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Cards Walk the Blank in 2-0 Loss to Buccos

Offense AWOL as Pirates sweep double header

Pittsburgh Pirates v St Louis Cardinals - Game Two
Is it pretty, or is it doomy?
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

So, did you enjoy your first instance of 2020-Brand Free Baseball in Game 1?
That coulda gone better. Game 2 certainly coulda gone better as well.

Despite the Buccos taking Game 1, they obviously still have Cards-envy, as their starting pitcher for Game 2 of the DH today was Cody Ponce, but they didn’t have enough in the budget for a full de Leone. Good thing Daniel of the Cards wasn’t pitching tonight, as I always use Ponce for him as short-hand. Perhaps Cody pronounces it Pon-see. I choose not.

Cody was called up from the Taxi squad the first week of August, and they totally kept the meter running while he popped into a 7-Eleven to get some Big League Chew. He’s had all of 3.1 innings pitched to this point, but in that brief time, it looks like he threw the kitchen sink at hitters, using 5 pitches: cutter (37%), curve (25%), 4-seamer (22%), changeup (9%), and sinker (5%).

Fellow youngster Johan Oviedo went up against Ponce and is a vet in comparison, having pitched a whole 5 innings in 2020. Johan did that in his debut vs. the Cubs on August 19, and he did well, giving up 2 runs on 2 hits, 2 walks, and 4 strikeouts. He’s mainly a 4-seamer (52%)/slider (32%) guy, with the occasional curve and change-up.

Young Ponce out-dueled Oviedo in this one.

The Bird’s-Eye View

There were not many instances got you on the edge of your couch, love seat, or wicker hanging egg chair in the second game of this DH. The Pirates’ Cody Ponce stayed out of danger all night, “scattering” a smattering of 5 hits over 5.2 innings. And heck, even three of those 5 hits were for extra bases: 2 doubles and a triple.

The frustrating thing is there was a good combo that should’ve at least prevented the Cards from getting shut out: El Birdos put at least one runner on base in every inning (but the 4th) and only struck out 3 times [looks at box score again] yes, 3 times. The problem was what happened all those other times they put the ball in play. For example, the Pirates got double plays in both the first and second innings to end threats.

If you were a percentages kinda person, you could blame some bad luck, as the Cards made hard contact (more than 95 mph EV) on 6 batted balls all night (5 off Ponce), and 4 went for outs. A raw data person would remind you they only hit the ball hard 6 times.

Meanwhile, Oviedo wasn’t fooling the Pirates, as he had didn’t get his first strikeout until the 5th inning, and he got extremely fortunate, as he gave up 10 instances of hard contact and only 3 of those produced hits.

Through the 5th, both teams had 3 hits, but the Pirates clustered them. The Pirates broke out on top 2-0 in the third by combining a walk and three singles (helped by a wild pitch), proving it’s not always how big the hits by when you get them. That was underscored even more, seeing as the Pirates did not have an extra-base hit all night.

Turns out, the Pirates 2 runs in third was all they needed, as the Cards could just not put anything together. Their best shot happened in the 5th, when Dylan Carlson led off with a double. Problem was, the next three hitters Max Schrock, Harrison Bader, and Tommy Edman went pop-out, pop-out, strikeout.

Two Pirate relievers finished the game, yielding no hits and no walks with one strikeout, and that was all she wrote.

The Flight Path

Top of 1st - Oviedo mixed his heater, slider, and curve, totaling just 11 pitches for a 3-up, 3-down opening inning.

On a 2-2 count, Oviedo flung a good low slider that Erik Gonzalez lined to third-baseman Tommy Edman. Adam Frazier followed with a quick 2-pitch at-bat, grouping out firmly (95 mph EV) to Paul DeJong for the second out. Bryan Reynolds then lifted a high, lazy can ‘o corn to Tyler O’Neill in left to end the frame.

Bottom of 1st - The first documented instance this game of an 0-fer RISP situation. A 2-out RISP, in fact.

Tommy Edman got a shot to lead off, with Kolten Wong getting the night off to watch some Netflix, do some Soduko, or work on his oil painting. Maybe all three.

Tommy got down quickly 0-2 and mis-timed a high curve, but plunked it over short for a bloop base hit. He briefly thought about a double, but wisely returned to first. Paul DeJong, who didn’t play in Game 1, stepped in and got a meat-ball 88 mph cutter right down central, but he got on top of it, grounding it to JT Riddle at third, who went around the horn for a 5-4-3 DP.

Paul Goldschmidt, got into a good hitter’s count, as they say, and on 3-1, bounced one down the first-base line just inside the bag, (1Bman Josh Bell had been playing well off the line) for a 2-out double, giving Brad Miller a 2-out RISP chance with 2 outs.

Miller couldn’t take advantage, swinging at a pitcher’s pitch, as they say, on an 0-2 count, not getting good wood on actually a hanging curve, flaring out to left to end the inning.

