Keep It on the Down-Low: KC came in 1.5 games behind Detroit in the battle to stay out of the AL Central cellar. Matheny’s paying dividends already. But as we witnessed against the Pirates, the NL Central version of the bottom-feeders, position in the standings means little for the 2020 Cards.
Differential Diagnosis: The Cards were fortunate to win the games they did in the last Pittsburgh series, as 3 of the 4 victories were by one run. (Incidentally, El Birdos are 7-6 in 1-run games this season.). You’ll recall your Cardinals played your former manager’s new team on August 24-26, with the Good Guys taking 2 of 3 (with one of the wins and the one loss by one run).
But apparently the key to victory for this version of the Redbirds is not run differential but how many runs. Of the 25 games in which they scored at least 4, they’ve won 22. And to this point, they’re averaging 4.26 runs per game.
Conclusion? Be average. And it’s never lupus.
AmbiDEXtrous: Switch-hitter Dexter Fowler was back in the line-up after he landed on the COVID-Related IL September 2nd because medicine he’d been taking for a stomach issue could compromise his immune system. He'd been the most productive outfielder to that point, slashing .279/.347/.485 with 4 HRs in just 75 PAs.
Dylan got the nod in center as Bader sat against a righty.
The Bird’s-Eye View
The Royals did what the Cards couldn’t tonight, and haven’t for much of the season: sequence hits to capitalize on baserunners. They also beat the Cards at their own game of shut-down bullpenning.
The hit totals were pretty even, with the Royals out-hitting the Cards only 8-6. And each team drew just 3 walks.
The Cards produced baserunners in the first 5 innings but could plate just one run over that time. Ironically, the one tally they had (in the 2nd) came via a solo homer off the bat of Matt Carpenter.
Adam was vintage, exhibiting masterful command, (91P, 58S), notching 7 strikeouts through his 5.2 innings. He gave up a single to Whit Merrifield to start the whole game then none thereafter until one out in the 5th.
The problem was that in the 5th, the Royals sequenced a single and a double to make it second and third one out, then made just enough contact on a grounder to the score the tying run on a fielder’s choice.
Adam finally wavered in the 6th, when he couldn’t put the Royals away with 2 outs and a runner on first. He then gave up a single and his first walk, an unintentional/intentional free pass to Jorge Soler to load the bases. A single and another walk later ended his night with the Cards down 3-1. Turns out, that was one more than the Royals would need. For the heck of it, the Royals added another run in the 8th, pairing a single and a double off of Giovanny Gallegos to make it 4-1, the final tally.
Matheny pulled his young starter Hernandez after 3.2 innings and 72 pitches when the Cards had second and third with two outs off a single by Yadi and Dex, aided by a wild pitch. Dylan Carlson then made great contact, but lined one right to Alex Gordon in left to end that threat.
After that, Manager Mike—no, the other Manager Mike—fired up the Reliever Carousel, bringing in righty after fireballing righty to cover the final 5.1 innings. Ultimately using 5 arms, Mike’s crew gave up a grand total of 2 harmless singles: one in the 5th and one in the 9th, with nothing else around them.
The Flight Path
Top of 1st - Excellent defense prevented a one-out single from becoming something more.
Kolten Wong lofted pitch 2 to left for a can ‘o corn to Alex Gordon for a swift out 1 off a 96 mph sinker. After catcher Salvador Perez blocked a pitch in the dirt, Tommy accidentally bonked him the left elbow with his bat while waiting to return to the box. Sorry were communicated. Perez seemed fine. On the next pitch, Edman knocked a liner into left-center for a single.
Paul Goldschmidt almost moved Tommy around, blitzing a sinking liner to center that bubba Starling dove forward toward and gloved tumbling to the turf, making a great catch for out 2.
Paul DeJong then got behind 0-2 and struck out swinging on a 84 mph curve, over and in the upper-third of the zone, the second-straight hook he saw in the at-bat.
Bottom of 1st - The line-out version of a double play was helpful.
Lead-off man Whit Merrifield went down to get a 1-2 Waino curve that was actually in a good spot down and off the plate, dunking a soft liner (77 mph EV) into right for a single. Number 2 batter Adalberto Mondesi squared to bunt on pitch one but fouled it off. He squared on pitch 3 but took a curve for a strike to make it 1-2. Slow Uncle Charle then showed up to retire Mondesi swinging for the first out.
