No clever titles today. Or any day, but today I’m not even going to try. Today’s matchup included an intriguing pitcher’s duel featuring one of the finest young pitchers in the National League and also Aaron Nola. Here’s how the lineups looked, first for the Phillies.
…and then for the Cardinals…
I missed watching the first inning due to personal obligations (I sheepishly insist “I have friends! I have friends!”). I was, however, able to listen to it in its entirety on KMOX! I mean, Mike Shannon was announcing a game on a Sunday afternoon so I didn’t understand what was going on, but I felt like I had a very narrow glimpse into the action. Anyway, very little happened. The lone player to get on base was Matt Carpenter, who doubled (hey, it turns out the historically very good hitter whose batted ball numbers suggested he was still very good was bound to eventually start hitting well!). Tyler O’Neill, who is batting cleanup presumably because he’s now on pace for 50-something home runs per season, struck out to end the inning.
Both pitchers threw 1-2-3 innings, albeit of different flavors. Jack Flaherty struck out three consecutive Phillies and Aaron Nola got three consecutive outs on balls in play. Same results. Still 0-0.
Flaherty pulled a 2nd inning Nola, getting three consecutive outs via Not The Strikeout. Through three innings, Flaherty had a perfect game and for some reason, I saw a bunch of people on Twitter mentioning the possibility of him completing one. Which, like, I don’t believe in no-hitter jinxes but he had six more innings to go. Pitchers don’t even become more likely than not to pitch a no hitter until, like, 25 outs are recorded. At this point, there had been nine. It is my goal at St. Louis Bullpen to ruin everybody’s fun. In the bottom half, the Cardinals showed some signs of offensive life. Jack Flaherty recorded his first MLB hit, a one-out single, and with two outs, Matt Carpenter hit a single which advanced Flaherty to third. However, Jose Martinez struck out looking, leaving the game at 0-0.
Rhys Hoskins, the guy who finished fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting last year despite being called up in August, is still pretty good. He hit a home run to end the perfect game, the no-hitter, the shutout, and the Cardinals’ time with the lead. Although Flaherty issued a two-out walk to Carlos Santana, he recovered nicely, striking out Jorge Alfaro. And while the Cardinals entered the bottom half facing a deficit, they were not long for losing. Tyler O’Neill led off the frame with a single, and Dexter Fowler walked to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Kolten Wong grounded out to second, but thanks to some crazy, heads-up base running (and a Carlos Santana throwing error), O’Neill made it home and Fowler made it to third. Greg Garcia, making a start at shortstop after two days of Jedd Gyorko, singled to give the Cardinals the lead. Back-to-back strikeouts from Francisco Pena and Jack Flaherty (so it goes) ended the inning quietly, but not before the Cardinals took a 2-1 lead.
In the top half, Jack Flaherty went 1-2-3 again and struck out two. You know what, let’s just give him a perfect game watch again. Okay, Jack Flaherty is perfect through five. The bottom half went similarly quietly, with Tommy Pham and Jose Martinez adding to the strikeout parade.
Two more strikeouts! Flaherty is up to ten! And the perfect game I declared last inning remains intact. Mercy. In the bottom, Tyler O’Neill, my cleanup hitter, led off the inning with his second career home run, and second in two days. He’s the best hitter in baseball history. Thanks to Dexter Fowler, the offensive parade continued–he singled, stole second, was bunted to third, and made it home on a sacrifice fly. 4-1 Cardinals.
Flaherty went 1-2-3 again, struck out another batter, ho hum. Pitch count is getting high and he fell behind a couple batters but goodness. He’s never leaving St. Louis. I mean, I guess he can for road trips. Just not ones to Memphis. He batted for himself to lead off the seventh inning–at 106 pitches, I don’t think I would’ve done this and now I am scareda. While his inevitable out, followed by a Tommy Pham strikeout, made the inning look like a lost one for offenses in general, Matt Carpenter doubled (yes, again), and a Jose Martinez single scored him, while a Tyler O’Neill single created further potential for offensive mayhem. However, a Dexter Fowler flyout curtailed the scoring and limited the Cardinals’ lead to 5-1.
Oh, cool, a leadoff single from Aaron Altherr. Almost like Jack Flaherty has been pitching a long time, much longer than he had done previously in the big leagues, and that as much as every fan base in history has hated its bullpen, that might be a better call at this point in the game! Mike Matheny is taking years off my life. But because Flaherty is still a golden God of pitching, he struck out Maikel Franco. Still worried! Like, I know Flaherty won’t be the one to blow it, but he could make it easier for someone else to do it. Oh great, and now let’s see what happens with Scott Kingery and OH MY GOD HE STRUCK HIM OUT GO JACK FLAHERTY GO GO GO YOU BEAUTIFUL GAZELLE OF A PITCHER! Sanity prevailed, however, and Mike Matheny came to pull Jack Flaherty in favor of Jordan Hicks. Matheny is a killjoy (why, yes, there is no way for him to win and managers exist as avatars for us to hate!). Hicks, not being a strikeout pitcher somehow, didn’t get one, but he did induce an inning-ending groundout. The Cardinals went 1-2-3, which is fine because I wanna turn on the hockey game instead.
Jordan Hicks stayed in the game, which seems okay. It’s a four-run lead and this should be safe regardless. Basically, unless they pick a position player, any pitcher would be fine with me. Hicks is facing the top of the order, but the odds are still very much in the favor of the Cardinals. After a leadoff Cesar Hernandez walk, Greg Garcia helped to turn a nifty 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Rhys Hoskins. Against Odubel Herrera, Jordan Hicks got measured at 105 miles per hour, which, like, clearly the radar gun is broken but, um, he does throw the ball really fast. Herrera reached first on a “dropped” third strike (the ball got away from Francisco Pena and the home plate ump took like seven hours to call it a strike–it kinda looked like a foul tip). And then Carlos Santana walked, which is fine because hockey’s still at intermission. No worries, though, a groundout to Kolten Wong ended this game at, in the words of The Doors, five to one, baby. Jack Flaherty gets his first career win. Baseball was fun today.