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Cards Fall 7-3 in Opener Against Dodgers

Jack Flaherty struck out seven but the pitching and offense fell well short as the Cards’ abominable April continues.

Credit for image to Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

The Cardinals continued their west-coast road trip on Friday night with Jack Flaherty taking the mound across from Dustin May in Los Angeles. Both starters labored, with May allowing seven baserunners and Flaherty allowing nine. May managed to strand most of his runners, yielding only two runs while the Dodgers capitalized on mistakes from Flaherty and found some good luck on weakly hit balls in the third. Flaherty was eventually chased out in the fifth after loading the bases, giving up a total of five runs. The Cards’ bullpen would let up two more runs on a Miguel Vargas home run in the seventh and Lars Nootbaar would scrape in one more run for St. Louis in the ninth, leading to a 7-3 Cardinals loss to the Dodgers.

1st Inning

Lars Nootbaar led off for the Cards, working a full count before taking a fastball in the opposite batter’s box for a leadoff walk. Paul Goldschmidt tipped a foul ball straight into the home plate umpire’s mask, busting it into two pieces before rifling a double into left field two pitches later. Nolan Gorman dodged a 1-1 four-seamer that ran inside and went to the backstop, scoring Nootbaar and moving Goldschmidt to third with a 1-0 Cardinals lead.

Gorman then drew a walk and Nolan Arenado flew out to shallow left, holding Goldschmidt at third. Gorman swiped second on the first pitch to Willson Contreras, who hit his fly ball deep enough to right field to score Goldy on a sacrifice fly to give the Redbirds a 2-0 first-inning lead. Gorman also tagged up to third on the play but was stranded as Alec Burleson flew out to right.

Dodgers leadoff hitter Mookie Betts pivoted on a front-door slider up in the zone and promptly deposited it into the left field seats, cutting the Dodgers' deficit in half. Freddie Freeman hung around for seven pitches and reached for an outside slider to bloop it into short center for a soft hit.

Will Smith hit a soft grounder to Paul DeJong’s backhand side at short, whose only real play was to get the lead runner at second for the first out. Max Muncy sat patiently at the plate as Flaherty threw him a five-pitch walk. Jason Heyward fell behind 1-2 but got a cookie of a fastball down the heart of the plate, which he grounded just under Brendan Donovan’s glove for an RBI single, neutralizing the Cards’ early lead.

James Outman saw a nasty curve-slider-curve sequence from Flaherty and struck out on three swings. Miguel Vargas ended the first with a groundout to DeJong, sending the game to the second inning tied 2-2.

2nd Inning

DeJong started the second by chasing a 1-2 slider in the dirt for a strikeout. Donovan followed up with a bounce-out to first. Dylan Carlson tattooed a cutter into center, but it was caught by a sliding Outman to sit the Cards down quietly.

David Peralta led off the bottom of the inning and failed to hold a check swing at an 0-2 curveball buried in the dirt. Austin Barnes’ plate appearance was just as brief as he sat staring at a 1-2 cutter that caught the corner of the plate. Betts worked a stubborn six-pitch at-bat but flew out to Nootbaar to end a quick second inning.

3rd Inning

Back at the top of the Cards’ order, Noot drew his second walk of the evening and then swiped second. May then issued his fourth free pass to Goldschmidt. With runners on first and second and no outs, Gorman struck out chasing an outside sinker. Arenado worked a stubborn seven-pitch at-bat and scorched a line drive to right, but he was robbed of a hit as Heyward made an impressive diving catch. Contreras followed and grounded out weakly to second, leaving both runners on base.

Freeman blooped a 2-2 fastball back up the middle for a broken-bat single to start the bottom of the inning. Smith jumped on an 0-1 slider that caught too much of the plate, but he got under it and flew out to Carlson in center. Flaherty worked back to a 3-2 count against Muncy after falling behind 3-0 but left a slider up in the zone that Muncy tore into the right-center gap for an RBI double. Heyward then chased a curveball low and away, but got enough of it to poke it past Arenado for the Dodgers’ second RBI double in a row.

With the Dodgers leading 4-2, Outman struck out looking at a borderline cutter on the inside corner of the plate. Vargas struck out as well, ending a long 29-pitch inning for Flaherty.