Looking for a ground ball, Adam instead got fortunate, as clean-up hitter Salvador Perez slammed a liner right to DeJong, who fired quickly to first to double off Merrifield to end the inning.
Top of 2nd (In Play Run(s)) - Salsa rules in the land of BBQ sauce.
Yadi rolled over on a down-and-away 95 mph sinker, grounding weakly to short for the first out. Koffman Stadium Killer Matt Carpenter (.392 career average in KC) lived up to the rep, crushing a 3-1 down-and-in fastball a long way to the water just to the right of center (106 mph EV, 439 ft, 28 deg LA) for a 1-0 Cards lead!
Tyler O’Neill then walked on 5 pitches to re-start somethin’. Dexter Fowler worked a full count and yanked a curve hard on the ground, but right into the shift, as shortstop Mondesi fielded it and fired to second for the force, but Dex beat the relay to first.
Now with two out and a runner on first, Dylan Carlson was patient, watching the first three pitches mis-fire for balls. The next was 95 middle-middle, but he was taking. Hernandez fooled him next, throwing a good change-up Dylan missed. Now at 3-2, Hernandez doubled up on the change-up, and Dylan topped it to second to end the inning.
Bottom of 2nd - Eight pitches produced 3 outs. Cool. Cool-cool-cool.
Waino broke off a first-pitch curve and Jorge Soler mis-timed it, popping it up behind the plate, gloved by Yadi. Maikel Franco next became out 2, as he watched a nifty down-and-in 88 mph fastball after seeing four previous pitches all outside.
Waino then made quick work of Hunter Dozier, curling 2 curves: one for a called strike and one that induced a pop-out to second.
Top of Third - Back-to-back walks to start an inning are supposed to lead to something. They did: 3 outs with no runs.
The lineup turned over, as Kolten stepped in again to start off a frame. He did one of those lead-off guy things, drawing a 7-pitch walk. Tommy thought that was a cool way to get on base, so he also walked, with all the not-strikes off the outside corner.
Goldy then watched two strikes go by and on a 1-2 count, tried to pull an outside curveball, hitting into an easy 6-4-3 double play.
Now with a 2-out, man on third RISP chance, Pauly D went down swinging, missing an 0-2 curve on pitch 3 that actually was 6 inches above the zone.
Bottom of Third - Three up, three down, 2 more K’s.
Alex Gordon became Adam’s third strikeout victim, with a little assist from the ump, who called a fastball just wide a strike, much to Gordon’s dismay. Bubba Starling duplicated that result, only watching a sharp hook under the zone that Yadi plucked back upward for back-to-back backward K’s.
Adam didn’t want to make the Royals feel too bad, so he allowed next batter Nicky Lopez to make contact, grounding a 1-0 cutter to Kolten for an easy third out.
Top of Fourth - A brief 2-out rally was too brief, ending with a bad-luck third out.
Yadi started the fourth by keeping his hands back on a 1-2 81 mph curve, keeping his nose on it, lining it to center for a single. Carpenter, however, struck out looking at a 2-2 fastball in which perhaps half the ball nicked the outside corner, which was enough for the the ump to ring him up for the first out.
Tyler followed by also striking out, unable to check his swing on a 2-2 curve well outside and low for out 2.
Dex kept the inning alive, though, jumping on a pitch one, sending it on a line over the shift into right to make it 1st and 2nd, 2 out.
Mike Matheny then emerged from the dugout to bring in
Michael Wacha Jake Newberry to pitch to Travis Ishikawa Dylan Carlson. On a 1-1 pitch, Newberry yanked a slider down and into the dirt. Perez tried to backhand it, but it ricocheted 90 degrees to his left, allowing both runners to advance on the wild pitch.
On a 2-2 count, Dylan got his first fastball in the count, and he didn’t miss it, swatting the heater on the outside corner on a line to left (100 mph EV), but right at Gordon for the final out.
Bottom of Fourth - A clean inning aided by a great catch by Dylan!
