Things are still dire for the Cardinals, as they possess the worst record in the National League and are 7.5 games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. But the tone seems to have changed just a bit. Winners of four of five (heading into Saturday’s game) and winners of a second-consecutive series opener, St. Louis has strung together their best stretch of baseball over the last several days.
Here’s today’s lineups, with St. Louis stacking the order with right-handers yet again against a southpaw.
- Tommy Edman, 2B
- Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
- Willson Contreras, DH
- Nolan Arenado, 3B
- Juan Yepez, LF
- Dylan Carlson, CF
- Paul DeJong, SS
- Lars Nootbaar, RF
- Andrew Knizner, C
Steven Matz - SP
And for the Red Sox
- Alex Verdugo, RF
- Justin Turner, 1B
- Rob Refsnyder, LF
- Rafael Devers, 3B
- Masataka Yoshia, DH
- Enrique Hernandez, SS
- Jarren Duran, CF
- Connor Wong, C
- Pablo Reyes, 2B
Chris Sale - SP
Shout out to Kenley Jansen for notching his 400th save this week, his Hall of Fame case is actually more interesting than I thought about a week ago — I didn’t realize he was approaching 400.
But my oh my, he’s been the goat in this series — and not the good kind. He walked Goldschmidt to lead off the ninth inning with a two-run lead, and then was a victim of Contreras taking full advantage of the new pitch clock rules (see below for a better explanation). Gorman came up clutch with another huge pinch-hit in the ninth inning, and Burleson did just enough to keep the Cardinals alive.
That’s back-to-back night the redbirds have rallied off Jansen, and they’ll go for their first sweep of the season (I think?) tomorrow night on Sunday Night Baseball.
Sale was able to work around a two-out double from Contreras to keep St. Louis off the board. Edman and Goldschmidt both grounded out, followed by the Contreras double to left field. Arenado flew out to right field for the third out, stranding Contreras at second.
Verdugo led off against Matz and hit a line drive to Nolan for the first out. Justin Turner capped off an eight-pitch at bat by hitting a double into the deep angled corner in left center field. Refsnyder flew out to right field, and Devers drove in Turner with a loud base hit off the green monster. Yepez played it well off the wall and hosed Devers at second base to end the inning, but Turner still scored on the play to make it 1-0 Boston.
Sale posted another scoreless frame while striking out two. Yepez struck out on three pitches to start the inning. Calrson worked a 10-pitch at bat, and eventually drew a walk. He did not move from that spot, however, as DeJong struck out and Nootbaar grounded out to first base.
Matz also put up a goose egg in the second inning, with some help from his defense. Yoshida grounded out to Arenado at third for an out, followed by a one-out base hit to right by Hernandez. The speedy Duran stepped in and hit a ground ball to Edman at second, who flipped to second and began the inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
The Cardinals were not patient in the third inning, as Sale only needed six pitches to navigate that inning. Knizner flew out to center field on the second pitch he saw, Edman singled to right field on the second pitch he saw, Goldschmidt flew out to center field on the first pitch he saw, and Contreras popped out on the infield on the first pitch he saw.
Wong led off the third and flew out to Yepez in left field. Pablo Reyes, who was just acquired from the A’s, fell behind 0-2 before working the count back to 2-2 and then peppering a changeup fro Matz off the wall in left field for a double. Matz’s fastball cut inside too much and got Verdugo on the arm to put him on base, but he battled back and struck out Turner looking with a sinker on the outside corner.
With two runners on and two outs, Refsnyder pulled the hands in and struck a 1-1 fastball from Matz high into left center field, banging a double off the green monster. Yepez probably had a play on the ball, but he anticipated the wall coming a bit sooner than it actually did. The ball banged off the base of the wall, both runners scored, and it was 3-0 Boston in the third. After he made it 3-0, Devers grounded out to first to end the inning.
Sale really started to settle in in the fourth, mowing through the Cardinals 1-2-3 on 13 pitches. Arenado flew out to left field, Yepez was called out on strikes, and Carlson struck out swinging.
Matz allowed a leadoff single from Yoshida, but was able to wiggle out of it without any serious damage. After his infield single died between the mound and Tommy Edman, Kike Hernandez hit a ground ball to DeJong, and wound up rolling into a 6-4-3 double play. Duran grounded out to Edman right after, sending this game to the fifth with Boston up 3-0.
No resistance from St. Louis in the fifth, either. DeJong flew out, Nootbaar struck out swinging at a slider in the dirt, and Knizner grounded out to first base.
Wong became just the second Boston strikeout victim in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the frame with a swinging strikeout. Reyes singled to left with one out, but Matz struck out both Verdugo and Turner to send this game to the sixth.
Sale set down the Cardinals in order — again. Edman flew out to shallow center field, Goldschmidt grounded out to first base, and Contreras swung out swinging at a slider in the dirt. That also made it 11 consecutive batters Sale had set down.
