Following an utterly impossible to surpass weekend sweep against the Chicago Cubs, the St. Louis Cardinals took the field against the Minnesota Twins for the first of two games. Here was our overall series preview.
I’m going to level with you–last night wore me out. I stayed up to watch Javier Baez’s 14th inning go-ahead, Dexter Fowler’s 14th inning walk-off, and a few delightful examples of Cubs fans passive-aggressively tweeting at Aliya Fowler (“He looked way better in Cubs blue!” they continue to insist as they slowly shrink and transform into a corn cob), and it was great…but I also intended to get more sleep than that. So tonight had to be exciting, so we got…
John Gant and Fernando Romero. I mean, those are certainly pitchers on the St. Louis Cardinals and Minnesota Twins (I’m not certain, but I don’t know the situation well enough to call their bluff).
I can’t pretend to know Twins prospects well, but Fernando Romero began 2018 as the team’s #5 prospect according to the first Google result I found pertaining to the matter. John Gant, acquired in the trade which sent Jaime Garcia to the Atlanta Braves, is much less heralded relative to his organization and seemingly is only in the Majors because the Cardinals got confused on how long it would take Adam Wainwright to make it back to the big leagues. Also, Ron Gant was probably my favorite player on the very first Cardinals team I watched. They aren’t related at all.
Anyway, here are the lineups:
Here’s how the game unfolded.
Joe Mauer, the hometown catcher-turned-first baseman who the Twins were once mocked for drafting ahead of Mark Prior, led the game off with a walk. Two batters later, Max Kepler doubled to right, scoring Mauer, who had advanced to second on a John Gant wild pitch. Eduardo Escobar struck out, but an Eddie Rosario double scored Kepler and suddenly, the Cardinals were down 2-0 before they got a chance to bat. Matt Carpenter, playing first base (is how many games have featured two first basemen leading off Play Index-able? Eh, I’m not gonna do it even if it is), led the bottom half off with a walk, but the Cardinals outfielders went down quietly, with a Dexter Fowler flyout sandwiched between Harrison Bader and Marcell Ozuna strikeouts. Through one inning, 2-0 Twins.
Paul DeJong got a double. Harrison Bader got a single. These were in different innings and nothing else even moderately of note happened in the game. Kurt Warner joined the Fox Sports Midwest booth. Considering he is very much not a baseball expert, he was charming and charismatic. I love him.
A rough first inning, coupled with general skepticism that it was he starting tonight’s game rather than Jack Flaherty, Austin Gomber, or three kids standing on top of each others’ shoulders wearing a trenchcoat, led to criticism in the early going of John Gant’s start, but in the second and third inning, he allowed no base runners and struck out three. But in the fourth, John Gant turned into John Can’t Get Minnesota Twins Players Out (swish!) again. Eduardo Escobar and Robbie Grossman got singles in two of the first three plate appearances, putting runners on the corners, while Bobby Wilson, like his batterymate making his second career MLB appearance, hit a sacrifice fly to score Escobar. As in the second inning, the sole Cardinals offense was a Paul DeJong hit. 3-0 Twins.
A perfect 1-2-3 inning for John Gant! In the bottom half, following a Carson Kelly hit-by-pitch, the Cardinals opted to stick with John Gant to bat. I can argue for pinch-hitting here, given Gant’s lack of reliability on the big league level, but I generally agree with the decision for him to bat (and bunt, which he did successfully). The last couple games have destroyed the bullpen, and bunting here was not itself a terrible option. Bases loaded? Sure, pull him and hit a freaking dinger, but in this case, a bunt is fine. Less fine? Not bring home the run. Matt Carpenter struck out, and while Harrison Bader walked, a Dexter Fowler flyout ended the inning.
Keeping John Gant in the game did not pay off. Well, no relievers lost their arms, so I guess in that sense it did, but in a “helping to improve the odds of winning the game” sense, not so much. Eduardo Escobar walked, and a Robbie Grossman double scored Escobar, prompting the Cardinals to use Matt Bowman. While Bowman is perhaps not the best reliever on the team, he gives the Cardinals two clear advantages–with the team’s Win Expectancy not great, it saves the relief aces, and Matt Bowman is able to continue his consecutive games streak. Cal Ripken Jr., eat your heart out. Anyway, Bowman pitched well, which is cool, and the Cardinals did not hit well, which is less cool. 4-0 Twins.
Matt Bowman once again put up a solid inning. He allowed a single to Max Kepler with two outs, but then struck out Eduardo Escobar (who keeps coming up here, oops!) to end the inning. Unfortunately, however, the Cardinals offense decided to take off a day in tribute to Yadier Molina.
Hey, you know that part where I said Matt Bowman pitched really well? It turns out he’s a relief pitcher, and one who pitches all the dang time, and that eventually, fatigue was going to set in. But really, who could’ve known? The eighth inning went poorly, with Eddie Rosario doubling, Robbie Grossman singling, Bobby Wilson doubling, Mike Matheny’s lack of confidence in winning the game (probably fairly) showing, Ehire Adrianza being hit by a pitch, and eventually, nondescript Guy In The Bullpen Ryan Sherriff coming into the game. The first batter Sherriff faced, Ryan LaMarre, singled, but Bobby Wilson was thrown out at home, thanks in large part to a nice throw from Harrison Bader (ahem). A Joe Mauer strikeout and Brian Dozier flyout helped Sherriff curtail the damage, but a 6-0 Twins lead looked less than ideal. Because not every baseball game can be as fun as this weekend, the Cardinals offense went 1-2-3.
I mean honestly at this point who cares? Why are you reading this? Seriously, Dexter Fowler hit a two-out, two-strike home run that sent the Cardinals from trailing to their heated rival to winning the game less than a day ago. Watch that video. Here!
Luke Gregerson pitched the ninth and it went well in and of itself. I’d rather he pitch in higher-leverage spots, but honestly they’re just running out of arms despite an 83-man bullpen. Gregerson went 1-2-3 and then Matt Magill took the mound for the Twins and, well, yeah. Paul DeJong got another hit. He did good. The Cardinals got one hit from players other than Paul DeJong. I’m going to bed.