Top of 2nd - Two instances of loud contact fortunately went for outs.

Dangerous Josh Bell hammered a meaty 93 mph fastball into right, (exiting off his bat at a whopping 108 mph) but fortunately, Dylan Carlson didn’t have to move far to snag it for the initial out. Gregory Polanco next barreled (103 mph EV) a 3-2 slider that was over but low, golfing it to deep right, but Dylan gloved it at the track. Sixth-place hitter Cole Tucker went down much more quietly, getting jammed on a nice 95 mph fastball on the inner half, grounding out to Max Schrock.

Bottom of 2nd - The first two reached to start a promising inning that suddenly no longer was.

Canadian Strongman Tyler O’Neill, fed a mixture of curves, cutters, and heaters, digested a 6-pitch at-bat and spit back out a walk to lead things off. Yadier Molina, duh, catching in both games of the DH, knocked a single to center, reaching a down-and-away cutter. just enough (72 mph EV, LOL), to make it first and second.

Dylan, however, grounded one right into the shift up the middle, and the shortstop gloved it right at the bag, took it himself, and fired to first for the Pirates second DP of the game already. If two outs on one pitch wasn't fast enough, Max Schrock next grounded out to first on the first pitch he saw. Just like that, inning over.

Top of 3rd (In Play, Run(s)) - The Pirates hitters went station-to-station, going 2-4 with RISP, making it 2-0. That’s how that works.

Jose Osuna started the third off by flying out weakly to center that Harrison Bader raced in on to catch on the run, his heavy locks flinging his cap off in the process. Oviedo lost his control suddenly on JT Riddle, walking him on 4-straight pitches after an 0-1 count.

Looking for their first double play of the game, Oviedo went to 3-2 on John Ryan Murphy (after the ump missed a clear strike 3 slider). With the runner Riddle on first running, Murphy pulled a slider that was middle-away but caught too much of the zone, and banged a single into left. Tyler bobbled it briefly, but the runner at second went no farther (further?) than that.

Johan needed to take a breath, as he uncorked a wild pitch on his second pitch to Erik Gonzalez, to make it 2nd and 3rd, one out. Gonzales then leveraged that situation, knocking a single into left between Tommy and Pauly D to plate one and make it 1st and 3rd, one out.

A mound visit tried to give the youngster some time to re-group. Smelling blood, Adam Frazier smacked a low 95 mph fastball for a line-drive single to center that ratcheted up the score to 2-0 Pirates.

Bryan Reynolds followed by grounding to Paul Goldschmidt, who got the force at second, but the relay back to first was not in time. So that brought Josh Bell up with two outs and runners on first and third, but fortunately, he flew out to center on a first-pitch slider to finally end the long inning.

Bottom of 3rd - A lucky hit led to a rare put-out to deflate a potentially promising inning that disappointed.

Bader became Ponce’s first strikeout victim, whiffing on a high heater nowhere close to the zone on an 0-2 count. Well, at least it wasn’t a slider.

Tommy, in his second plate appearance, worked the count full and laid off an up-and-away fastball to reach base. Then Paul DeJong floated a fly ball to very shallow right, as both the RFer and 2Bman went for it, but it dropped between them. Edman was in no-man’s land, and he didn’t reach second in time, as RFer Osuna fired to second for the rare 9-6 put-out, aided by a nice stretch by Gonzalez, who always wanted to be a first baseman.

Now with 2 outs and DeJong on first, Goldschmidt also got a full count. So with DeJong running on the pitch, golfed a down-and-in curve toward left-center, but it was a little too much 6 iron and not enough 3 iron, as it stayed up long enough for left-fielder Bryan Reynolds to make a running catch on and end the inning.

Top of 4th - Young hurler Oviedo returned to producing a clean inning, which was smart.

Oviedo went full against fifth-place hitter Polanco starting the fourth but got him to fly out to Bader on a lazy fly for out 1 on a up and away heater he couldn’t fully catch up to. Johan wisely used fewer pitches against Tucker, who flew out to Carlson in right-center on another elevated fastball.

Next Jose Osuna, likely no relation to former Cardinal Marcel Ozuna, ‘cuz it’s spelled differently, worked the count full but obligingly flew out to Dylan in right on the 7th pitch.

Bottom of 4th - When the opposing pitcher needs just 5 pitches to get three outs, it’s usually a quiet inning.

Brad Miller, coming back down to Earth, I’m sorry to say, led off by lifting a lazy fly to left on the second pitch for the first out. Tyler O’Neill was an even quicker out, hacking at the first pitch, popping an even lazier fly ball to shallow right for 2 quickly up, 2 quickly down. Yadi at least got good wood on one, smashing a sizzling one-hopper (98 mph EV) on a high sinker to short that Mondesi gloved, spun, and easily threw out the terrapin-like catcher.

Top of 5th - The Pirates threatened again, but Oviedo finally got his first strikeout to end that shenanigans.

