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Cards Plate 5 in Lucky 7th to Escape No-Hit Nightmare!

‘Pen blanks Bucs over final 3.2 innings

St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates
Meat Pillar got the first hit, a big one
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Mmmm...Donuts: Kwang-hyun Kim has had more than his fair share of tribulations in his first season as an MLB pitcher. On top of the extended halt to the season due to the Cards’ Covid outbreak, he had an individual kidney issue that sidelined him, making it a dozen days between his 2 starts to this point in September. Not to mention living in a new country apart from his family during a pandemic, and not knowing the language.

Despite all that, he’s been consistent, and consistently excellent, coming into tonight on a 24-inning scoreless streak dating back to August 22nd. He was last scored upon (1 ER) in his start August 17 against the Cubs. That comes out to putting up all zeros (“hanging donuts” in the parlance of Mike Maddux) in 24 of his 28.2 innings pitched. That comes out to a 0.63 ERA. (Sure, his FIP is 3.40, but sub-1.00 ERAs are fun to look at.)

I’ve Seen You Before: Pirate Righty Mitch Keller faced the Cards in that first series of the year way back on July 26. He went 5 innings and gave up just 1 ER on 2 H, with 3 BB and 2 SO.

Sometimes Basements are Scary: The Cards came in at 4-4 vs the Pirate cellar dwellers (15-36 before tonight) this season, with tomorrow’s game the final time they’ll face them.

The Bird’s-Eye View

Your recapper jinxed KK by pointing out the pitcher’s scoreless inning streak, as he was dinged for 4 earned runs over 6. But you can’t blame your recapper for the Cards getting no-hit for 6 innings by Mitch Keller. I said nothing. That’s on them.

But top prospect Keller had been coming off just his second start back from a strained left oblique that cost him six weeks on the IL, and he was a pitch count around the 80s. So at 84 pitches after the 6th, Pirates’ skipper Derek Shelton pulled him, much to the good fortune of the Cards.

The Pirates made Kim work and got his pitch count up early. He was at 49 pitches already after three, which is how long it took the Pirates to send all of the hitters up. Normally, turning the lineup over in the third would be a good thing for a pitcher. Unfortunately, two of those nine batters reached Kim for solo homers, each off of mistake pitches, one in the first frame by Ke’Bryan Hayes on a high 0-2 fastball that caught too much of the zone, and by ninth-place hitter Osuna on a 3-2 hanging curve.

So while not hanging donuts, Kim at least was hanging donut sticks.

The Cards’ offense remained offensive through the first half of the game, as they were getting no-hit and had just 3 base runners total on 2 walks and a HBP through 6.

Kim invited trouble in the Pirates’ half of the 6th by giving up a double and two singles. After striking out Josh Bell for out 1, he was at 103 pitches, so he was pulled. Jake Woodford got a fly-out, but it allowed another run charged to Kim to make it 4-0.

Then in the 7th, the Pirates removed Keller, who had reached his pitch count limit. The Cards took full advantage, sending 11 batters to the dish to pull ahead 5-4!

It all started innocently enough, with a lead-off walk from Brad Miller, their first baserunner since a second-inning walk by O’Neill. But another walk and a HBP loaded the bases (with the Cards’ still getting no-hit, LOL).

Unfortunately, the HBP was to the left bicep an wrist of Yadi, who did not return for the 8th. It was listed as a “left wrist contusion.”

The Cards picked a great time to get their first hit of the night, as O’Neill came through with a double to score 2. The hitters kept the line moving, using a sac fly, HBP, and back-to-back singles to tally 3 more to go ahead 5-4.

The Cards couldn’t tack on in the 8th or 9th, not even threatening to do so, putting no baserunners on in either inning.

But Helsley and Cabrera tag-teamed to cover the last 2.2 innings and keep the Bucs off the board to preserve the 5-4 win.

The Flight Path

Top of 1st - Two baserunners with no hit needed, but no runs produced.

Getting nothing but 94 mph fastballs, Kolten Wong flew out to center, getting jammed with an up-and-in heater for the first out. Edman didn't get the fastball treatment Kolten did, getting a slider on his first pitch. But Dread Pirate Mitch Keller went back to the #1 for 5 more pitches, ultimately walking Edman on pitch 6.

