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Smith’s slam bites Cardinals, Arizona takes series opener, 6-3

One poorly located curveball from Andre Pallante did the Redbirds in on Monday night.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

After salvaging a series split against the Pittsburgh Pirates over the weekend, the Cardinals focused their attention on the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night. They missed Zac Gallen in this series — instead, they got Merrill Kelly in game one, who has a career ERA of 3.38 against St. Louis in four starts.

Diamondbacks starting lineup:

  1. Josh Rojas, 3B
  2. Ketel Marte, 2B
  3. Lourdes Gurriel, LF
  4. Christian Walker, 1B
  5. Corbin Carroll, RF
  6. Pavin Smith, DH
  7. Gabriel Moreno, C
  8. Alek Thomas, CF
  9. Geraldo Perdomo, SS

Merrill Kelly - SP

And the Cardinals, with Paul Goldschmidt getting a rare day off against his former team:

  1. Brendan Donovan, 1B
  2. Alec Burleson, DH
  3. Willson Contreras, C
  4. Nolan Arenado, 3B
  5. Nolan Gorman, 2B
  6. Tyler O’Neill, LF
  7. Lars Nootbaar, CF
  8. Jordan Walker, RF
  9. Tommy Edman, SS

Jack Flaherty - SP

Truth be told, Flaherty looked as dominant as he has in quite some time. The first inning was a quick hiccup and the seventh was downright ugly, but innings two through six were vintage Jack. However, the righty started leaking oil in his final inning of work, and Andre Pallante entered the game to allow a soul-crushing grand slam to Pavin Smith that sealed this one for the Diamondbacks and made Flaherty’s line look considerably worse than was deserved.

Burleson had a late homer, but this one was all Diamondbacks from the seventh inning on.

1st Inning

The D-Backs were aggressive and had Flaherty down 1-0 after just three pitches in this one. Rojas led off the game with a double off the wall in left-center field on the second pitch he saw, and Marte stroked a line drive single to center field to score him on Jack’s third pitch of the day. 1-0 snakes.

With Gurriel batting, Arizona sent Marte in motion with a full count but Gurriel hit a grounder to Edman. Edman was able to flip to second to start a 6-4-3 double play, getting the first and second outs of the inning. Walker grounded out to Arenado at third for the third out. Despite the early run, Flaherty was able to escape the first inning having thrown just 12 pitches.

Kelly got ahead of Donovan 0-2 to start the at bat, but then grazed his arm with a high and tight fastball to put him on base to start the game. But, like the Diamondbacks, the Cardinals also grounded into a first inning double play. Burleson hit a ground ball to first base, and Walker turned and threw to second base to begin the 3-6-1 double play, with Kelly covering the back end. Contreras struck out swinging at a high fastball to end the inning.

2nd Inning

The speedster Carroll led off the second inning and lined out to Donovan at first base, who made a spectacular diving catch to keep the leadoff man off base.

Pavin Smith waged an eight-pitch war against Flaherty and eventually worked a walk, but Moreno grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.

Arenado led off the second inning, swung at the first pitch he saw, and popped out lazily to second base. Gorman followed with a line drive single to right field. But O’Neill flew out to left field and Nootbaar grounded out to second to end the inning and strand the runner.

3rd Inning

Jack worked a 1-2-3 inning on 12 pitches — Thomas grounded out to second, Perdomo grounded out to first, and Rojas lined out to first.

Likewise, Kelly worked a 1-2-3 inning on eight pitches, getting Walker, Edman, and Donovan to all ground out.

4th Inning

Another 1-2-3 inning for Flaherty, this time on nine pitches. Marte struck a line drive directly into Arenado’s mitt at third base, Gurriel popped out to Gorman in shallow right field, and Walker became Flaherty’s first strikeout victim on an inside fastball that Flaherty got the benefit of the doubt on.

Kelly worked around a one-out double in the fourth to put up another zero. Burleson led off the inning and flew out, but Contreras ripped the ninth pitch he saw from Kelly into the right field corner for a double. He never moved from there, however, as Arenado lined out to third base and Gorman hit a ground ball directly at Christian Walker to end the inning.

5th Inning

Flaherty kept cruising in the fifth, retiring all three batters on a total of 12 pitches. Carroll struck out swinging at a 94 mph fastball up in the zone, Smith grounded out to second, and Moreno was caught looking at a high, inside fastball for strike three. Moreno was the tenth consecutive hitter Flaherty sat down, but his offense was nowhere to be found through the first several innings.

O’Neill led off the bottom of the fifth with a clean single to left field, but he was quickly erased when Nootbaar hit a soft grounder to shortstop. Perdomo was shifted closer to the second base bag already, so he stepped on the base and fired to first for a 6-3 double play. Jordan Walker grounded out to Perdomo at short as well, ending the inning.