Johan saw the economy exhibited by his counterpart in the previous inning and thought he’d give it a try, getting JT Riddle to ground out on a first-pitch fastball to Goldy, who tossed to Oviedo covering to retire the batter.

John Ryan Murphy, who I’m not sure—but think might be Irish—worked a walk. Erik Gonzalez next hit a fly to shallow right that Dylan made a nice running catch on to signal that the Cards needed just one more out. With Murphy still at first, Oviedo got two gift strike calls against Adam Frazier to even the count at 2-2, thanks to some good Yadi framing. Then on a full count, Murphy running on the pitch, Frazier singled on a liner to center to make it first and second, two out.

Oviedo forgot the fastball against Bryan Reynolds, which worked, He struck him out on two sliders and a hook for his first K of the night.

Bottom of 5th - A rare extra-base hit was a great start. Then three blah instances of nothing.

Dylan Carlson started things off in a nice way, lofting a liner just inside the right-field line, which caromed off the side wall and allowed the youngster to speed into second for just the Cards 2nd extra-base hit (and just the fourth total) on the night. Schrock did not have a productive at-bat, popping out to third baseman Riddle in between the mound and home.

Likewise, next hitter Bader popped out to first baseman Josh Bell, who caught it at the edge of the outfield for meek out 2. Then it was up to Tommy Edman, 1 for 1 with a walk, to see if he could at least keep the inning on life support. Ponce busted him inside on the first two pitches to get ahead 0-2.

Alas, Tommy was retired on a 78 mph curve in the dirt he waved at. Irish catcher Murphy blocked it and fired to first to end the inning.

Top of 6th - Lefty Austin “Danger” Gomber came in to relieve Oviedo. Despite the Pirates busting out the singles again, they were unable to score.

Josh Bell seemed to enjoy the change, as he rapped a liner to center for a single on the first pitch he saw, his first hit of the night. Austin got ahead of Polanco 0-2 then induced him to fly out to Dylan in right for the first out. Gomber fed three-straight breaking pitches to next hitter Tucker, who lofted a shallow fly to right that Dylan took care of again. Osuna ruined things by singling to left-center instead of making the final out for JT “Tell Me A” Riddle.

Riddle had no answer for Gomber’s knuckle curve, whacking it into the turf, grounding out to Schrock at second.

Bottom of 6th - It got late early. That’ll happen in a 7-inning game with little action. Two yawner outs, then life!

With the meat of the lineup up, DeJong, Goldy, and Miller, it was a good time to get something on the board. DeJong got jobbed big time by 3Bman JT Riddle, who snagged his hot-shot grounder (102 mph EV) that looks just like a mere out in the scorebook.

Pauly G mirrored Pauly D by grounding out to Riddle at third, just that Goldy’s wasn’t a smash. Miller finally made some noise, as he cranked a 3-2 cutter that actually was a good, low pitch, golfing it into left-center that Cole Tucker got part of his glove on, but it bounded off the wall, allowing Miller to race into third for a 2-out, head-first-slide triple!

That finally knocked out Ponce, who pitched a whale of a game. Geoff Hartlieb came in, hurling projectiles with the appendage that hangs off his right shoulder.

Now it was up to Meat Pillar to come through. He got down 0-2, missing an 0-1 slider right down the middle that he fouled off. Big surprise, he got another slider, and this one got in on his hands, and instead of yanking it with authority to left, he popped it up to first baseman Bell in foul territory.

Top of 7th - Gomber stayed in to make sure the Cards didn’t have to come back from any more than 2 runs. He didn’t make you wait long to see if that comeback would come.

Austin made quick work of John Ryan Murphy, wielding three breaking pitches, all strikes, to set him down looking at a knuckle curve. Gonzales had the same fate, getting the backward K watching dat knuckle curve. Adam Frazier rounded out the quick outs by grounding out to Schrock on a low slider.

Bottom of 7th - Lefty Nik Turley came in to close the game for the Pirates.

Yadi gave one a ride into right-center, but CFer Cole “Mother” Trucker tracked it down at the wall for just a long out (377 ft; 97 mph EV). Dylan next made no such noise, waiving over a 2-2 changeup the drifted down and in under hi swinging stick.

Dexter Fowler came in to pinch-hit for Schrock. It made no difference, as Dex flew out right to end this snoozer of a game.

Cards lost 2-0

The Bottom Line

  • Oviedo got fortunate with the hard contact, but his final line was decent: 5 IP, 2 R, 4 H (all singles), 1 SO, 2 BB
  • Goldy came in to this game walking in 12-straight. That was broken tonight.
  • For a 7-inning game, the Cards had plenty of decent chances to cash in but went 0-7 with RISP; the Pirates were 2-6
  • By sweeping the DH, the Pirates climbed out of the MLB cellar, and are now 9-19, passing the 10-22 Angels, who were off today.
  • You read the words (maybe) explaining the crucial inning, now see the picture:
Turd of a third.