The Cardinals kicked off a three game set against the Braves on Tuesday evening, with Jon Lester making his Cardinals debut against Max Fried. Lester was shelled in the first inning as seven Braves reached base safely before he recorded a single out. The result was five runs for the Braves in the first, followed by a solo shot by Freddie Freeman in the second inning for a total of six earned runs for Lester. To his credit, he settled in after the brutal first and still managed to eat five innings, which is ultimately what he was brought to St. Louis to do (though preferably he’ll eat innings in a more competitive way in the future). The Cardinals offense looked lost against Fried and the Braves bullpen, managing one run in garbage time in the ninth inning thanks to a couple hits and defensive indifference. Tyler O’Neill did manage three hits in the loss, but couldn’t come close to carrying the Cards to victory in the 6-1 loss.
Ozzie Albies fell behind 0-2 in the count before he drew a walk to start Tuesday’s game. Jorge Soler crushed a cutter up in the zone over the wall in left-center field to give the Braves an early 2-0 lead. Freddie Freeman singled back up the middle on a sinker that sat middle-middle. Austin Riley snuck a grounder through the right side of the infield for the Braves’ fourth consecutive hit to start the game, putting runners at the corners. Dansby Swanson smoked a cutter into left-center, extending the lead to 3-0 for Atlanta. Adam Duvall drew another walk to load the bases, still with no outs. Joc Pederson blooped a single to left off an 0-2 changeup for another RBI, bringing the score to 4-0. Kevan Smith grounded into a double play for the first outs of the game, but another run scored to stretch the Braves’ lead to 5-0. Fried then grounded out to first to end the top of the frame, after which the ump crew hilariously checked Lester for any sticky stuff.
Tommy Edman struck out swinging way out in front of a curveball for the first out. Dylan Carlson beat out a ground ball to a diving Riley for an infield hit. Paul Goldschmidt struck out looking at a fastball that looked a couple of inches off the plate for out number two. Nolan Arenado popped out to shallow left to close the inning.
Albies led off again in the second and flew out to right field. Soler swung through a cutter for the second out. Freeman lifted a curveball down the right field line and into the seats for a solo shot, adding to the Braves lead to make it 6-0. Riley worked a full count and singled to left. Swanson swung at a first-pitch sinker and chopped it to third for the final out.
Tyler O’Neill drew a leadoff walk on five pitches. Yadier Molina pulled a fastball deep to left for a long single. Harrison Bader froze on a 1-2 fastball in the heart of the zone for the first out. Edmundo Sosa followed the strikeout with a flyout to right. Lester chopped a fastball back to Fried to end the frame.
Duvall went down looking at a fastball in the bottom of the zone to open the third. Pederson rolled out to first for the second out. Smith grounded out to third to give Lester his first clean inning.
Edman lined out softly to first for out number one. Carlson followed with a groundout to short. Goldschmidt chopped out to third to put the Cards down in order.
Fried lined a fastball into left field for a base hit but was erased as Albies hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Soler struck out looking at a 3-2 fastball at the knees.
Arenado saw nine pitches before striking out chasing a curveball in the dirt. O’Neill worked a seven-pitch at-bat and singled to left field. Yadi flew out to left field for the second out. Bader struck out for the second time on the night for the last out.
Freeman began the fifth with a soft single into center field. Riley lined out to center and Swanson grounded into a fielder’s choice for outs one and two. Duvall was called out on strikes on a fastball at the knees for the third out.
Sosa chopped a curveball to third for the first out. Jose Rondon pinch-hit for Lester and singled into left. Edman then chopped into an inning-ending double play to put the Cards down quietly.
T.J. McFarland pitched the sixth inning for the Redbirds. Pederson grounded softly to Sosa for an infield hit but was erased when Smith into a fielder’s choice. Fried then went down looking and Albies grounded out to third to retire the Braves.
Carlson struck out to start the bottom of the frame. Goldschmidt grounded out to second and Arenado chased another breaking ball in the dirt as the Cardinals’ offense continued to fail to get anything going.
Soler kicked off the seventh with a popout to first. Freeman followed with a flyout to center field. Riley followed suit with a routine flyout to Bader to retire the Braves in order.
Jesse Chavez replaced Fried to pitch the seventh inning for the Braves. O’Neill scorched a slider that one-hopped into the Cardinals bullpen for a ground-rule double. Molina grounded out to third. Bader hit a hard grounder to Swanson, who booted the play and allowed Bader to reach on what was ruled a base hit. Sosa, with runners on first and second, grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Luis Garcia pitched the eighth for the Cards and retired Swanson with a groundout to third. Duvall flew out to the warning track, where O’Neill made a nice jumping catch to rob Duvall of extra bases. Pederson tapped a splitter back to Garcia for the third out.
Edgar Santana got the call to pitch the eighth for Atlanta and retired pinch-hitter Lars Nootbaar on a groundout into the shift. Edman followed with another groundout to Riley. Carlson popped out to first as the Cards went down quietly again.
Justin Miller pitched the ninth for St. Louis and retired Smith on a broken-bat flyout to right field. Abraham Almonte pinch-hit for Santana and drew a one-out walk. Albies ended the inning by chopping into a 3-6 double play.
Josh Tomlin came in to close for the Braves while Guillermo Heredia replaced Soler on defense. Goldschmidt skied a fastball to center for the first out. Arenado lined out to right. O’Neill singled to left for his third hit to extend the game to Yadi, who singled to score O’Neill after defensive indifference to put the Cards on the board, 6-1.
Yadi took second on defensive indifference before Bader struck out to seal the 6-1 win for the Braves.
The Cards drop to 53-53 as they continue to struggle to break above .500. With losses from the Reds and Brewers, they still sit ten games back from the division lead and seven and a half back of San Diego for the second Wild Card spot. The series against the Braves continues on Wednesday, with J.A. Happ making his Cardinals debut against Drew Smyly at 7:15 PM CT.
Lester made some comments on his debut, noting that there was some nervousness that seemed to settle down after getting through the nightmare first inning. Mike Shildt also commented on Lester’s start, rightfully noting that Lester was very good outside of the first. Shildt said the offensive approach was good, which is hard to agree with as clips of Cardinals hitters chasing balls in the dirt and missing pitches in the heart of the zone roll over the top of Shildt’s commentary.
Final Pitching Lines
Lester (L, 3-6): 5 IP / 9 H / 6 R / 6 ER / 2 BB / 4 K / 2 HR
McFarland: 2 IP / 1 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 1 K / 0 HR
Garcia: 1 IP / 0 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 0 K / 0 HR
Miller, J: 1 IP / 0 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 1 BB / 0 K / 0 HR
Fried (W, 8-7): 6 IP / 4 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 1 BB / 7 K / 0 HR
Chavez: 1 IP / 2 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 0 K / 0 HR
Santana: 1 IP / 0 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 0 K / 0 HR
Tomlin: 1 IP / 2 H / 1 R / 1 ER / 0 BB / 1 K / 0 HR