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Molina walks it off in 10th in 3-2 win over Cubs

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They avoided another bad loss.

Chicago Cubs v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The worst loss of the year is only as devastating as how you let it affect you after it happens. It’s still technically just one loss in a 162 game season. And the Cardinals, after blowing a 9th inning lead for the second straight game and nearly giving the Cubs the lead a few times after that, have successfully made it just another loss. Do you think anyone on the Cardinals is still bothered by that loss? They’ve put it behind them.

How did the Cardinals win? Because Anthony Rizzo is a very bad baserunner.

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. That happened in the 10th inning and 9 other innings helped lead to it. The first seven innings were normal. Kyle Hendricks and Adam Wainwright pitched as if it was 1985 with slow velocity, control, and a reliance on weak contact. They pitched nearly identical games. Wainwright just lasted longer and outpitched him.

If you’ve ever seen the Cardinals face Hendricks, you know the story. Same thing happened here. The tricky thing about Hendricks is the book on him is absolutely to be aggressive, because he’ll throw strikes at first and then give you nothing good to hit after he gets ahead. But of course, there’s something about his pitches, even when they’re good to hit, that just does not produce loud contact. At least against the Cardinals. I don’t voluntarily watch Hendricks face other teams, he’s a Cy Young winner when he faces the Cards. Anyway, next thing you know, he’s on pace for a complete game because you’re aggressive.

Anyway, Paul Goldschmidt doubled off him in the first, but neither Nolan Arenado or Tyler O’Neill could advance him. Arenado even swung on a 2-0 count, theoretically should be able to crush a ball against Hendricks with the stuff he has, but it was a weak groundout to short. Same story in the 2nd. Nothing but weak contact. Harrison Bader singled in the 3rd, but was thrown out at 2nd. Arenado singled with one out in the 4th, but two popups followed.

Meanwhile, Wainwright was doing the equivalent of bending, not breaking. He did not look good in the 1st. Loud single, two loud flyouts - including a robbed home run by Bader, and then Ortega stole second. He got Javy Baez to strike out looking on a pitch that was just outside of the strike zone, but don’t worry the Cubs got a ton of calls out of the zone today. In the 2nd, similar story. Both Ian Happ and Patrick Wisdom got pretty good contact on flyouts, but they happen to be playing at Busch Stadium and Tyler O’Neill is a pretty fast left fielder.

In the 3rd, he broke. He gave up a leadoff single to Nico Hoerner, and after he struck out Hendricks without the runner moving, it looked like he’d get out of it again. But Ortega is just on fire and tripled home Hoerner. Then he hit Willson Contreras with a pitch. But then Waino got Rizzo to pop up - he had a really bad game by the way - and Ortega got thrown out at home with the Cubs trying to pull a double steal trickery.

After a 1-2-3 4th inning, Heyward led off with a double - third leadoff man to get on against Wainwright. Hoerner did his job and flew out, with Heyward tagging up to 3rd. But then Hendricks came up to the plate and struck out again. Ortega, 2-2 at the time, grounded out to end the threat. Contreras led off with a double in the 6th, and too was advanced to 3rd, but Baez grounded it to Arenado, who made a slick play by throwing the ball as quick as he could towards home, nailing Contreras at the plate.

I mean look at how quickly he throws it! Most 3B who throw it that quickly will probably throw it over the catcher. In the 7th, Wainwright changed it up a bit by striking out Patrick Wisdom to start the inning, but then allowed a double to Heyward again. And once again, Arenado made a great play to keep a runner from scoring. This one was a diving play. Hendricks came to the plate to bat, a decision that will later cost the Cubs, but it was 1-0 and a chance to add onto to the lead. Wainwright was far from untouchable too. But here’s the clip of the second play with a good point about how Hoerner is a plus runner. Lot of great plays we witness against us come with Yadi running, but Hoerner is not slow.