The Royal lineup turned over, and Merrifield started it off by lining right to O’Neill in left, the GOB making up for the one they took away from Dylan the prior inning. Mondesi then grounded slowly to Goldy, who fielded it cleanly and tagged the runner out just in time to get out 2.
Adam got a little cute against Salvador Perez, going into kind of a half-windup, tossing a 76 mph curve that merely spun up and out over the plate. Perez timed it perfectly, clobbering it into left center. It hung up long enough for Dylan to settle under it. He leapt, and gloved it near the top of the wall to end the inning!
Top of Fifth - Righty Scott Barlow entered now for KC. A 2-out infield single was all the Cards could muster.
Leading off an inning now for the third time, Kolten watched a 2-2 95 mph fastball that just caught the inside corner (or was framed into the strike zone) for the first out. Tommy followed by flying out right. Goldy kept the inning alive, though, by chopping one over the mound and legging it out for an infield hit, just beating the throw from second baseman Lopez.
DeJong then wasted an at-bat, as he check-swung on a 1-0 curve but made contact, tapping it to the pitcher down the first-base line for out 3.
Bottom of Fifth (In Play, Run(s)) - The Royals got their first hits since the lead-off hitter of the entire game. They used it to manufacture a run.
Soler led off and took Adam to a full count, seeing Waino’s sinker, cutter, and curve during the at-bat, which ended with a sinker dotted at the bottom of the zone for a called third strike. Franco, however, reached by pulling an outside cutter just beyond the reach of Pauly D diving to his left, as the ball rolled into left-center for a single.
Dozier followed by doubling down the left-field line to make it second and third, one out. That produced the first mound visit of the game, complete with Mike Maddux.
Alex Gordon then stepped in looking to get the Royals on the board. Adam jammed him, getting a grounder to Kolten, and Franco broke for home. Wong thought briefly about throwing it to the plate, but it had been hit slowly, so he took the sure out at first, as the tying run came across to make it 1-1.
Bubba Starling then grounded out to Edman at third to end the inning.
Top of 6th - Matheny brought in his third reliever, another hard-throwing righty, Josh Staumont. He set the Cards down in order.
Molina got behind 0-2 then grounded out to third on a curve for the first out of the frame. Carpenter saw a mix of pitches, ultimately flying out to shallow left on a 99 mph fastball, which was 2 mph slower than the fastest pitch he saw earlier in the count.
Stautmon didn’t mess around with next batter O’Neill, throwing three heaters in the upper-third of the zone: two at 98 mph and the last one at 99. Tyler made contact on zero of them.
Bottom of 6th (In Play, Run(s)) - The Royals got key hits to plate two more, and Tyler Webb replaced Adam to keep it there.
Ninth-place hitter Nicky Lopez worked a full count against Adam leading off then waved over a 73 mph curve for yet another strikeout, Waino’s sixth of the night. Next hitter Merrifield, though, got his second hit of the night, lining a sharp-ish liner to right center (90 mph EV).
Willing Mondesi to hit a grounder, Adam instead got the next-best thing, a strikeout on another biting Uncle Charlie for out 2.
Perez then ambushed a first-pitch sinker that was over and stayed up too much, banging it into right-center. Dex cut it off, and Merrifield was held up at third, to make it first and third, 2 outs.
After a YadiTalk, (without Maddux) Waino pitched Soler carefully, trying to get him to chase, with every pitch well outside, for an unintentional intentional walk to load the bases, Adam’s first of the night.
Next batter Franco, deemed the lesser hitter, was fed two hooks on the first two offerings, the second of which was a gift-called strike, as Yadi plucked another into the zone. Franco got revenge, though, as Adam left a sinker up that was grounded just to the right of Goldy into right for a 2-run single to make it 3-1 KC.
With Tyler Webb warming up quickly, Adam got ahead of Dozier 0-2 but lost him, walking him on 8 pitches. That ended his night.
Webb was brought in to face lefty Alex Gordon, and he jammed him badly on the first offering, a 89 mph sinker that bore in on his hands belt-high. Gordon flared it toward the hole in the shortstop area, but Tommy sprinted back, leapt, and snared it for the final out.
Top of 7th - The Cards went down in order for the second-straight inning.