Keller switched approaches completely against Paul Goldschmidt, throwing him all sliders, and Goldy didn’t get good swings on any of them, striking out in 3 pitches. Miller then got plunked on his right foot, making it first and second, two out for Paul DeJong. He went after his first offering, which was a slider away but within the zone, and he could only ground it to second for the final out.

Bottom of 1st (In Play, Run(s)) - My recap intro about KK’s scoreless streak obviously jinxed him.

KK went to a full count to lead-off hitter Bryan Reynolds then spiked a slider on pitch 8 off the plate, and Reynolds waved over it. Yadi blocked it, getting the strikeout for out 1.

Kim quickly got ahead 0-2 on Ke’Bryan Hayes and tried to sneak a fastball over but just a hair over the zone, but Hayes was ready for it and clubbed it to center for a homer to make it 1-0 Buccos.

Erik Gonzales then was retired on a first-pitch fastball, grounding out to second for the second out. Kim got Colin Moran behind in the count 1-2 then finished him off with his diving slider for a swinging strikeout.

Top of 2nd - A one-out walk did not walk, run, skip, skateboard, rollerblade, bike, or hoverboard anywhere beyond first base.

Yadi golfed an 0-1 curve, lofting it deep to right-center, but CFer Reynolds gloved it at the track for the first out of the frame. Tyler O’Neill next was patient and took a walk to try to start a rally. Dylan got down 0-2 on a fastball then curve. He was obviously looking for something other than a fastball, but Keller threw him one right down the middle. Dylan couldn’t pull the trigger, watching it go by for a backward K.

Ninth batter Harrison Bader didn’t do much better, swinging at an 0-2 slider off the plate, which you’ve seen lots before.

Bottom of 2nd - Kolten prevented a 2-out single.

Josh Bell chopped a grounder the other way to third on a 3-2 slider that Tommy gloved and threw low to first, but Goldy scooped it out for out 1. Next batter Jacob Stallings few out to Carlson in right on a 1-1 slider.

Kolten Wong then flashed his golden leather, ranging to his right to back-hand fellow second-baseman Kevin Newman’s grounder destined for a single to center, then flung it back across his body to nail the runner at first to end the inning.

Top of 3rd - Two hard-hit balls found gloves, not grass.

The GOB knew Kolten was leading off this inning, so they had him making the great play for the final out the inning before. He got good wood on a 1-2 97 mph middle-middle fastball, but lined it right to third baseman Hayes for the first out.

Tommy got under a down-and-in 1-1 fastball, popping up to Adam Frazier in left for out 2. Pauly G got robbed by sending a hard-hit liner to right, but it was right at right-fielder Jose Osuna for the final out.

Bottom of 3rd (In Play, Run(s)) - Even 9th-place MLB hitters can hit hanging curves hard.

First batter Adam Frazier nabbed a 3-2 slider just in front of the plate. Old Man Yadi pounced on it and his throw was fast, true, and in time to first. Ninth-place hitter Osuna got a 3-2 curve the spun but didn’t bite, and it was knocked over the wall left for another solo homer to make it 2-0 Pirates.

Turning the lineup over now, Reynolds grounded out sharply right back to Kim, who gloved it and tossed it to Goldy for the out. Hayes finished the inning by lining out to center.

Top of 4th - As Mike Maddux would say, Mitch Keller hung another donut in this inning.

Brad Miller flew out to Osuna in right to start the frame. DeJong struck out swinging on an elevated 3-2 fastball. Yadi echoed that, striking out swinging on a down-and-away fastball.

Bottom of 4th - A lead-off single was erased with a two-fer, and the rest was easy.

Kim got behind first batter, third-place hitter Erik Gonzalez 3-0. On 3-1, Gonzalez pulled it past Kolten’s left into right for a single. But he got ahead of clean-up man Colin Moran 0-2 and got him to ground an outside fastball to DeJong, who turned the 6-4-3 double play, thank you very much.

KK then jammed big lefty Josh Bell on a 1-2 89 mph fastball, getting a grounder to Wong to end the inning.

Top of 5th - This inning was like that thing your Dad always wanted when he came home from a long day of work: quiet.

Tyler O’Neill skied a high, high foul pop-up beyond first that Colin Moran battled and gloved for the out. Dylan followed by striking out for the second time on the night, foul-tipping a 2-2 96 mph heater just on the outside corner. Ninth-place batter Bader ended the inning by reaching for a 1-0 fastball just beyond the outside corner, chopping it to Hayes at third for the out.

