Tonight, the Cardinals face the other Chicago ball team. Other John wrote some sympathetic words about the small bears, but personally, I’m far less sympatico with these lovable losers. I prefer to just stick with calling them losers. No sense wasting words on a lie.
Miles Mikolas takes the mound for the hometown heroes, while Jose Quintana leads the charge for the Northsiders. Advantage: who knows, but I love Miles Mikolas. Fun fact: the Cardinals front office signed Mikolas after watching video of him on the recommendation of their analytics department, without input from any scouts on the ground. It appears in the early going that their decision to pursue the Lizard King was well-founded. Quintana is no slouch, but I freaking love Miles Mikolas.
Fun fact: the FSMW broadcast team pointed out that the 2017 Cardinals and the 2017 Cubs had identical records against non-Cub/Cardinal teams. The 2017 Cardinals went 5-14 against the 2017 Cubs, accounting for the entire (massive) gap in the Central standings. We know what went wrong, so let’s fix it. It’s like they say: fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice — won’t get fooled again.
Mikolas came out throwing fire. He got squeezed on a lot of corner calls, but did just fine anyway. Fun fact: when Mikolas’s 2-2 curveball to Bryant on the lower outside corner of the plate got called a ball, it was only Mikolas’s 10th 3-ball count of the season. Out of ~140 batters faced. This guy might be the second coming of Greg Maddux, but with more velocity. And much better facial hair. And the cherry on top? Mikolas struck Bryant out, up and in, on the next pitch.
The Cards squandered a good scoring opportunity in the home half of the frame, courtesy of shit baserunning. Matty Carp drew a four-pitch walk from an 0-2 count and advanced on a Jose Martinez single. Marcell Ozuna singled on a liner to left, and Oquendo sent Carpenter. Even with a bad throw from the mediocre arm of Ol’ Flapjacks Schwarber, Carpenter was out, and it wasn’t particularly close. Yadi struck out to leave Ozuna and Martinez on 1st and 2nd.
Mikolas shut down the 5-7-8 section of the Cubs lineup, frustrating an Almora single.
Dexter Fowler led off the bottom half by reaching on a Javier Baez error, when Javy couldn’t find the handle on the ball and then threw it to the Anthony Rizzo standing on Anthony Rizzo’s shoulders. Gyorko singled, then DeJong lined out. Mikolas, 1-10 on the season with a lone dinger, struck out. Tommy Pham, angered by the baseball, crushed one over the visitors’ bullpen to notch his fifth dinger of the year. Pham’s wrath poured itself into a 105 mph, 32 degree, blazing-hot sphere of string, rubber, and horsehide. The fan that caught the ball was heard to utter, “ouch!” in a truly pitiful voice. 3-0 good guys.
The Cubbies went down in order, thanks in part to a very athletic leaping play by Gyorko to snag a hot liner off Bryant’s bat. The Cards threatened in the bottom of the frame, but a Yadi GIDP and a Gyorko strikeout wasted a Martinez single and walks from Ozuna and Fowler.
Nothing important happened.
The Cubes threatened in the top of the 5th. They got a 1-out single from Javy Baez, then opted to pull Quintana after only four innings for pinch hitter Ian Happ. Happ delivered a double into the right field corner. Mikolas set up Zobrist with soft, loopy breaking balls on the outside of the plate, then rung him up with 96 mph heat on the inner part of the plate, then induced a 5-3 groundout from Kris Bryant on a 95 mph two seamer. Mikolas’s effortless velocity is rarely found in a guy with his command and pitch selection.
Quintana’s removal left him with a pretty pitiful line: 4 IP, 5 H, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 dinger. 3 Runs. 0 Smiles.
The Cards faced old friend Steve Cishek in the bottom of the frame. An Ozuna single and a Fowler walk were frustrated by lineouts from Yadi and Martinez and a groundout from Gyorko.
Mikolas continued to stymie Northside batsmen. Kyle Schwarber, who is having an impressive offensive season in the early going, had this to say:
Mikolas finished the 6th inning at 81 pitches, which is 7 fewer than Quintana took to complete 4. Which is another way of saying that Mikolas is over 50% better than Quintana, one of the best pitchers in the Senior Circuit. Do not @ me.
The 7th went much the same. Miles used 11 pitches to get two groundouts and a lineup, working around a pinch hit single from Victor Caratini.
The bottom of the frame saw the Cardinals threaten with a 2-out rally. Ozuna smashed a 106 mph grounder through the left side of the infield, and Yadi worked back from a 1-2 count to hit a hard liner back up the middle on the 9th pitch of his PA. Fowler, who’s struggled pretty mightily this year so far, struck out to strand the runners occupying the corners. Still 3-0 Cardinals.
Mikolas gave up a self-defense double to Kris Bryant to start the inning, and he came out for Tyler Lyons, standing at the head of the inexplicable 9-man bullpen. Mikolas’s final line: 7 IP, 7 H, 4 K, 0 BB, Game Score 72. Seriously, genius signing, Mozeliak.
Lyons came in and looked pretty sharp. He attacked Rizzo on the inside of the plate and induced a high popup to right. Dom Leone came in to relieve Lyons, but incurred some form of injury during his warmup pitches. Greg Lukerson took his place. “Luke,” as his friends call him, struck out Willson Contreras and got a Schwarber groundout to end the inning. Godspeed, Dom Leone’s elbow. Brian Duensing worked a 10-pitch bottom of the frame, giving up a 5-pitch 2-2 single to Gyorko, erasing him on a 1-6-3 double play, and inducing a first-pitch 5-3 groundout from Harry Bader. Still 3-0 Cardinals for all you fans keeping score at home.
Bud Norris, designated closer against all odds, came in to close down the festivities. Almora managed a single to right on a 1-2 count. Jason Heyward, probably still wishing he had a time machine so he could come back and take the sweet, sweet guaranteed money the Cardinals offered him, lined out to left. Javy Baez hit a little Texas leaguer to left, bringing the tying run to the plate in the person of Tommy La Stella. Tension mounted. the silence in Busch Stadium was thick enough to cut with a knife.
La Stella hit a single to center. Almora scored.
Ben Zobrist stepped into the box, doing his patented “stand mixer” batting stance. Mixing that cake batter behind his head. The bullpen was as motionless as a tomb. Zobrist grounded into a bloopy 6-4 fielder’s choice, scoring Baez. 3-2 Cardinals, runner at 1st, 2 outs.
Kris Bryant steps to the plate, much like mighty Casey at the bat. Greg Holland, still waiting to find out when spring training ends for a guy that gets signed in late March, starts warming.
90 mph Cutter, middle-middle. Bryant swings. Strike 1.
85 mph Slider, right down the pike. Bryant swings. Foul ball, Strike 2.
95 mph Fourseamer, belt-high and way inside. Bryant swings, way out in front of it. Weak grounder to the left side. 5-4 putout.
CARDINALS WIN, 3-2. Cardinals lead season series against the Scrubs, 2-1.
I’m giving MVP Player O’ The Game honors to Mikolas here. He had a steady hand through 7+ innings of solid work against a dangerous (if sleepy) offense. Honorable mention to Tommy “King of Our Hearts” Pham, for driving in all the runs we’d ever want or need with his 412-foot tater.
Go ahead, you can admire it:
Come back tomorrow for more Division Rivalry Action. 1:15 CDT. Chatwood, the struggling (but coming off a big showing in Milwaukee) import from Denver, challenges Weaver, the talented (but also struggling lately) wunderkind. Be there or be a triangle.