Dex started the inning by lifting a fly ball to medium center for the initial out. Dylan then saw four-straight curves, and on a 1-2 count, swung over a diving sinker at 96 mph down and in for out 2. Kolten ended the frame by flying out to left, unable to get around on a 96 mph fastball over and just slightly elevated.
Bottom of 7th - Webb’s changeup was working, producing a clean inning.
Webb got a K by pulling the string on Starling, getting him out in front and to swing over a changeup on 0-2. Nickey Lopez followed by flying out to O’Neill in left on pitch 2, a 74 mph curve that stayed up but its lack of bite prevented hard contact. Webb than sat down Merrifield on an effective changeup tipped into Yadi’s mitt to end the frame.
Top of 8th - The Royal righty relievers kept coming, this time in the form of Jesse Hahn. The Cards got no good wood off him.
Hahn sat Edman down on a big curveball on a 2-2 count that he swung through, ending up on one knee. Goldy saw curves on 3 of the four pitches he saw, topping an easy grounder off the last one to third. DeJong then flew out harmlessly to right.
Bottom of 8th (In Play Run(s)) - Giovanny Gallegos, activated off the IL, came in for the Cards and gave up one.
Second-place batter Mondesi drag-bunted one on the second pitch, and got it past Gallegos. Kolten couldn’t come up with the bare-handed play.
On a 1-0 slider, Mondesi stole second, as Yadi’s throw sailed a bit high and wide right. A perfect throw likely would not have got him. Then on a 2-2 count, Gio struck out Perez looking, fooling him with a fastball he wasn’t expecting. Next, Soler may not been expecting a first-pitch fastball, but he got it, and lined it into the left-field corner for a run-scoring double to up the Royals’ lead to 4-1. Pinch-runner Nick Heath replaced Soler on the base paths.
On the first pitch to Franco, Gio threw one in the dirt directly in front of Yadi, but it kicked away, allowing Heath to advance to third without a throw. It was ruled a wild pitch. Gio lost Franco, walking him on 7 pitches to make it first and third, 1 out.
After an 0-1 count to next batter Dozier, the home-plate ump yelled at Gio for the second time about going to his mouth. The count went full, but Gallegos got Dozier to swing over a slider, which was fortunate, as it was well down-and-away from the zone. Shildt then pulled Gio at 21 pitches to bring in Seth Elledge to get the final out of the inning.
Seth used the one pitch, one-out formula, getting Gordon to ground out to Kolten to end the long inning.
Top of 9th - Old buddy Greg Holland came in to close the game for the Royals.
Yadi inside-outed a single to right just past the diving second baseman Lopez to start things off. Carpenter then sent a hard liner to right, but Merrifield didn’t have to move much to snag it for the second out. Last hope was pinch-hitter Brad Miller. Holland fooled him with a first-pitch curve that Miller pulled on the ground right to Lopez at second, who got Yadi on the force. The relay to first initially was deemed to nail Miller, but upon further review, he was declared safe, which he clearly was.
Now with a runner and first and 2 outs, Dex stepped in. On a 1-0 pitch, Miller took second on fielder’s indifference. With a 2-2 cont, Holland snuck a 92 mph fastball on the outside edge that Dex watched go by for a called strike 3 to end the game.
Cards lost 4-1.
Bottom of 9th
The Bottom Line
- Waino’s Solid Line: 5.2 IP, 3 ER on 6 H, 2 BB, 7 SO
- Matt Carpenter’s homer was his 6th in 20 games at Kauffman Stadium, netting him a .384 batting average in 78 ABs.
- Carpenter’s homer was the only extra-base hit the Cards had.
- Dex’s single in the third was career hit #1,300.
- The Cards were 0-4 with RISP; the Royals were 2-8.
- Dylan’s excellent xtra-base-hit robbing catch in the 4th woulda been a homer in 24 other stadiums.
- The Reds beat the Brewers 6-3, to put the Cards once again in a virtual tie with Cincy for second place in the NLC (with the Reds .001 behind in Winning Percentage). The Brewers are now 1 game back of the Cards and Reds, who are both 4.5 back of the Cubs, who beat Pittsburgh 5-0.
- It was there for the taking but slipped away.