I love attending night games during the summer, especially on the weekends when you don’t care how late it goes.
Growing up in St. Louis, you learn to embrace the humidity. As the sweat trickles down my forehead, I feel like I’m a part of the live action. To me, summertime and baseball go together like peanut butter and jelly.
While the Cubs have pretty much owned this rivalry since the 2015 NLDS, it’s hard not to get excited when they come to town. You always hope your team will turn things around, eventually. Can we forget about what happened 24 hours ago?
Carlos Martinez has not looked like himself yet since returning from the DL. You know who you’re facing in Kyle Hendricks. This is a prime opportunity for Martinez to switch gears and get his rhythm back.
1st inning – Zobrist walks to leadoff the game. That’s not the best way to start this one. Heyward flies out the shallow center, Bryant pops out to the right side, and Rizzo grounds out to the pitcher for an easy play. The next three go in order so no harm done.
Matt Carpenter skies one into left for out #1. He was aggressive in his approach. Pham, however, appears patient as he draws a walk. What is this? Yadi is batting third instead of Ozuna. I don’t understand. Yadi flies out to Heyward in right. On a 2-1 pitch, Marcell Ozuna crushes a line drive to center, and it’s gone! 2-0 Birds! That was such a pretty, smooth swing. It’s so great to see Ozuna hitting like the power monster he was last year. Next, Fowler makes good contact but flies out. We lead 2-0.
2nd inning – Contreras dribbles one to short. Munoz throws him out. Schwarber walks on 5 pitches. Russell swings and misses for out #2. Good job by Carlos to get ahead in the count there. Happ reaches on an infield single but Martinez gets Hendricks to strike out looking.
Let’s add to this lead. We have not been scoring runs enough early in the game. I’m tired of watching us try to play from behind. To begin, Munoz and Wong both ground out. Here’s Carlos Martinez. Note that his batting average is .222, while Fowler is hitting .169 and Carpenter .236. I know there’s a significant difference in the amount of plate appearances, but still! Martinez with a fly ball to deep left, does it have enough?? Not quite, as Schwarber hauls it in near the wall. For a second there I thought it would carry over the wall.
3rd inning – Zobrist singles to left. I’m envious of Zobrist’s plate discipline and ability to consistently get on base. I don’t think the Cardinals have a match for him in their lineup at the moment. Matt Carpenter was once that guy, but I don’t know if he is anymore? I don’t see how the Cubs win that world series without Zobrist. He often gets overlooked because he’s not a power-hitting star like Bryant and Rizzo, but he rarely strikes out and does what you want from a leadoff hitter. Cubs fans, do not underestimate the value of this guy. Next, Heyward pops out. Bryant, on a full count, walks. So it’s 2 on, 1 out for Rizzo. Carlos really needs to find the strike zone. I’m getting nervous. As Yadi trots to the mound to chat with Carlos, wouldn’t you just love to hear the dialogue? Supposed English translation:
“Hey man, bring the curve right here, inside. Yo, let’s get out of this jam. One more pitch, do your thing.” I have no idea. It’s been a while since I’ve played organized baseball and/or taken spanish in school. Rizzo reaches first on a fielder’s choice. It would’ve been an inning-ending double play. Close. So it’s runners on 1st and 3rd with 2 outs. WHAT. What did I just see? Contreras hits one off the end of the bat, and a weird spin or hop causes Matt Carpenter to field this with his bare hand, but he can’t record the out. Get in front of the ball. That’s a tough pill to swallow, as it leads to the Cubs’ first run. Schwarber flies out to the warning track. Exhale. We still lead 2-1. Carlos thought he had struck out Contreras on that at-bat. Certainly there were some close calls in the strike zone. That half inning felt like an eternity. I worry about Carlos’ pitch count (62) through 3.
Carpenter lines out to second. Pham singles to right! Yadi up. Pham steals. He slides in head first and they say he’s out. Tough to tell from my angle. You want to take risks and be aggressive. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. Yadi walks, so you think, oh what could’ve been, had Pham just stayed put at first. Marcell flies out to center and the inning is over.
4th inning – Russell smashes a homer to center and we’re tied, 2-2. Wow, I’m noticing how many Cubs fans are here after these cheers. In the lower level it seems slightly outnumbered. That’s discouraging. Happ strikes out looking but then Martinez walks Kyle Hendricks (seriously?). This has been too many walks tonight. Walks are a killer. It’s a free pass to a terrible hitter. I don’t know how you do that. Zobrist gets on base again with a single through the right side. Uh oh. This is not looking good. Thankfully, Heyward grounds into a double play to end it. Inhale, exhale.
Hendricks, meanwhile, is at a pitch count of 41 as we start the bottom of inning #4.
Gyorko is retired by Russell. Fowler gets on base! He hits a single to right. We must gain the momentum back. The best way is get guys on base. Keep it simple. Don’t try to do too much when you’re in the batter’s box. Munoz contributes with a bloop single to right. Fowler knew that it was going to drop as he goes from first to third. We must take advantage of RISP here. Every run is so important when you play the Cubs. In steps Kolten Wong, 1st and 3rd with one out. Wong swings at a pitch out of the zone. 2 down. Carlos is up now. This is a good at-bat. Heyward charges in and almost makes an incredible diving play but it squeaks out of his glove! Fowler scores and the Redbirds reclaim the lead 3-2! Who says pitchers can’t hit? Carpenter flies out to the warning track in left. Well, the Cardinals really made Hendricks work that inning.
