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‘Pen Can’t Hold Tie Game Late, Cubs Take Game 2, 4-2

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Cards go 4-4 on “Whacky Windy City Tour”

MLB: Game Two-Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals
You done good, son.
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

While waiting for Game 2 to start, I worried about this Cardinals pitcher, who seems to be getting the runaround a lot lately:

“Must..stay...determined.”

Poor TBD got his hopes up once more before getting the rug pulled out from under him close to game time.

Instead, the Cards went with Johan Oviedo, yet another to debut for the Cards this season. The robusto Cuban (6’5”/245 lb) holds high promise for the Cards, as illustrated in this excerpt from Baseball Savant’s Scouting Report:

Oviedo can attack hitters with four quality offerings but is still learning how to harness his long levers and consistently execute his impressive stuff. He adds and subtracts with a plus fastball that sits 94-98 mph and plays up because the right-hander generates huge extension — more than 10 feet, at times — toward the plate. His high-spin-rate slider is a potential out pitch, thrown with tilt and late bite that helps him miss bats, and he gives hitters a different look by mixing in an average curveball. Oviedo rounds out his arsenal with a changeup that needs work but could be average once developed.

So he’s still a work in progress, Oviedo led all Cardinals farmhands in strikeouts (163) but also walks (76).

The Cubs went with 24-year-old righty Adbert Alzolay, their #7 ranked prospect. In 2019, he threw 65.1 innings at AAA Iowa with an eye-popping 94 Ks over that time, giving up 53 H and 31 BBs. That earned him a brief call-up last year (that, and maybe he’s also a really good dude), throwing 12.1 innings over 4 appearances (2 starts).

Just like me in high school, he’s a fastball, curve ball, change-up guy. His mix is 57%, 22%, and 21% respectively, And ya know, that’s super close to mine back in the day, too. Not sure why he made it and I didn’t. [Looks up fastball velo: 94 mph.] Oh.

To this point in Season 2.0, Old Man Waino has gone the longest into a game, throwing 5 full innings in the first game back against the Sox. With another debuter starting tonight, Waino’s record surely would be safe. Right?

The Cards donned the home greys once more.


The Bird’s-Eye View

With two inexperienced hurlers going at it, I was sure we were in for another bullpen game.

Wrong.

Young talent often is uneven, especially young pitching talent, which flashes, teases, disappoints, but often shines through. Oviedo showed a little bit of all of that tonight and did well enough to hang through 5 full innings to match Waino’s post-covid hiatus record.

After surviving loud outs in the first, Oviedo had a rough second, throwing 32 pitches in that frame alone and giving up 2 runs. When he remained in to face the 9-1-2 hitters in the third, however, it seemed it was up to him to eat as many innings as possible.

He kept the Cubs off the board from the second through his final inning in the fifth, but he not only was fortunate to do that, he was lucky to escape with his health. First, the just scary baseball runs part: in the third, he gave up a one-out triple, but that runner was erased at home by Wong on a contact play grounder,

Then the health scare part: In the fourth inning, beefy Kyle Schwarber led off by slamming a 109 mph liner right back toward Oviedo’s head. Fortunately, his youthful reflexes brought up his glove just in time in the right spot to snag it cleanly before making any contact. Schwarber was even shaken, remaining a few steps out of the box, staring at the youngster to make sure he was okay.

In between, the Cards made the Cubs’ young hurler look like a seasoned vet, as their first two hits of the night were 4 innings apart: between Wong’s single starting the game in the first and Carpenter’s single in the 6th (actually a would-be double that he was thrown out on at second).

But they did manage to scratch out a single a run in the 5th without a hit, thanks to a 2-base Cub error and a run-scoring sac fly. Then they tied the score at 2-2 in the 6th by actually sequencing two walks and a single.

The tie was quickly broken in the 7th when the Cubs hit 3 singles off veteran lefty Andrew Miller, but luckily, they were the variety that merely produced a bases loaded one-out situation instead of runs. Giovani Gallegos was brought in to get out of the jam, but he gave up a 2-strike single that plated two and produced the 4-2 lead the Cubs closed down with Craig Kimbrel in the 7th.