Bottom of 5th - An error and a walk didn’t end up hurting.

Catcher Jacob Stallings, who was booted out of last night’s game for arguing balls and strikes, had a first-pitch fastball 6 inches wide of the zone called a strike, and he had to take several deep breaths. Kim was working him outside with every offering, and on 3-2, Kim got away with an over and top-of-the-zone slider Stallings swung through.

Newman then grounded one toward the second-base bag that DeJong ranged to his left and fielded nicely. But after going with his momentum and spinning, he threw wild past Goldy at first for an error, but Newman remained at first.

Adam Frazier then lined out to Tyler in left for the second out. Pitching next batter (and previous home run hitter) Osuna outside with all of his offerings, KK went to 3-1 then lost him on a close pitch 6 deemed just low by the ump, as Yadi had prematurely stood up to head toward the Cards’ dugout. But the Cards had to continue with first and second, two out.

The first pitch to next batter Reynolds was called a strike and was in the exact spot as the previous pitch to Osuna that was called a ball. On 2-2, DeJong made up for the error, gloving a grounder and tossing to Kolten to get the force-out for the final out.

Top of 6th - It was the Cards’ third time through the order, and the three batters totaled 302 mph of EV, but none of that mattered.

The three hitters this inning did make hard contact, but to no avail. With the Cards’ lead-off man, Kolten leading off, he grounded out to first (97 mph EV). Likewise, Edman grounded out to Newman at second (101 mph EV); Goldschmidt rapped a grounder back to pitcher Keller (104 mph EV).

Bottom of 6th (In Play, Run(s)) - The Buccos traded the solo homer approach for manufacturing another tally, ending Kim’s night.

Homer-hittin’ Hayes led off the frame by doubling to center. Gonzalez then reached on an 0-2 slider down and away, chopping a high-hopper to Edman at third who gloved it but couldn't get it out of there, as Gonzales reached on an infield hit to make it first and third, nobody out.

Looking for a strikeout against clean-up hitter lefty Colin Moran, on 2-2, Moran tapped one that seemed to be off the plate (and therefore fair), but it was ruled foul. Of course, Moran then singled on the next pitch, getting one to roll just between DeJong and Wong, to make the lead 3-0 Pirates. Hayes continued to third.

Now with first and third again, Kim came back to strike John Bell looking at an inside slider on pitch 4 for just the first out.

Kim was at a whopping 103 pitches at this point, so Mike Shildt pulled him, bringing in Jake Woodford. Jake got Stallings to pop out to shallow left-center that Bader raced in on, dove at, and caught. He immediately popped up and fired home, as Gonzalez tagged up, but with Bader leaving his feet, it gave the runner enough time to get home safely, making it 4-0 Pirates.

Now with a runner on first and 2 out, Newman flew out to short right to Carlson to finally end the inning.

Top of 7th (In Play, Run(s)) - Keller was pulled, replaced with righty Geoff Hartlieb. Lucky for the Cards.

The Cards got back-to-back walks from first two batters Brad Miller and Paul DeJong on 8-straight balls. Yadi took a first-pitch strike, then on a 2-2 count, he got plunked on his left bicep then wrist (yes, the one Braun nailed with his swing).

Now with the bases loaded and nobody out, the Pirates brought in lefty Sam Howard to face Tyler O’Neill. On an 1-0 pitch, Tyler yanked a double down just inside the left-field line off the side wall, scoring 2 to cut the lead to 4-2!

With the infield back, Carlson sent a fly ball to right, caught by Bell, but it was plenty deep enough, even to score Yadi on the sac fly, as O’Neill also tagged and went to third.
Now, it was just 4-3 Pirates!

With just one out, Howard nailed Bader on the back of the knee to make it first and third. Now the lineup turned over, and with a 2-0 count, Kolten tried to pull a bunt to the right side on two straight pitches to even the count 2-2. But on a full count, Kolten came through with a single to center, scoring Tyler with Bader stopping at second. Tie game 4-4!!!

Edman kept the fun rolling, as he singled on a hot grounder to left. Left-fielder Frazier bobbled it slightly, but Bader would’ve kept going around third anyway, and he raced home safely to put the Cards up now 5-4!!! The followed Bader to the plate, allowing Wong and Edman to advance to third and second, respectively.