4th Inning

Burleson scorched a slider at 105 mph off his bat, but it was hit straight at Heyward for the first out of the fourth. DeJong, after a short delay due to a beach ball falling onto the field, struck out for the second time on the night on four pitches. Donovan extended the inning with a hard-hit single that kicked off May’s glove but was stranded at first after Carlson hit a hard groundout to first.

Flaherty came back out in the fourth at 71 pitches and got Peralta on a quick ground out. Barnes struck out golfing at a curveball well below the knees and Betts grounded out to give Flaherty a clean fourth.

5th Inning

Nootbaar started off the fifth with a backward K as he got frozen by a sinker at the knees. Goldschmidt did the seemingly impossible and hit a line drive to right that Heyward didn’t catch, earning himself a one-out double. Gorman tried to take an outside sinker the other way, but he got under it and popped out weakly to left. With Arenado at the plate, Goldschmidt caught May sleeping and swiped third, but Arenado left him there, grounding out to short as the Cardinals continued to struggle on offense.

Freeman skied out to right to open the Dodgers’ half of the inning. Smith shot a grounder past Arenado for a one-out single. Muncy worked a six-pitch walk after a wild pitch advanced Smith to second. Nootbaar made a spectacular jumping catch on a line drive hit by Heyward, but Heyward’s swing clipped Contreras’ glove and he was given first on catcher’s interference to load the bases with one out. Outman fell behind 0-2, but Flaherty overcooked a curveball that clipped Outman in the front foot, bringing in another Dodger run to make it 5-2. Vargas continued to make Flaherty work, seeing eight pitches before striking out and ending Flaherty’s night at 110 pitches. JoJo Romero relieved him, prompting the Dodgers to pinch-hit Chris Taylor, who struck out on seven pitches to end the frame.

6th Inning

Caleb Ferguson replaced May in the top of the sixth and retired Contreras on a lineout to second. Burleson hit a worm-burning grounder, but it also went straight at Vargas for the second out. DeJong tallied his third strikeout, quickly sending the game to the bottom of the sixth.

Romero worked back from a 3-0 count against Barnes, but his 3-2 fastball just missed the outside corner for a leadoff walk. Betts struck out looking at a changeup that clipped the zone up and away. Freeman launched a grounder at 104 mph back at Romero who speared it (perhaps at the expense of a double play) and threw to first for the second out as Barnes advanced to second. Smith then lined out to center to end the Dodgers’ sixth.

7th Inning

Victor Gonzalez relieved Ferguson and surrendered a single to Donovan, who was erased after Carlson grounded into a double play. Nootbaar continued to show patience at the plate, drawing a two-out walk, after which Brusdar Graterol replaced Gonzalez and retired Goldschmidt on a one-pitch popout.

Romero remained in the game with three Dodger lefties coming up and sat down Muncy with a flyout to right. Trayce Thompson pinch-hit for Heyward and drew a walk, after which Outman struck out on a foul tip into the mitt of Contreras. Chris Stratton then came in to face the righty Vargas and dropped an 0-2 curveball in the middle of the zone which Vargas put into the left field seats to bust the game open at 7-2. Taylor then skied a fastball to right for the final out.

8th Inning

Shelby Miller (yes, that Shelby Miller) came out to pitch the eighth for LA and issued a leadoff walk to Gorman. The walk proved harmless, however, as Arenado just missed a home run for a warning track flyout, Contreras flew out to shallow center, and Burleson grounded out to second.

Stratton continued to pitch into the eighth, retiring Barnes on a flyout to right. Betts followed with a popout to first. Freeman turned on an inside fastball at the knees, lining it down the right field line for a double. He was left on second, though, as Smith flew out to Nootbaar in shallow right.

9th Inning

Alex Vesia took the mound for the Dodgers in the top of the ninth. DeJong dodged the sombrero and worked a nine-pitch walk. Tommy Edman pinch-hit for Donovan and struck out looking at three straight fastballs square in the zone. Carlson attacked a 1-2 fastball that grooved down the center of the plate, putting it into right to put two on. Nootbaar capped off a good night for himself, knocking in DeJong with a single to shrink the Dodgers’ lead to 7-3.

Goldschmidt got way under a fastball up in the zone, popping out to right for out number two. Gorman was then unable to check his swing on a low slider, sealing the Cardinals' loss at 7-3.

The Cardinals fall to 10-17 on the season as their brutal April continues. Their series against the Dodgers resumes Saturday night, with Jordan Montgomery facing off against Clayton Kershaw at 8:10 PM Central Time.