The Flight Path

Top of 1st - Two loud outs and K for Oviedo’s debut.

Oviedo jumped ahead of lead-off man Ian Happ 0-2 then he stuck a 95 mph fastball in but not enough in, and Happ smacked it hard (97 mph EV), but it was luckily right at Paul Goldschmidt for out 1. Next, Anthony Rizzo hammered a high heater even harder (106 mph EV), but the Cards were positioned perfectly, as Kolten Wong barely had to move from his spot in short RF to field the hot grounder and throw Rizzo out.

Oviedo decided to try missing Javier Baez’ bat, a good plan he carried out, striking out the free-swinger with a diving slider way down and away that the slugger whiffed terribly on four out 3.

Bottom of 1st - A lead-off single, but nuthin’ doin’.

The currently hot Wong (5 for his last 7 according to Danny Mac), took a 95 mph slightly up and in fastball the other way for a single to start thing off.

Dylan Carlson couldn’t advance him, however, as the talented youngster took a bad-looking swing at a 1-2 curve in the dirt that fooled him. With one out, Paul Goldschmidt got the count full but then got jammed on a fastball, rolling out to third for the second out, but Kolten was able to advance to second.

The young pitcher then got Matt Carpenter out on his front foot lunging at a way-low curve ball, lofting it to medium right-center to end the inning.

Top of 2nd (In Play, Run(s)) - Young Johan got 2 mound visits: one from Adam Knizner and one from Mike Maddux, so you know it wasn’t a smooth inning. He went to a full count on all 5 hitters he faced, throwing 32 pitches, giving up 2 runs.

Kyle Schwarber drew a lead-off walk during an at-bat with pitches that landed in all manner of areas of the zone, mostly outside of it.

Oviedo then increased the danger by walking Willson Conteras on six pitches to bring up Jason Heyward. He went 2-0 on him but then righted the ship to strike him out swinging on a 97 mph fastball in the upper third of the zone for the first out.

Now facing Victor Caratini, he started 2-0 for the 4th time this inning. He went to a full count for the 4th time, also including a wild pitch that advanced the runners to second and third. That hurt, because Caratini sent a ground-ball single up the middle that scored both runners. Bader’s throw from center was strong and accurate, but just a bit late to get Conterars, who also made a nice head-first slide to avoid Knizner’s sweep tag. 2-0 Cubs.

His battle against David Bote went much better, as he induced a grounder to Kolten, who started the 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.

Bottom of 2nd - A lead-off walk is supposed to be death for a pitcher. Didn’t turn out that way this time.

New fan favorite Brad Miller and addition to the Matt Carpenter Batting Glove-less Club, worked a lead-off walk. Canadian Strongman Tyler O’Neill then offered at his first pitch, skying a sun ball to right that Heyward caught easily for out 1.

Max Schrock couldn’t contribute to the inning, as he watched a 1-2 curve float over and kiss the outside of the zone for a called third strike.

Then on a 1-1 count to Knizner, Alzolay spiked a cuveball that jumped between the legs of catcher Caratini, rolling to the backstop allowing Miller to scamper to second.

Alas, Knizner couldn’t leverage the gift, as he, like Schrock got a backward K on a curve ball.

Top of 3rd - Oviedo escaped a one-out triple jam unscathed.

Ninth-place hitter Jason Kipnis started things off well for the Cards, striking out looking at a full-count high curve that just touched the top of the zone, much to the hitter’s dismay. Next Ian Happ sliced a liner deep down the LF line that the speedy TON darted toward, dove at, but just couldn’t glove, as it rolled to the wall for a one-out triple. Tyler’s left arm slid harshly against the foul area dirt. Fortunately, he didn’t have to be removed from the game for a tattoo injury.