In the 5th, cracks began to show for Hendricks. He allowed a deep fly ball to DeJong and then back-to-back singles to Tommy Edman and Bader again. With runners at 1st and 3rd, Wainwright bunted and there was an attempt at a safety squeeze, but it was hit in the air and Edman hesitated and that’s all it takes to not go home. With runners at 2nd and 3rd, Carlson worked a good plate appearance, but on 3-2, the ump called a ball a strike.

Not seen there was a nearly identical pitch called a ball earlier in that plate appearance by the way. Carlson argued, Mike Shildt came out and argued in his place and got himself ejected. The 6th was a Busch Stadium speciality, albeit one Wainwright benefited from earlier. Paul Goldschmidt flied out deep, Arenado did as well and very nearly homered, and after a line drive single by O’Neill, Molina also flied out fairly deep. We’re talking maybe homers at Wrigley Field here.

Now as I said above, when Hendricks came to the plate with two outs and a man on 2nd, that was the inning preceding that decision. He had 83 pitches. DeJong hit a swinging bunt that was perfectly placed. Contreras tried his best to throw him out but threw it wild, allowing DeJong to advance to 2nd. He probably was safe anyway though, hence while it was called a single + error. Edman then tried to bunt. He ignored a pitch above the strike zone for ball one, but then for some reason tried to bunt on the same pitch and it just popped in the air straight to Hendricks

Luckily, Bader was up. Now I’m a long-time Bader fan, but imagine saying that last year against a right-handed pitcher. He was 2-2 already against Hendricks. And on 0-1, he doubled to left center to drive home DeJong. Wainwright had 84 pitches when his spot in the order came up. Now, Wainwright had a good line, but relied A LOT on good defense for it, so I don’t think he was necessarily pitching his best game. So I wholeheartedly approve the decision to pinch-hit for him. Matt Carpenter came in for him, the Cubs countered with Andrew Chafin, and Carpenter flew out to center.

Carlson, tough luck out on a 3-2 call last time to the plate, crushed a ball over the left fielder’s head to give the Cards a 2-1 lead. Goldschmidt then looked very bad against Chafin, chasing three pitches out of the zone, but getting on 1st because the third strike got away from Contreras. Ryan Tepera replaced Chafin and struck out Arenado.

The next mystery was how to preserve the 2-1 lead. Alex Reyes, thrower of 30 pitches yesterday, was unavailable. So instead of Giovanny Gallegos, Genesis Cabrera came in. Jake Marisnack pinch-hit for Ortega which became strangely important later by the way. He flew out. He then walked Contreras and got Rizzo to fly out. Job done, Gallegos was brought in for the 1.1 IP save. He immediately hit Baez, which... you’ll see. Then Ian Happ grounded out on the first pitch too. Inning over. After O’Neill hit another hard hit single, the Cards couldn’t add to the lead when there was a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out.

Okay the 9th inning. Okay here’s a story. I was invited to eat at my parents house and then watch the Cardinals game, so at this point I’m watching them game there. Gallegos gets two quick outs. Then hits Hoerner. On 1-2. No problem, Eric Sogard is up. Except he doubles home Hoerner. So out of frustration and because I don’t know how long the game is going to go, I leave.

I’m about 15 minutes away from my house. So my car has an iPhone, AM, FM thing I can click on. So at first I am “listening” to my iPhone but not going through the process of playing a song, so it’s silent. I am not going to listen to the game.

.....

Okay what’s going on. I’ve got to click AM. John Gant throws a ball. Okay got to click it off, can’t listen to them lose. Another couple minutes go by. I’m too curious, click the game back on. I hear John Rooney say that Gant just threw another ball to make it 2-0 on Anthony Rizzo. He then explains that Gant just hit two batters. And I can do nothing but start laughing. I keep listening at this point, hearing Gant work his way back to 2-2, then Rooney describes the most thrilling groundout possible- Shannon is a legend, but thank god he wasn’t announcing this - and the Cards get out of it.

Meanwhile, I seem to be catching every light on this trip home and want to make it home in time to watch the Cards bat. I walked out of the house right when they were walking to take out Gallegos, and the rest of that inning took so long that when I pulled into my driveway, Edman had just hit a leadoff single. And this was with me at least feeling like I was catching every light possible. Just a ridiculously long time.