5th inning – Carlos AGAIN walks the leadoff man. My goodness. Bryant on first. Here’s Rizzo. Gyorko, on the move, makes a nice over-the-shoulder grab in foul territory. Contreras lays down a perfect bunt. Gyorko was playing deep. So it’s 2 on, 1 out for Schwarber. A lefty has begun warming up in the Cardinals’ bullpen. Can Carlos get out of this jam? Do you keep him in? I say so. The pen had to pitch a lot last night. With an 0-2 count, Schwarber singles up the middle. He also advanced to second on the throw. Runners at 2nd and 3rd with just 1 out. Carlos gets a big strikeout of Russell. An intentional walk to Happ loads the bases. Here’s Hendricks to the batter’s box. No pressure. Strike 3! Pitch count update: 98 for Carlos through 5 inning. That could’ve been a lot worse. We are still tied 3-3.
Russell throws out Pham. Yadi walks. How about another bomb from Ozuna? Not this time, as the first base umpire says he went around for strike 3. Gyorko grounds out. To the 6th we go.
Carlos Martinez finishes with 5 IP, 7 hits allowed, 3 ER, 6 walks and recorded 5 strikeouts.
6th inning – Gomber is in the game now for the Birds. Great snag by Gyorko at third on Zobrist’s laser. Zobrist is human! He can make an out! Heyward lines out to Pham, so there’s 2 down. Gomber strikes out Bryant. Nice work.
Hendricks’ pitch count update: 80. He remains in and walks Fowler on 4 pitches. Munoz singles to left but Fowler overran second base and gets thrown out at third. Dude! What are you doing?? Stop at second. Don’t even round it. That is so dumb I can’t believe we just witnessed such a little league mistake. That is surely going to come back to bite us. The Cardinals could not get the run in, as Wong popped out and pinch hitter Luke Voit struck out. This is fitting to inform you that the Cardinals have 3 mound visits remaining, while the Cubs have 4. I’m not used to this being a meaningful stat. After 6, it’s 3-3.
7th inning – Tui faces Rizzo and it’s a single up the middle. Contreras puts Rizzo into scoring position with a sac bunt. Remember, once upon a time, when the Cardinals were the team that did all the little things right? Remember the Cardinal way? What happened to this? Now it’s like the Cubs do all of the little things right. They make the plays they need to, whether it’s in the field defensively or a sacrifice bunt. The little things have got away from us, somehow. Anyway, Tui intentionally walks Schwarber, which brings in Russell. Russell flies out. It’s 2 on, 2 out for Happ. On a 1-2 pitch, Happ rips a double into the right field corner and Chicago takes the lead 4-3. Tui did not do his job. How about some relievers that you can trust right now if you’re the Cards? I’d say Bud Norris and maybe Jordan Hicks? Yikes. Hicks is in the game now. LaStella pinch hits, so Hendricks is officially done for the evening. LaStella grounds out. So at this point, we’re only down by one run. We’re ok, right?
We could really use a baserunner. Rosario retires Carpenter (man, this is not his night!). Cishek enters the contest and retires Pham. And Yadi then grounds out to third. 1-2-3
8th inning – Hicks faces the top of the order. Munoz had made a nice play to get Zobrist, but Carpenter can’t come up with it at first. Zobrist is aboard. To me, that’s a play that Carpenter has to scoop. It proved to be costly, as Heyward stepped in and blasted a 2-run dinger into the Cards’ pen. He was ready for the heat. I can’t fault Jordan Hicks for that. That’s a tough pill to swallow, as the Cubs lead 6-3. Hicks strikes out Bryant but walks Rizzo. That’s it for Jordan. We have twice given up a lead in this game. Frustrating. Enter Matt Bowman. This is still within reach. Let’s not let the train run completely off the tracks here. While Bowman got the final two outs, he didn’t make an easy play on a grounder right back to him. He had all the time in the world to throw to second to get the out. He somehow slipped off the mound and threw wide of the base. Everyone was safe. OH MY WORD. HOW. You could’ve underhand tossed that and got him out by several steps! It’s these kinds of things that deeply concern me as a fan. There are simple, routine plays that have to be made. For whatever reason, this team is not making them. It’s maddening to watch this team beat themselves time and time again.
Ozuna, Gyorko, and Fowler go in order. Pedro Strop made that look like a walk in the park. Meanwhile, our relievers struggle to field the ball correctly.
9th inning – They’ve announced that it’s a sellout crowd at Busch. In fact, it’s the largest crowd of the season. I look to my left and in front of me. I observe almost two full rows of empty seats. But they calculate attendance based on season ticket holders, not actual bodies in the seats.
The Cubs don’t add to their lead.
It’s our final chance. Put those rally caps on.
Cards’ have life, with Munoz and Wong getting on base. At least make this interesting. Greg Garcia pinch hits and it’s a slow tapper to the right side. With runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out, Morrow gets Carpenter and Pham to swing and miss. Strike 3, goodnight.
You could start to feel this one slip away. It was too predictable. We never got the momentum back on our side, especially after Happ’s double and then after Heyward’s homer.
This is now the point in the season where optimism is fully replaced with pessimism. Things are not getting better for this team. I know that we are still without Paul DeJong. I know that we do not have Jose Martinez this weekend. But there are too many other things going wrong that have us in slight panic mode.
Defensive miscues and bad base running were the themes tonight.
Let’s not forget – this offense goes ice cold for long stretches. In this contest, the Cardinals did not score after the 4th inning. We didn’t have a base runner against their bullpen until the 9th.
The bullpen didn’t do its part. Carlos Martinez threw some solid innings but in the end it was not enough. If I’m not mistaken, the Cubs left 13 men on base, while the Cardinals left 8 on base. We committed two costly errors, while they had none. And Fowler inexcusably overran second base.
Final score: Cubs 6, Cardinals 3.
I need some ice cream.