Rizzo next bounced a grounder to Kolten’s left. The gold glover snagged it, spun and cooly threw a strike home to beat the breaking Happ, as Knizner had time to move up the line a bit to tag the runner before getting close.

Oviedo next was fortunate, as he hung a 1-2 slider on the top side of the zone, but Baez mis-timed it, popping out to Bader in shallow center to escape the inning.

Bottom of 3rd - Alzolay confidently set down the 9-1-2 Cards hitters 1-2-3 with no problem.

Bader began the inning by chopping a grounder to Bote at third who was playing in and hand to lunge high to his left to snag it and throw him out just in time. Wong then was retired by striking out swinging on a tight slider.

Dylan then struck out for the second time in his 2 at-bats, tipping a change-up into Caratini’s mitt.

Top of 4th - Oviedo remained in. He was very fortunate. Especially against the first batter who rocketed a screamer right back at him.

Schwarber led off and cranked a 1-0 95 mph fastball right back toward Oviedo’s face at 109 mph. Thankfully, the youngster got his glove up just in time and in the right spot, gloving it cleanly for the out. It was scary as hell, as his follow-through had him turned sideways toward the plate, and it looked headed right for his lower or right jaw.

The trainer checked on him anyway, seemingly to make sure his glove and/or pitching hand didn’t get knicked by that laser.

Staying in, he next got fortunate two more times, as next hitters Contereas and Heyward flew out deep to the LF corner (95 mph EV) and CF track (105 mph), respectively.

Bottom of 4th - A would-be one-out double turned into a second out.

Like in his first at-bat, Goldschmidt grounded out to third. Next, Carpenter cranked a high line drive to left center that hit off the top of the ivy, for a sure double, right? Especially with Schwarber in LF, right? Wrong. The ball bounced cleanly on one hop to Kyle, who bare-handed it, turned, and fired in one motion, throwing a dart at the bag, and Matt was out. Miller then grounded out to second to end the frame.

Top of 5th - Welcome to the 5th-Inning Stretch, everyone! Oviedo had a nice, clean, sharp 3 up, 3 down inning.

Caratini started the 5th by grounding out weekly to Goldy at first; then, Oviedo followed that up by striking out Bote on a sharp curve down and away for the first two outs. Kipnis then grounded out on an easy slow grounder right at Goldy, who took it himself to end the inning.

Bottom of 5th (In Play Run(s)) - A little good fortune and an executed man on third, 1-out situation put the Cards on the board.

Tyler led off by bouncing an easy grounder to third. Bote gloved it but threw just a bit high, and Rizzo seemed to raise his mitt nonchalantly, and it tipped off his mitt and bounced up against the wall behind first, and into the netting, so Tyler was awarded 2B. They gave the error to Bote, but it shoulda been Rizzo’s.

Schrock then grounded out to the pitcher, who went to first and Tyler aggressively advanced to third. Now with a good run-scoring shot with one out, Knizner came through, hitting a long fly to deep center that allowed Tyler to easily tag and score, making it 2-1 Cubs.

Bader couldn’t re-start a rally, striking out on a breaking pitch low and away, a story you’ve heard before.

Top of 6th - Genesis Cabrera came in to relieve. Good lord, he seems like a veteran after seeing so many youngsters. The curve was working.

Genesis started well, striking out Happ swinging on a 1-2 curve in the dirt that Knizner blocked and threw to Goldy for out 1.

Next, Rizzo grounded right to Kolten’s position well into the grass in right, easily retiring the slugger. To bookend the inning, Genesis busted off another nice hook this one on a 2-2 count to Baez, who could only watch it loop and land right down the middle.

Bottom of 6th (In Play, Run(s)) - Jeremy Jeffress came in to attempt to bridge the game for the Cubs. He started a rally for the Cards with back-to-back walks against the first two batters. It came back to bite him.

With time fast running out in this game, the Cards had the top of the lineup start this frame. Kolten couldn’t start things, though, as he bounced out weekly to second. Next, Dylan, who was having a tough 0-2, 2-strikeout day, got into a favorable 3-1 count then drew a walk.

