There’s an alternate way the Cardinals game could have played out. In this alternate version, I learn Jack Flaherty is only supposed to pitch to nine batters and I spend the rest of the game frustrated and deflated. And to be clear, this did happen to me. I did not know the plan was for Flaherty to only go through the order once. But when I found this information out, the Cardinals were winning 5-1 and I was just happy the offense showed up.
It’s nice when the Cardinals treat an opposing pitcher the way he’s supposed to be treated. The first three teams that Alec Mills faced did not. This created the illusion that Alec Mills is a good pitcher, with a 2.84 ERA across those three starts. He is not. Anybody watching him pitch today would not mistake him for a good pitcher either. Because the Cardinals treated him like the pitcher he is, and when they don’t, I know it’s extremely frustrating as a fan.
The Cardinals did not waste any time. Kolten Wong, who seems to bow to the god of OBP now that he’s moved to leadoff, let a ball hit him. When I say he let it him him, I mean the ball could have been avoided and he just stood there. On a 1-0 count, Tommy Edman hit a slow roller up the middle. Wong, running on the play, advanced to third. Mills tried to pitch to Paul Goldschmidt without throwing a strike, a strategy that was partially successful until Goldschmidt took ball 4 on the seventh pitch.
Which brought up Matt Carpenter. Mills threw a slow, 66 mph curveball that moved too much to stay in the zone. He threw a changeup that was much less close than that for ball two. Carpenter wasn’t there to just let him walk him though, so he swung at the next pitch - in the zone - and hit it foul. And then Mills placed a 91 mph sinker pretty much right down the middle. Carpenter was ready. And he treated the ball like it deserved and hit a grand slam. It looked like the Cards might add to the lead when Brad Miller walked after Carpenter, but three decently hit flyouts followed to end the threat.
In Flaherty’s first inning of work, he was jolted with a surprise home run from Ian Happ and then a line drive that Dylan Carlson had to made a nice catch on. He settled down and struck out the next two batters he faced. In his second inning of work, he struggled a bit more. He walked Willson Contreras. After a groundout, he walked Jason Kipnis. Then another strikeout. Then a hit by pitch. And he was done. He threw 41 pitches to those 9 batters. Austin Gomber replaced him, and struck out Happ on three pitches.
In the top of the 3rd, Brad Miller led off with a single, but tried to stretch it into a double. He was safe. He was called out. The Cardinals elected to not challenge it for... reasons. Which hurt a little when Tyler O’Neill then doubled himself right after Miller, but was left on 2nd to end any threat. In the bottom of the inning, Gomber struggled a lot. A Herculean diving play by Kolten Wong on a 100+ mph groundball was the first out of two quick outs, but then he hit Schwarber, and walked the next two batters. He got Jason Kipnis to slowly groundout before anything happened thankfully.
In the top of the 4th, Mills was still surviving. Wong singled with one out, and then stole 2nd base. After Wong popped up, Cubs manager David Ross - still a weird thing to type - didn’t want to press his luck with the Mills versus Goldschmidt matchup. But Brad Underwood Jr. was barely better, and Goldschmidt singled home the sixth run.
Tyler Webb came out for the 4th - he’s been demoted apparently - and he looked not a whole lot better than Monday, but somehow struck out two guys in a scoreless inning. This by the way is why, given the bullpen situation, I found it hard to complain about Webb’s usage Monday. He never really looks good to me. And yet the results were there today. Mike Shildt apparently agreed with me about how Webb was looking because had John Gant warming.
Webb came back out for the start of the 5th, got Anthony Rizzo out, and then ceded the ball to Gant. To describe how Gant looked, just imagine an MVP deserving reliever, if you can. Just hitters who are wondering what’s the point of coming to the plate. He struck out Javy Baez on three pitches, then Schwarber hit a slow groundout on the first pitch he saw. 4 pitches, 2 outs. Gant came back out for the 6th, and he struck out Hernan Perez and then made a very nice play on a ball hit back to him. He left the game with just 13 pitches thrown, so he is probably available tomorrow if needed.
In between the innings that Gant threw, the Cards padded their lead. Dylan Carlson finally had some luck, with a slow roller up the middle make it past the infielders. Carlson stole second at the same time Matt Wieters struck out. Kolten Wong walked to put runners at first and second. Edman added another hit to make it 7-1. After Goldschmidt walked to load the bases again for Carpenter, Carpenter struck out looking on 3-2. But Brad Miller doubled to score two more runs after him to make it 9-1. That Brad Miller fella has been a welcome surprise. I say that as someone who championed his signing too.
Ricardo Sanchez replaced Gant with two outs in the 6th and got Victor Caratini to fly out. He came back out for the 7th and struggled a bit more. With one out, he walked Happ, and then allowed a two-run home run to Josh Phegley, who probably wouldn’t be in the majors if not for the 28 man roster. And then Schwarber half swung at a ball that Sanchez fielded and threw out for the win.
- Flaherty line - 1.2 IP, 3 Ks, 2 BBs, HBP, HR, ER, 41 pitches thrown - He didn’t look like Flaherty, but he also looked very close to Flaherty, so I think we’ll see the man we’re all familiar with show up soon.
- Wong had a hell of a game. Probably the player of the game. He went 2-2 with a BB and HBP. He scored four runs, stole a base, and made a nice slide into home for one of the runs. He also made a diving play on a 100+ mph groundout.
- Miller too had a good game. He went 2-3 with a BB and 2 RBIs.
- Let’s do this again tonight with Johan Oviedo starting soon.