6th Inning

Flaherty’s string of 10 consecutive outs was broken with a leadoff walk to Alek Thomas, but the speedy outfielder was promptly gunned down by Contreras at second trying to swipe a bag.

With the bases empty, Perdomo struck out looking on a fastball that looked like it might’ve been an inch or two off the plate, but home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez rung him up anyway. Rojas flew out to O’Neill to end the top of the sixth.

Flaherty got through six innings on 78 pitches, allowing four baserunners over those six frames.

Edman struck out swinging leading off the sixth inning. Donovan followed and laid down a drag bunt into no-man’s land between the mound and third base that Kelly was able to get to and throw to first, but the throw was off line and he reached. With Burleson batting, Kelly was called for a balk, moving Donovan into scoring position. Burleson did not drive the run in, instead he hit a soft line drive to Perdomo at shortstop.

Contreras stepped in and had the best at-bat of his season, and perhaps the best at-bat of any Cardinal this season. After a 10-pitch battle, including fouling six pitches off, Contreras hammered a double off the wall in right-center field — tying the game at one run apiece. It was Contreras’ second double of the game and fourth of the season.

Arenado had the chance to put St. Louis ahead with Contreras in scoring position, but he struck out swinging to send this game to the seventh, tied 1-1.

Kelly’s final line: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 3 K’s (85 pitches)

7th Inning

Flaherty returned for the seventh and immediately gave back that run, as Marte took him 409 feet deep to left field for a solo home run — his second of the season. The homer put Arizona up 2-1, and was just their third hit off Flaherty.

Gurriel stepped in next and nearly went back-to-back with Marte, doubling off the left field wall and missing a home run by just a few feet. Flaherty walked Walker on his 90th pitch, and that was all she wrote for Jack. Marmol took the long walk and pulled him in favor of Pallante after a solid day at the office (despite what the final line looks like).

Pallante faced Carroll first and walked him on four pitches, which coincidentally was Carroll’s first walk of the season. Pavin Smith followed and hammered a 2-2 curveball from Pallante 414 feet into the right field bleachers, putting Arizona up 6-1 and closing the book on Jack Flaherty, who went from setting down 10 straight batters to finishing with four earned runs instead.

After Pallante finished watching Smith circle the bases after his prodigious grand slam, he struck out Moreno, struck out Thomas, and got Perdomo to ground out to send this game to the seventh inning stretch.

Dominican right-hander Miguel Castro took over after Kelly’s sterling six innings and worked a quick 1-2-3 shutdown inning. Gorman flew out to Carroll in right field, followed by strikeouts from O’Neill and Nootbaar — both of the looking and very much not swinging variety.

Flaherty’s final line: 6 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 3 BB’s, 4 K’s (90 pitches)

8th Inning

Genesis Cabrera took over in the eighth inning for mop-up duty and, despite some hard contact, put up a scoreless frame. Rojas flew out to right field, Marte struck out swinging, and Gurriel flew out to deep center field.

Right-hander Jose Ruiz was next out of the pen for the Diamondbacks. Walker grounded out, extending his cold streak that started when his hitting streak ended. Edman was hit by inside fastball to give the Cardinals a baserunner, but Donovan flew out to shallow left field for out number two.

But Burleson jumped Ruiz’s first pitch — a 95 mph fastball up and out of the zone — and crushed it nearly 400 feet into the right field seats for a two-run homer. It was Burleson’s second homer of the season, but the Cardinals still trailed 6-3. Contreras got ahold of a Ruiz fastball as well and stung it to right field, but Carroll made the catch on the warning track to end the inning.

9th Inning

Cabrera worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth, including two strikeouts. He finished with two perfect innings with three strikeouts in mop-up duty.

Left-hander Andrew Chafin jogged in from the Arizona bullpen to protect the three-run lead and close out the Cardinals. Arenado hit first and broke his bat on a slow ground ball back to Chafin for the first out. Dylan Carlson pinch-hit for Gorman with one out and struck out swinging, and O’Neill did the same to mercifully end the game.

FINAL: Arizona 6, St. Louis 3

Up Next

The Cardinals will try to even this series up tomorrow evening at Busch, as well as trying to avoid posting a losing record in this seven-game homestand after going 2-2 against the Pirates and now losing the first of a three-game set against the D-Backs.

25-year old right-hander Drey Jameson (2-0, 1.46 ERA) will throw for the Diamondbacks (10-7). Jameson is a former first-round pick who’s been electric thus far in his career, posting a 1.47 ERA over 36.2 big league innings. Left-hander Jordan Montgomery (2-1, 2.45 ERA) will go for St. Louis (7-10). Montgomery has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his three starts this season.

First pitch is set for 6:45 p.m.

Around the Central

Reds 8, Rays 1

Pirates 13, Rockies 1 - Bottom 5

Cubs 1, A’s 1 - Top 3

Brewers 3, Mariners 1 - Top 3

Today’s Pickle

MLB Pickle #404 - 2/9