Pauly G followed that with a walk of his own to make it first and second no outs with Carpenter stepping in. He couldn’t make anything further happen, flying out to deep-ish left.

Brad Miller next got to a full count then slapped a splitter the other way for a single to left, scoring Dylan without a throw to tie the score 2-2!

Tyler then tomahawked his first pitch, a missile on a line into left at 104 mph that zipped right to Schwarber for the unfortunate final out.

Top of 7th (In Play, Run(s)) - Ancient, old, creaky, old guy Andrew Miller came in to show how the senior circuit does it. He didn’t do it well.

Miller got ahead of Schwarber 0-2 then got jobbed on a called ball that woulda rung him up. Of course, Kyle then singled just to the left of the diving Miller at short for a single into left. Albert Almora came in to run for Kyle.

Contreras followed that with a single of his own into left to make it first and second. Heyward next squared to bunt on the first 3 pitches but didn’t make any contact. Miller then struck him out with that wicked-when-on sweeping slider for out 1.

Now Miller was looking for a ground ball, but he got a low liner off the bat of pinch-hitter Nico Hoerner past Max Schrock at third, diving to his left. Fortunately, it was hit hard enough to get to O’Neill in left too quickly to allow Almora to score.

Now with bases loaded and one out, Shildt brought in Giovanny Gallegos to extinguish this blaze and keep the game tied. He looked sharp getting ahead of Bote 0-2, but then he didn’t elevate the fastball enough, and David singled it to center to score Almora and Contreras to make it 4-2 Cubs.

Hoerner tried to make it to third but was called out on a throw from Bader to Knizner to Schrock. The Cubs challenged, but the out call stood.

Now with a runner just at first and 2 outs, Gallegos ended the inning by striking out Kipnis.

Bottom of 7th - The Redbirds hit in the home half of the 7th at Wrigley, the last inning. Welcome to 2020 Cards baseball. The husk of Craig Kimbrel came in to see if he could remember what it felt like to be a shut-down closer.

Schrock led off to try to start the comeback rally but instead put the first out up by watching a knuckle curve go by for a called strike 3. Knizner then battled him pretty well, but couldn’t hold up on a sweeping knuckle curve, waving badly at it and become the second strikeout of the inning.

Tommy Edman came in to pinch hit for Bader to serve as the last hope, and he did a great Jon Jay impression, standing his ground against an inside breaking pitch, letting it hit him in the front leg to earn a trip to first. It wasn’t vintage but-ball Jay, but Jon woulda been proud nonetheless.

That brought Kolten up to try to keep the game on life support. He got a great middle-of-the-zone fastball to hit on 2-1, but it was 97 mph and he swung through it, to make it 2-2. after fouling off 2 pitches, Wong took a close up and in pitch and got it called a ball. So now at 3-2, the opposite happened, as Kimbrel broke off another knuckle curve down and in that Kolten stared at for the final strike and end to the game.

Cards lost, 4-2.


The Bottom Line

  • Three singles and 3 walks is not a productive night for your hitters. They were lucky to even score 2 runs, one of which was set up by a Cub error.
  • They were not overall unlucky, either, as they had just 5 total batted balls hit over 95 mph EV.
  • And yet they at least had 6 RISP but had but one hit in that situation.
  • Brad Miller served as the bright spot offensively for the Cards, going 1-2 with a walk and an RBI, leading the team in WPA at .216.
  • A big pat on the back for youngster Johan Oviedo, whose biggest contribution was toeing the rubber for 5 innings, but also had a solid night, (especially for a young debuter):
    2 R, 2 H (one XBH, a triple), 4 SO, 2 BBs.
    Lots of seasoned pitchers, especially these days, would take that.
  • The game flipped upon Andrew Miller’s appearance in the 6th, when he loaded the bases then handed that one-out mess to Gallegos, whose 2-strike mistake to Bote resulted in the tie-breaking, 2-run hit the Cards couldn’t come back from.
Cliff dive in the 6th.