The Cardinals play the Phillies tonight. It’s hard to believe that the Phillies, recently freed of Ruben Amaro Jr.’s yoke of horrendous mega-contracts, are 23-16 in a year that they weren’t expected to contend. It’s hard to believe that we just split 6 games against the woebegone Padres and the forlorn, forsaken Twins. It’s hard to believe that Carpenter, Ozuna, and Fowler are struggling as badly as they are, as the offensive game rides entirely on the likes of an impossibly overperfoming sleeper prospect shortstop, a guy we bought from Kansas City for a few parking passes and the kind of money Bill Dewitt finds in his washing machine, a forever-injured and legally blind former prospect, and a Mountaineer human thumb whose salary is still paid in significant part by the Padres.
It’s not hard to believe that we could really use a win here against Vince Velasquez. Velasquez has lost some of his shine in the last couple years, but still flashes brilliance from time to time and is a talented kid. Hopefully Weaver shows what he’s really made of and breaks the funk he’s been struggling with once and for all here. Lineups:
Weaver has had a few rough starts in recent days, but he looked like a new pitcher tonight. He attacked batters, challenging them in the zone and locating very well all night. He frustrated Phillies batters for 7 innings, giving up a paltry 4 hits and a walk against 6 strikeouts. Unfortunately, 25% of the hits he allowed were dingers of the smooth variety (get it? because it was a Carlos Santana hit?), but beyond that Weaver made a very strong showing tonight.
Weaver’s only real jam came in his final inning of work, and he sailed through it. Odubel Herrera (who is riding a 41-game reached base streak, as I understand) hit a broken bat jam shot to the right side of the infield. Weaver dodged the bat barrel while Carpenter made what qualifies as an athletic play for him, but the throw came too late and Herrera beat it. Rhys Hoskins got struck out, then Carlos Santana got made to look foolish striking out on 3 pitches. Maikel Franco hit a sharp single to right, but Scott Kingery flinered out and the threat was over. The score was 1-0 Phillies at the 7th inning stretch.
The bottom of the 7th saw the Cardinals squander their first best shot at tying it up. Fowler walked and advanced to 3rd on a 1-out Carpenter double. Francisco Pena hit into a 6-? fielder’s choice, and the shortstop chose to gun down Fowler at the plate with about 30 feet to go, because Fowler went on contact and the contact was bad. Carp moved up to third, but Greg Garcia pinch hit for Weaver and ended the threat with a flyout to center.
Jordan Hicks took over in the 8th, and the wheels fell completely off the bus. Hicks is a fun pitcher because of his velocity, and his control is truly passable-to-good for a guy with his immense arm muscles. But lurking somewhere between the facts that this iteration of MLB can handle extreme velocity, that Jordan Hicks doesn’t miss bats or have a convincing out pitch, and the vagaries of BABIP and whatever karmic shitstorm we’re riding out, there’s a monster that tore Hicks limb from limb tonight. The inning went: Alfaro seeing-eye single, Florimon hits to the right side of the mound and Hicks is late trying to get the runner, Cesar Hernandez dying quail single, Aaron Altherr Texas leaguer back up the middle. Hicks gets the hook with no outs recorded after giving up 3 hits and a defensive miscue, and the score is now 3-0 Phillies. Almost like they rushed an immensely gifted minor leaguer to the bigs and he’s not quite done, still a little doughy in the middle. What I’m saying is if you stuck Hicks with a toothpick, it’d come out with a lot of cake batter on it.
Sam Tuivailala took over and immediately gave up a hit to Odubel, scoring Hernandez. He dug in and struck Hoskins out, put Santana on intentionally to jam the sacks, and induced a grounder to short with which DeJong got the force at the plate. Nick Williams grounded out, and the game headed to the bottom of the 8th at 4-0 Phillies.
The Cardinals then put together their second act of run-building attempts. Tommy Pham walked on 4 pitches. Jose Martinez singled, then DeJong was hit by pitch to load ’em up with no outs. Marcell Ozuna, seeing that things were looking good–a little too good, grounded into a 5-4 FC but beat the double-play throw to first. Pham scored on the play, which ain’t nothin. Fowler hit a grounder to the right side, and Santana gunned Martinez down at the plate. Jedd Gyorko hit a single to left, scoring Ozuna, and it looked like we had the go-ahead run coming to the plate in the person of Graves Disease Carpenter. Gabe Kapler Brough Adam Morgan in to pitch, who is a lefty, so Matheny countered by pinch-hitting for Carp with Harrison Bader, a righty. It was a good thought, but it died on the vine when Bader hit a looooong fly to the track in the right field corner. 4-2 Phillies.
John Brebbia came out to pitch the 9th for the home team. he gave up a single on the first pitch and a homer on the fourth, but limited the damage there. 6-2 Phillies.
The Cardinals struggled on for a seeming eternity in the bottom of the frame. Francisco Pena collected his third hit of the night, and Kolten Wong followed it up with another nice little single over second base. Tommy Pham flied out and Jose Martinez singled to load the bases. Paul DeJong stepped into the box, but was retired. Marcell Ozuna grounded out to kill the dream. Phillies win 6-2.
Hate to see Weaver’s strong start get squandered. His 7 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 6 K start was good for a nice game score of 69. Velasquez matched that game score, but he walked more, struck out less, and gave up an additional hit over 2/3 less of an inning. The difference was mostly in the 7 H/2 K/1 HR/1 walk that the Cardinals bullpen gave up, against the 5 hits and a walk they were able to muster against Philly’s pedestrian bullpen.
Tim McCarver was in rare form tonight. Well, not rare, because he does it all the time. But he was pretty unintentionally entertaining tonight. I livetweeted some of his greatest hits:
Our next game is tomorrow at 7:15 CDT. Old nemesis Jake Arrieta takes on Michael Wacha, who are both putting together solid efforts this year. Let’s hope the bats wake up soon, or it’ll be a long summer.