The Pirates then brought in righty reliever Chris Stratton.

With the infield in, Goldy walked to load the bases for the second time in the inning. Miller next got into a 3-1 hitter’s count, but Stratton came back to strike him out swinging on pitches 5 and 6, two very hittable fastballs, for out 2.

DeJong couldn’t produce anything else in his at-bat, as he flew out center.

Bottom of 7th - Ryan Helsley entered to face the bottom of the order. A 2-out walk was forgiven.

Helsley got Frazier to ground out to Kolten on a 2-2 fastball. Next batter Osuna just got under a 2-0 96 mph heater just under the top of the zone, flying out to Tyler in left for the second out. Helsley walked Reynolds, however, bringing up Hayes, who had done nothing but homer and double to this point.

Hayes got a diet of nothing but 96+ mph heat, getting down 0-2. Hayes battled back, though, to get the count full. On pitch 7, Hayes watched a called strike just knick the inside corner. The ball got away from Yadi and rolled all the way to the Cards’ dugout, but Hayes didn’t run. Yadi was able to retrieve the ball and throw to first for the out.

Top of 8th - Matt Wieters pinch-hit for Yadi, who was pulled for a “left wrist contusion.” For him to come out of a 1-run game, it had to be some contusion. Hard-throwing righty Blake Cederlind entered for the Pirates and set the Cards down in order.

Wieters worked long enough to get a full cont, but struck out swinging on a 99 mph sizzler. O’Neill next also K’d on three pitches, the last one on a check swing at a 90 mph slider. Dylan then ended the inning by grounding out to second.

Bottom of 8th - Wieters stayed in to catch (who else woulda?) Helsley got an out then let Cabrera finish up a clean inning.

Helsley retired first batter Gonzales on a fly-out to center.

Shildt pulled righty Ryan and brought in lefty Genesis Cabrera to face clean-up hitter, lefty-swinging Colin Moran.

Cabrera got behind 3-0 on a fastball and 2 curves but came back to strike him out with a 96 mph heater right at the top of the zone Moran was late on and whiffed through for out 2.

Now switch-hitting Josh Bell turned around to bat righty. After three-straight heaters made the count 2-1, he mixed in a called-strike nasty hook then went back to the gas to strike out Bell swinging to end the inning.

With Authority!

Top of 9th - Righty Richard Rodriguez came in for the Buccos and prevented any further action from the Birdos.

Bader and Wong both struck out swinging to start the inning. Tommy then grounded out to short on the first pitch he saw from Rodriguez.

Bottom of 9th - Genesis stayed in to close. His best friend helped him do it.

Sixth-place hitter Jacob Stallings went down looking at a down-and-in 96 mph fastball for the initial out. On a 2-2 pitch, however, to Newman, Cabrera nailed him just above the left knee with a 97 mph fastball, and Newman was on the ground in pain. The trainers had to put his arms on their shoulders and guide him off the field, with him unable to put weight on his left leg.

JT Riddle came in to pinch-run. After almost hitting next batter Frazier with a first-pitch fastball, Genesis ditched he heater and went with three-straight curves, the last of which induced a grounder to Wong, who started a game-ending 4-6-3 double play!!!

Cards won, 5-4!!!

The Bottom Line

  • KK’s Line: 5.1 IP, 4 ER, 6 H (2 HR), 1 BB, 4 SO
    103 P (68 S)
  • Keller’s Line: 6.0 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 2 BB, 6 SO
    In 11 innings over 2 starts against the Cards in 2020, Mitch Keller, y’all:
    1 ER, 2 H, 5 BB, 8 SO
  • Your WPA leaders: Cabrera (.271); Edman (.210)
    Cabrera got the 4-out save, covering 1.2 innings. He did hit a batter but struck out 3 and got the game-ending double play.
    Tommy got the game-winning RBI with his single in the 7th.
  • The Cards had just 3 hits to the Pirates’ 6.
    But the Cards bunched all of them in their only run-scoring inning, the 5-run 7th.
  • So the Cards’s 3-6 with RISP trumped the Pirates’ 2-5.
  • The Pirates peaked a little too early when they had a 94.2% Win Expectancy in the 6th leading 4-0.
7th Heaven, yo.