But on the bright side, Cubs fans were teased into thinking they would win again and I approve. And I saw two straight strikeouts by Keegan Thompson, and then he fell behind 3-0 to Carlson. And then frankly, a very stupid move happened in my opinion. Craig Kimbrel was warming and they decided let’s just walk Carlson, put Edman at 2nd with his speed, and have Kimbrel face a red hot Goldschmidt. I don’t care that Goldy is 0-9 with 5 Ks and that he struck out last night against him or that it was 3-0 on Carlson, this is just stupid. Anyway it worked out of course with Goldschmidt grounding out, doesn’t make it any less stupid.

Ah the 10th. So Anthony Rizzo’s baserunning. I don’t know if surprisingly bad is the worst, but he’s been worth -24.9 BsR in his career, which is -2.6 per 600 PAs. That’s bad. And we saw why today. With Rizzo on second, being the last out, Baez lined a single to right. Rizzo didn’t get a good jump, and in his defense he probably doesn’t score anyway. They take out Gant and bring in checks notes T.J. McFarland. How many fans watched him come in and wondered who the hell he was? I am a professional so I of course knew, but you know some other fans didn’t.

Anyway this happened:

The Cardinals were conceding the run there. And Rizzo just didn’t go home. But also Sosa made an amazing play, because he caused Rizzo to freeze. Sosa got the ball and as he was running to 2nd, looked at Rizzo. If Rizzo immediately jumps to home, Sosa isn’t throwing home. Nothing about the way he fielded that indicated he planned to go home. He fielded the ball and with no hesitation ran to 2nd base. But he looked at Rizzo, and then after he touched 2nd, was very aware Rizzo was hesitant. Happ made it to 2nd on the play, but they now had 2 outs.

McFarland being a lefty, they wanted him to face another lefty. So they intentionally walked Wisdom to face Heyward. But David Ross countered with backup catcher Robinson Chrinos. Remember when I said PH’ing Marisnack became weirdly important earlier? That’s because he would have been used here had he still been available. Not that I’m advocating pinch-hitting for Ortega was the right move. Anyway David Ross went for the win and the matchups, but Chirinos flied out to end the inning.

And this decision caused the absolute weirdest defensive matchup. Chirinos went to 2nd base where he had never played before. Hoerner moved to 3rd base. And Wisdom moved to RF. Kimbrel sort of pitched around Arenado - he ended up 3-2 on him - but seemed uninterested in actually giving him anything to hit. Then he struck out O’Neill. Molina swung at two high pitches out of the zone and looked primed to chase another for a second straight strikeout. That’s not what happened.

Yes, I said Wisdom looked like Nelson Cruz out there and VHS threw me a bone. Game over. Cardinals win. Yesterday’s loss is just another loss in the column and we can forget about it.

Notes

  • Wainwright line: 7 IP, 5 Ks, HBP, 6 H, ER - I do think this line is better than how Wainwright actually looked - not that he looked bad, but just very hittable. But he walked nobody and we have a good defense for exactly this reason.
  • I know we lead the league in HBPs, but we really took it to the extreme this game. Five HBPs added to the season total, including three in one inning. Truly absurd.
  • So, uh, Bader? Is he just like a 120 wRC+ hitter now. He has a 114 wRC+ with just a .290 BABIP. There’s nothing unsustainable about his line except that it’s completely different than his previous 1,000 plate appearances. His xWOBA is lower than his actual wOBA, but kind of seems like he outperforms his xWOBA for his career.
  • Edman with 2 hits. Edman I would recommend you keep doing that if you want to keep your job, because Nolan Gorman is not far behind you. Really makes the failed bunt look even stupider.
  • Yeah I decided to write this, because I have a post tomorrow and no ideas and it’s late. So this is my post tomorrow.

Tomorrow, the Cardinals go for the series win. They have a pretty good chance with Kwang-Hyun Kim facing Adbert Alzolay, though I think Alzolay might be just a bit better than his 4.59 ERA so don’t write him off as bad.