*Author’s note: I’ll be making my first trip to Busch next month for the Dodgers series (I live in Ohio). Drop any recommendations for restaurants/bars/ any other sites I need to see in the comments below. Go Cards.*
If you’re a fan of fast-paced baseball, today was the game for you. Miles Mikolas and Shane McClanahan were locked into one of the most impressive pitcher’s duels I’ve seen in a long, long time, as the Rays completed the sweep in exactly 114 minutes at Tropicana Field.
It was the first Cardinals game to last under two hours since 2010, and if you take a quick peep at the box score you’ll understand why. The two teams combined for five hits and two walks, both starters went eight innings, and Tampa Bay never had an at-bat with a runner in scoring position. Unfortunately the Lizard King’s third career complete game went for a loss this afternoon, but it was a great bounce-back after two shaky starts recently.
St. Louis now heads home for seven games against the Reds and Pirates, and anything less than 5-2 during that homestand feels like it would be a huge disappointment.
Here’s how today’s game went down:
In the first inning of a game that was billed early on as a potential pitcher’s duel, both teams went three up, three down. Tommy Edman grounded out to Yandy Diaz at third base for the first out, and then both Paul Goldschmidt and and Nolan Arenado struck out swinging.
Kevin Kiermaier struck out looking for the first out in the bottom of the first. Manuel Margot flew out to Juan Yepez in right field for the second out, and Ji-Man Choi grounded out to Goldschmidt at first base to end the inning.
Albert Pujols led off the second inning and hit a high popup to shallow right field. Second baseman Vidal Brujan called everyone off, but lost sight of the ball as it bounced hard on the turf. Pujols reached second base and it was ruled a double, as nobody touched the ball before it hit the ground. Tyler O’Neill grounded out to shortstop for the first out, and Albert was not able to advance. Yepez popped out to Choi in foul territory for the second out, and Bader struck out swinging.
Mikolas set the Rays down 1-2-3 in the second inning on eight pitches. Randy Arozarena struck out swinging, Diaz grounded out to Sosa at shortstop, and Brett Phillips flew out to O’Neill in foul territory not far from the wall in left field. Mikolas navigated the first two innings on just 18 pitches.
Shane McClanahan carved up the Cardinals in the top of the third inning. Sosa struck out on three pitches, Knizner put a good swing on an 0-1 breaking ball but flew out to left, and Edman struck out swinging on a 90 mph wiffleball slider.
Mikolas continued to work efficiently, setting the Rays down in order in the third inning on just 10 pitches to complete a perfect first time through the order. Game one hero Taylor Walls flew out to Bader in center field, Mike Zunino flew out to O’Neill just a step in front of the wall in left, and Brujan struck out swinging.
On an 0-1 count, Goldschmidt’s swing struck Zunino’s glove behind the plate. The home plate umpire did not see it this way, and ruled it a swinging strike and an 0-2 count. After the umpires got together to discuss, it was ruled catcher’s interference, Goldschmidt was awarded first base, and Zunino was charged with an error. Arenado then hit a 100 mph line drive towards shortstop, but it was caught by Walls for the first out of the inning. Pujols popped out to Choi in foul territory for the second out. With O’Neill batting, McClanahan uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Goldy to move to second base, but he struck out on an 89 mph changeup to end the top half of the inning.
Kiermaier singled to right field leading off the fourth inning — Tampa Bay’s first hit of the day. Margot flew out to center field for the first out. Choi then pummeled a 1-0, center-cut sinker into the right field seats for his fifth homer of the season, making it 2-0 Rays in the fourth.
Arozarena grounded out to Edman at second base, and Diaz struck out on three pitches to end the fourth inning with the Rays now leading.
St. Louis went down 1-2-3 on eight pitches in the fifth, with all three hitters swinging early in the count against McClanahan. Yepez flew out to Margot in left, Bader flew out to Kiemaier in center, and Sosa flew out to Phillips in right.
Phillips made the final out in the top of the fifth and led off the bottom half of the inning at the plate, striking out on four pitches. Walls grounded out to Goldschmidt at first for out number two. Zunino struck out on three pitches to end the inning, Mikolas’ sixth strikeout of the game.
Knizner led off the sixth inning and had the same result as his first at-bat, hitting a line drive into left field at 103 mph that went directly to the left fielder, Manuel Margot. Tommy Edman followed Knizner’s liner with one of his own into the right-center field gap at 103 mph, but three-time Gold-Glover Kevin Kiermaier ran it down on the warning track for the second out of the inning. Goldschmidt worked a five-pitch walk with two outs, McClanahan’s first of the day. Arenado followed it with a long single to left, moving Goldschmidt into scoring position and bringing up Pujols the potential go-ahead run.