Refsnyder led off the sixth with a base hit to right field against Matz — his second hit of the day. Devers popped out in foul territory for the first out, but Yoshida drew a walk to put two on with just one out.
Oli Marmol went to the bullpen, calling in Drew VerHagen to wiggle out of the jam after a Cardinals’ starting pitcher failed to get through six innings for the fifth consecutive game.
VerHagen got Hernandez to pop out and strike out Duran to get out of the inning unscatched, keeping it a 3-0 ballgame.
Matz’s final line: 5.1 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K’s (91 pitches)
Nolan Arenado led off the seventh inning with a bang, leaning down and golfing a 1-0 fastball from Sale over the green monster for a homer — his fifth of the season. The ball traveled 414 feet and got the Cardinals on the board for the first time, 3-1.
Sale bounced back and struck out Yepez, Carlson, and DeJong in order to prevent any further damage. They were the seventh, eigth, and ninth strikeout victims of the day by Sale.
VerHagen pitched a scoreless bottom of the seventh, getting Wong, Reyes, and Verdugo to each fly out.
Sale returned for the eighth inning with a pitch count of 92, and — as he’d done most of the afternoon — set down the Cardinals in order. Nootbaar grounded out to third, and both Knizner and Edman flew out to right field.
Andre Pallante pitched the bottom of the inning for St. Louis, working around a one-out single from Refsnyder (who had three hits) to put up a scoreless frame. Turner grounded out to short, Refsnyder singled to left, Devers grounded out to second, and Yoshida struck out swinging.
Sale’s final line: 8 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K’s (110 pitches)
Kenley Jansen entered the game in the top of the ninth, looking to redeem himself after blowing last night’s game in the ninth. He started by walking Goldschmidt on four pitches — the same way Friday night’s game started. With Contreras hitting, Goldschmidt took off and stole second without a throw down — exactly how Friday night’s ninth inning started, too.
~Contreras drew a walk to put the tying run on base, but how he drew the walk was the interesting part. In a masterclass on exploting the new pitch clock rule, Contreras was able to steal not one, but two balls from Jansen. Contreras kept one foot out of the box until just before the clock hit eight seconds, and twice during his at bat, Jensen tried to begin his motion before the Cardinals’ catcher/DH had both feet in the box. Ball one was a volation, as was ball four~
Arenado stepped in and popped out to second base for the first out. Nolan Gorman — last night’s hero — pinch-hit for Yepez, with Contreras standing on first as the tying run. After falling behind 1-2, Gorman smoked a 98 mph cutter into right-center field for an RBI double, getting St. Louis back within a run, 3-2. Contreras was held at third, with Donovan coming to bat for Carlson next.
Boston intentionally walked Donovan to load the bases and set up the potential game-ending double play. The Cardinals countered by pinch-hitting Alec Burleson for DeJong with the game on the line.
Burleson took ball one high, and then hit a high, slow chopper to Reyes at second base. Reyes flipped to second for the first out, but Hernandez’s throw back to first was low, and it skipped into the Red Sox dugout. Contreras was going to score (and tie the game) regardless, but Hernandez’s throw rolling out of play also allowed Gorman to score from second, giving the Cardinals a 4-3, ninth-inning lead.
With two outs, Nootbaar hit a ground ball to third base, and Devers botched it. However, Burleson took off from second base as soon as he saw Devers’ goof, and was dead in the water when Devers picked the ball back up about four feet in front of him. Burleson was caught in a rundown and tagged out, sending the game to the bottom of the ninth with the Cardinals leading, 4-3.
Since Helsley pitched two innings last night, it was Giovanny Gallegos in for the bottom of the ninth, trying to lock down the Cardinals’ fifth win in their last six tries. Tapia grounded out to Edman at short and Duran flew out to Burleson in left field (Burleson made that catch a whole lot more difficult than it needed to be, but he caught it) for two quick outs. Triston Casas pinch-hit for for Wong, and singled up the middle as the possible tying run.
Resse McGuire, a left-handed hitting catcher, pinch-hit for Reyes with two outs in the ninth. He hit a ground ball to the left of Arenado, who ranged to his left to field it before throwing over to first for the final out. Ballgame.
FINAL: St. Louis 4, Boston 3
The Cardinals (15-25) will look to earn their first sweep of the season Sunday evening at Fenway against the Red Sox (22-18). Miles Mikolas (1-1, 5.40 ERA) will take the mound for St. Louis. Opposing him will be former Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber (2-4, 6.29 ERA).
First pitch is set for 6:10 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN on Sunday Night Baseball.
Around the Central
Reds 6, Marlins 5
Twins 11, Cubs 1
Royals, Brewers - 7pm
Pirates, Orioles - 7pm
MLB Pickle #430 - 2/9