner on three pitches. After an uncharacteristic 2-1 groundout, he struck out Rizzo on three pitches too. He threw just 13 pitches to 4 batters with three strikeouts. It’s as good as he’s ever looked. Giovanny Gallegos pitched the 6th and looked about as good as he did Saturday with a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts with just 11 pitches.
In the top of the 7th, Hendricks wasn’t as sharp as he’d been all game and the Cards jumped on him. Paul Goldschmidt lined a double to left, and Tyler O’Neill worked, and I mean worked, a walk. O’Neill had struck out in his first two plate appearances against Hendricks, and it looked like it might go that way in his third. But he fouled off a 3-2 pitch and watched a curve go out of the zone. The Cubs elected to keep Hendricks in to face Carpenter, who laced a line drive single to load the bases. Dylan Carlson lined a ball right up the middle, but the Cubs were perfectly positioned and threw Goldschmidt out at home.
That was Hendricks last batter with Miller looking relatively competent against Hendricks in way most of the team did not. Rowan Wicks replaced him and Miller jumped on a 1-0 hanging curve for line drive double to left field. Two runners scored and they tried to get a third runner in, but Carlson was thrown out by a mile for the 2nd out of the inning. Fowler flied out to end the threat.
Gallegos came out for the 7th, but was replaced when Kyle Schwarber pinch-hit. Andrew Miller replaced him and he too looked about as good as he’s ever looked in a Cardinals uniform. He struck out Schwarber and then two groundouts to have a stress-free save. Let’s do it again tonight.
- Kim line: 3.2 IP, 1 K, 3 BBs, HR, 3 H - Well looking at his line, he didn’t look that bad. One of the walks was intentional - a first inning walk to load the bases for Happ.
- Bullpen line: 3.1 IP, 6 Ks - zero runs allowed, zero hits, zero anything. Absolutely perfect appearance by the bullpen
- I’ve got to get dinner in before the second game starts, but there’s hardly any notable batting lines. Miller gets the 2 RBI double and Fowler gets the HR, and that’s about it.
Tonight, I don’t know faces I don’t know as the Cardinals try to sweep the doubleheader.