Down 1-2 in the count, Pujols tapped it directly back to McClanahan on the mound. The Rays lefty backed up to field it with his bare hand and lost his balance, tripping and falling to the ground. He then picked up the ball and rushed his throw to first with Pujols rumbling down the line, throwing it clear down to the Rays bullpen. Goldschmidt scored, Arenado advanced to third, and Pujols wound up at second on the error by McClanahan.
With the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position, O’Neill hammered an 89 mph changeup from McClanahan into center field, but it was once again hit right at Kiermaier (at 103 mph).
Oddly enough, all three outs St. Louis made in the sixth inning were hit at 103 mph, and their only run came from a 61 mph tapper back to the pitcher by Pujols.
Mikolas struck out Brujan for the second time to kick off the inning, and then Kiermaier hit a slow ground ball in the middle of no-man’s land between the pitcher’s mound and first base. Mikolas tried to scoop it on the run and beat Kiermaier to first base, but he did not pick it up cleanly (not sure if he would’ve beat the runner even if he had picked it up, to be honest), and Kiermaier was awarded a base hit.
However, Kiermaier thought that Mikolas booted/kicked the ball away, and rounded first base to potentially take second. But actually, the ball was lying just a foot or so away from first base, so Mikolas picked it up and tagged Kiermaier as he tried to retreat back to first. Mikolas and Kiermaier shared a laugh and hug on the base before Kiermaier jogged back to the dugout without any kind of argument. Margot struck out swinging to end the sixth inning, Mikolas’ eighth punchy of the day (a season-high for him).
McClanahan returned for the seventh inning having only thrown 72 pitches over the first six frames. He struck out Yepez and Bader for the first and second outs of the inning — seventh and eighth strikeouts of the game. Sosa golfed a slider into center field that Kiermaier caught easily, ending the Cardinals’ seventh.
Choi led off the Rays’ half of the seventh and became Mikolas’ ninth strikeout victim of the afternoon, swinging and missing at an ankle-high slider with a full count. Arozarena grounded out to Edman at second for the second out, and Diaz popped out to Edman to end the seventh inning.
Through seven innings, Mikolas and McClanahan yielded a combined three runs on five hits while striking out 17 batters.
Knizner flew out to Phillips in right field for the first out of the eighth inning, with McClanahan still working. Tommy Edman struck out swinging for out number two, as McClanahan matched Mikolas’ nine strikeouts with nine of his own. Goldschmidt popped out to Brujan at second base for the third out of the Cardinals’ eighth.
McClanahan’s eight-inning, one run start this afternoon was the longest start of his career (36 starts).
McClanahan’s final line: 8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K’s (94 pitches)
Aside from the Choi homer, Mikolas kept up with McClanahan the entire day. He capped his start by setting down the Rays in order in the eighth inning on just six pitches. Phillips popped out to Sosa at short, Walls grounded out to Arenado at third, and Zunino flew out to left field.
After eight strong innings from McClanahan, right-hander Jason Adam was called on to preserve Tampa Bay’s 2-1 lead and complete the three-game sweep. Arenado worked the count full and then drew a leadoff walk as the potential tying run. Nolan Gorman, who has an OPS over .900 vs righties this season, pinch-hit for Pujols and struck out swinging for the first out of the inning. Tyler O’Neill was sawed off by an inside fastball that he grounded back up the middle, and Brujan fielded it himself, stepped on second, and fired to first for the game-ending double play.
Mikolas’ final line: 8 IP (CG), 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 9 K’s (85 pitches)
FINAL: Rays 2, Cardinals 1
St. Louis (32-26) will look to get back on track at Busch Stadium after being swept by the Rays. A seven-game homestand against the Reds (20-36) and Pirates (24-30) may be just what the doctor ordered. The Cardinals will kick it off with a night game against Cincinnati tomorrow at 7:15 p.m. Andre Pallante (1-0, 1.23 ERA) is currently slated to start for the Redbirds, his second career start. He allowed one run over four innings during last week’s 7-4 victory over the Cubs, although he did allow eight total baserunners. Luis Castillo (2-3, 3.55 ERA) will start for the Reds.
Around the Central
Reds 3, Diamondbacks 1 - Bot 8th
Pirates (Brubaker - 0-5, 4.70 ERA) vs Braves (Fried - 5-2, 2.74 ERA) - 6:20 pm
Pickle #92 - 4/9
I don’t want to spoil it, but this is unbelievably appropriate for today’s game.