In yesterday’s recap, I wrote that today’s doubleheader was a nightmare that could best be described as “two probable losses.” That is no better reflected in the first game’s matchup, which featured near elite pitcher Jose Berrios against whatever you think Carlos Martinez is at this point in his career, which is surely a step below “near elite.” This matchup was certainly not helped by a Minnesota Twins offense that scored 5.73 runs per game last year and added Josh Donaldson in the off-season.
You’ll see the runs scored part of this headline and think Carlos pitched badly. Well, the answer is a bit more complicated than that. In his first two innings of work, he looked pretty great actually. He was throwing first pitch strikes, hitters looked uncomfortable, and he was about as sharp as he’s been in some time. But then in the 3rd inning, the second time through the order, hitters looked like they had a better idea of what to do against him. This happen to coincide with some not great defense from the Cardinals.
In the first inning, Carlos threw a first pitch strike to three of the four batters he faced. He was 0-2 or 1-2 against three of the four batters he faced too. So he was putting himself in a good position. Josh Donaldson is Josh Donaldson, so he ended up hitting a soft liner up the middle on a pretty good pitch by Carlos for the only hit of the inning. On 3-2 against Nelson Cruz, he made a nice change out of the zone that Cruz chased.
Same story for the 2nd. He only threw a first pitch strike to one of the three batters, but he turned the two 1-0 counts into 1-2 counts, and if I remember correctly that third pitch is more important than the first one. It’s just that it’s harder to get into a favorable count if you don’t get that first pitch strike. These favorable counts led to two not particularly hard hit grounders and a strikeout.
But for whatever reason, in the 3rd, the Twins just made better contact. He did the right things against Byron Buxton, starting 1-2, and then struggling to put him away, but on pitch #7, Buxton hit a fairly hard grounder right to Paul DeJong. Willians Astudillo hit a ball to left field for a one-out single. And then, Luis Arraez hit a pretty hard ball up the middle, but I believe Astudillo was stealing which meant DeJong was right behind 2nd base. And... he just missed it. If he catches it or even fields it, it’s an easy double play. And then Donaldson homered.
In the 4th, Martinez got two quick outs, but had trouble again with Astudillo and Arraez. Astudillo hit a double that Harrison Bader very nearly made a great catch on, but couldn’t. If it gives you an idea of how well it was hit that Bader couldn’t reach it. And then Arraez hit a soft liner that Lane Thomas fielded very casually. It’s a 9-0 game with nobody on casually. Except Astudillo was on 2nd and rounding 3rd. Thomas comes up prepared to throw home, Astudillo isn’t running and if he is, there’s a play at the plate. But Thomas, I don’t know forgot? So a run fairly easy scored on that hit thanks to Thomas’s indifference or forgetfulness or whatever it was that happened.
So that’s why you may see people say Carlos didn’t really deserve four earned runs. He didn’t. But I also can’t deny that he was hit hard. I neglected to mention that after that homer by Donaldson, he walked a guy and then allowed a hard hit double. We will of course never know what happened if DeJong makes that play, but I would be hard-pressed to assume Carlos ends up shutting down the Twins afterwards, especially with the Twins heart of the order coming up.
Onto the Cardinals offense, Jose Berrios held the Cardinals in check. He wasn’t immediately impressive though. He fell behind the first two batters, but all it came was a lineout to center and a groundout. He actually pitched better to Paul Goldschmidt, but he hit a tough curve inside up the middle for a soft liner. Brad Miller swung at the first pitch for a flyout to left. In the 2nd, DeJong struck out and Molina swung at a ball in the other batter’s box which very nearly fell for a hit if not for a diving catch by right fielder Jake Cave. Tyler O’Neill hit a first pitch flyout, which meant Berrios had just 23 pitches after two innings.
The Cardinals made him work more by the 3rd. Bader made him throw seven pitches before he fouled out. Which would have been more impressive but he swung at ball four to stay alive unfortunately. Thomas struck out on three pitches. And then Kolten Wong worked a seven pitch walk to extend the inning. Tommy Edman struck out looking. He nearly threw as many pitches in the 3rd as he did in the first two innings combined.
In the 4th, Berrios struck out the side. I know some fans hate strikeouts and I’m not exactly a fan, but one benefit was that Berrios needed 18 pitches to that. In the 5th, he picked up two more strikeouts, but the Cardinals did get a baserunner courtesy of an infield hit by O’Neill, who was safe entirely due to his speed. Few players would have been safe there. Thanks primarily due to another seven pitch AB by Bader (which resulted in one of the strikeouts), Berrios exited the 5th with 82 pitches. Which I mention for a reason.
Back to the Cardinals pitching before I write about the offensive outburst by the Cards. After Arraez singled home Astudillo (thanks in part to Thomas), Jake Woodford replaced Martinez. Woodford walked his first batter of his MLB career, which happened to be Donaldson. Woodford, a year after walking 11.7% of batters in AAA, walked his first batter 53 batters into his MLB career. That’s incredible.
Anyway, he got out of the inning with just the walk and returned for the 5th. He allowed a leadoff home run to Nelson Cruz to expand the lead to 5-0 Twins. He allowed a single, but then got three straight outs including two groundouts. He came back for another inning of work in the 6th, and even was able to strike out Donaldson looking.
Berrios came back out for a 6th inning of work with 82 pitches. Wong, just refusing to go down easy, worked an 8 pitch walk to lead off the inning. Edman, having a similar attitude fouled off three pitches down 1-2. On the eight pitch, he homered over the right field wall to put the Cards down 5-2 now. Bewilderingly, the Twins left Berrios in, and Goldschmidt singled to really knock him out of the game.
Replacing Berrios was Matt Wisler, who seems like one of the more genuinely lucky pitchers in baseball in 2020, which sure you could say about most pitchers with a 0.90 ERA, but well, most pitchers who do that don’t also have a 3.90 FIP and 5.23 xFIP. In any case, he came in and the Cards continued refusing to go down easily. Brad Miller grounded out to 2nd on seven pitches. Goldschmidt scored on a wild pitch, and then DeJong made Wisler throw 10 pitches before grounding out on the 11th pitch. Yadier Molina did not take the same approach, flying out on pitch #3. 5-3 Twins.
And any hope of a comeback was dashed in the 7th. Ryan Helsley replaced Woodford and allowed a leadoff single. After he struck out Cruz and got Eddie Rosario to fly out, it seemed like it’d be an easy enough inning, but Miguel Sano had other ideas. On 1-2, Sano had a not particularly great swing, but he was able to generate enough power on that swing to hit it into the Cardinals bullpen to put the Twins up 7-3.
And then the 70-year-old Sergio Romo struck out the side in the bottom half of the inning, just so that we didn’t get any ideas about having a thing called “hope.”
- Carlos line: 3.2 IP, 7 hits, 4 ER, BB, 3 Ks, HR - You see what I mean when I’m reluctant to completely blame the defense here? 7 hits - should have been 6 - but that in less than 4 innings of work, and the should have been double play was also hit hard. But I’ll hang onto those first two innings, where he looked genuinely great.
- Another day where it’s hard to single out who really had a good offensive day. Goldschmidt had two hits. Wong really worked for his two walks. And of course Edman hit a homer. But that’s about it.
- Lane Thomas had a really bad day however. There was the fielding error and he looked so bad in his first two plate appearances that Mike Shildt went to Matt Carpenter in the bottom of the 7th. Carpenter didn’t look any better though.
Very soon, the second game will played of this doubleheader. Daniel Poncedeleon will throw about a million pitches in not many innings and he’ll face someone named Randy Dobnak, who I refuse to believe instead a LOOGY from the 90s.