Tonight, the St. Louis Cardinals played their 54th game of the 2018 season. This game is the exact one-third mark of the season, and thus it is a pretty logical time to calculate the team’s pace for the season. If the Cardinals won tonight, they’d stand at 90 wins. If they lost, they’d stand at 87 wins. Either record could miss or make the postseason, depending on circumstances, but 90 wins sure sounds safer. Like, that should probably get at least a Wild Card, right?
Here are the lineups for tonight.
And here is how the action unfolded.
First inning: Despite a Josh Harrison leadoff single, the top half went pretty quietly for Jack Flaherty and the Cardinals. Flaherty struck out Francisco Cervelli and Josh Bell and maintained a shutout, well, at least longer than Trevor Williams. Because in the bottom of the first, the Cardinals had their strongest first-inning offensive explosion so far in 2018. It wasn’t that big of an offensive explosion, but, like, have you seen the 2018 Cardinals offense? Matt Carpenter and Harrison Bader singled, Tommy Pham bunted for some reason (advancing no runners, not that this would’ve made the maneuver that much better), and then Jose Martinez walked to load the bases with one out. The cynic in me knew a double play was coming, but the reality in, well, reality prompted a two-run Dexter Fowler single to advance Martinez to second. The next batter, Yairo Munoz, cleared the bases and gave the Cardinals a 4-0 lead. Things died down quickly after that–Greg Garcia grounded out, and following a Francisco Pena intentional walk, Jack Flaherty grounded out himself.
Second inning: The Jack Flaherty shutout was short-lived. With runners on first and second and one out, Jordy Mercer singled to bring home Colin Moran. The next batter, pitcher Trevor Williams, sacrifice bunted Mercer to second, but a Josh Harrison strikeout ended the frame without further incident. The bottom half went quietly, as a Matt Carpenter single (Matt Carpenter doesn’t get out anymore, literally ever) was the sole offense contributed by the Cardinals.
Third inning: Francisco Cervelli and Starling Marte both struck out in a 1-2-3 inning for Jack Flaherty, who rebounded nicely from his rough second inning. The bottom half featured marginally more offense, as Greg Garcia reached on a bunt single, but that was all.
Fourth inning: Gregory Polanco doubled with one out to score Corey Dickerson, who singled to lead off the inning, and just like that the Cardinals’ four run lead to start the game had been halved. A pair of innocuous pop-up outs from Jordy Mercer and Trevor Williams limited the damage, but suddenly, there was a very competitive game. Perfect Baseball Angel Harrison Bader reached on an infield single with two outs and then stole second base (he’s fast, guys), but a Tommy Pham strikeout ended the inning.
Fifth inning: With Jack Flaherty’s pitch count started to escalate, he retired the first batter but then hit Francisco Cervelli with a pitch. Cervelli appeared injured at first–he has been battling injuries recently–but he took first base. A Starling Marte fly out put Flaherty one batter away from escaping with win eligibility (which shouldn’t matter, but probably does). And then Josh Bell hit a two-run home run to right-center. A Corey Dickerson fly out was convenient, but too late, Entering of the bottom of the fifth, the game was tied at four apiece. Once the Cardinals got to batting, Dexter Fowler doubled (oh, he’s also good now), and following a Yairo Munoz fly ball which advanced Fowler to third, Fowler scored on a Greg Garcia single. The inning ended with a Francisco Pena out, and I guess Francisco Pena is just kind of a thing now? 5-4 Cardinals.
Sixth inning: Tyler Lyons took the mound for the Cardinals, double-switching with Kolten Wong. You might be asking yourself, “Wait, why do this? It’s not like Tyler Lyons is going to go into the seventh, so a double switch is pointless unless you really want Wong’s glove in the game”, to which I say that Mike Matheny is perpetually managing an All-Star Game and his primary goal is to get everybody who isn’t the backup catcher into the game. Anyway, John Brebbia did pretty well after Lyons retired the two batters he faced; while Brebbia did allow a walk, Austin Meadows flew out to end the inning for the Pirates. In the bottom half, Tyler Glasnow came to pitch for the Pirates, and despite a pair of singles, the Cardinals produced no runs.
Seventh inning: Brebbia came back out and things went interestingly. Josh Harrison flew out to right to lead off the inning, but the next batter, Francisco Cervelli, reached on a rather bizarre-looking (I’m bad at adjectives sometimes) error by Yairo Munoz. The next batter, Starling Marte, reached on an infield single which was clumsily played by Munoz but, to his credit, the result probably wasn’t going to improve with a better defensive shortstop manning the position. With one out and runners on the corners, the Cardinals turned to 2013 Jake Westbrook But Throws 105 Out Of The Pen Jordan Hicks, who proceeded to walk Josh Bell. So the bases are loaded for Corey Dickerson, who is having an excellent debut season for the Pirates. But if there’s one thing Jordan Hicks has proven to do very well, it’s induce double play balls, and that’s what happened here. 6-4-3 double play with a delightful turn from Kolten Wong. The Pirates, despite major threats, scored zero runs. Between inning halves, I switched to Warriors/Cavaliers and by the time I switched back the inning was over? It appears that Dexter Fowler struck out, Yairo Munoz grounded out, and Jedd Gyorko popped up to second. That’s wild.
Eighth inning: Hicks remained in the game, and Colin Moran led off with a single. And then Gregory Polanco doubled into the gap to score Moran. Not ideal! And then Hicks kept pitching before Mike Mayers eventually started warming up. Kinda terrifying! Luckily for the Cardinals, Jordy Mercer was retired on a fairly benign fly out to right field, and then Adam Frazier walked, and Hicks stayed in the game. Oh come on guys! Next Josh Harrison flew out to right, Dexter Fowler was egregiously charged with an error on a throw which rightfully should have been cut off, and to face Francisco Cervelli with runners on second and third and two outs, the Cardinals double switched Bud Norris into the game (with Marcell Ozuna coming in to play left field and Harrison Bader moving to right). Aaaaand Francisco Cervelli hit a three run home run to left field. Sports is suffering and sports is pain and even if you root for one of the better teams you’re going to have your heart broken at a rate approaching constantly! It’s 8-5 Pirates in a game where the Cardinals once had their largest first-inning lead of othe season. Is “lol” an appropriate phrase for a recap? Whatever, I own the domain name, lolololololol. Anyway, the Cardinals went 1-2-3 in the bottom half because they wanna watch basketball instead too.
Ninth inning: Harrison Bader is awesome, and doubled. Tommy Pham is also awesome, though less so lately, but he got a bit lucky to reach first base on an error by Sean Rodriguez. This gave Marcell Ozuna, down three with runners on first and second, a chance to become a quote unquote True Cardinal by tying the game. But really, just avoiding an out would be extremely good. And Ozuna walked! And honestly that’s a thing that used to never happen. And here comes St. Louis native (TM) Luke Voit to pinch-hit with nobody out and the bases loaded. And Voit singled! He drove in two runs and put runners on the corners (tying run on third, winning run on first) with no outs! More excited internal screaming! The Cardinals are in rare “losing in the bottom of the ninth but favored to win the game” mode! And Yairo Munoz hit…a walkoff home run to Freese’s Lawn?!?!?! Look, I know I got bored and started drinking but I DIDN’T DRINK THAT MUCH I THINK THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!