The Cardinals played the Indians last night. The Indians were in the midst of a 7-game winning streak. (Never mind that those wins were against the 31-37 Twins (1), the 24-47 White Sox (3), and the 36-39 Tigers (3)). John Gant, owner of a 3.48 ERA and a 2.93 FIP (that latter figure is 27% better than league average, though a lot of his innings have come in relief!), took the mound against Mike Clevinger, who is sort of like if Joe Dirt had ants in his pants and could pitch pretty well, in a herky-jerky “deceptive” sort of way. Here were the lineups:
This game is pretty important to us. After the series split with the Brewers, and the terrible baseball that preceded it, we have got to set a new tone before the division and/or wild card berths get out of reach. That won’t be an easy feat, as the Indians are very very good. Jose Ramirez, by himself, has put up 5.2 fWAR to date. Corey Kluber, who we get 6/26, is pitching like he wants a third Cy Young award. And those guys are surrounded by marquee talent. Honestly, the Lindors are jam-packed with crazy talent, and they’re feasting on an historically bad AL Central to run up video game numbers.
It’s okay though, folks. We’ve beaten Goliaths before. We’ve got to run through these guys to get to our real targets, and that’s just fine with me. *Relights cigar*
1st inning – John Gant chewed up the top of the Indians order, working around a 4-pitch unintentional intentional walk to Jose Ramirez to set the tone for the game. Matt Carpenter doubled to open the bottom of the inning (yay!), but Greg Garcia inexplicably bunted, platoon advantage, excellent plate approach, and all, and did a bad job on top of that. Carpenter was out by twenty feet. Jose Martinez struck out, but Marcell Ozuna singled Garcia over to third. Yadi struck out. Angry birds watching this game right now.
2nd inning – uneventful! Gant worked through a chopper infield single by Yan Gomes (who is, I learned, MLB’s first Brazilian player), inducing weak contact from some other Indians. Harry Bader’s 1-out single was erased by a Kolten Wong GIDP, 3-6-3. Encarnacion made a slick play to snag the grounder, but skipped the throw from one knee to Lindor. Lindor played it like it wasn’t anything special though, and completed the turn. Bummer, but pretty good baseball all the same.
3rd inning – Gant got good results, with a little help from Jose Ramirez. After logging two quick outs, Gant walked Michael Brantley. Ramirez pounced on Gant’s first offering – an 80-mph change up grooved right down central – but pounded it into the ground in Jose Martinez’s general direction. Scary, but it worked!
Matt Carpenter continued his hot streak with a single to center, and Greg Garcia walked on five pitches. (Good job, Greg.) Jose Martinez flied out to right and it looked a little familiar, but Marcell Ozuna came to the plate hunting fastballs, and baby let me tell you did he get a fastball. Ozuna crushed Clevinger’s first offering for a sharply hit double to straightaway center, scoring Carpenter and Garcia. Cardinals lead, 2-0. The Cards did not look in the rearview mirror after this.
Gant worked around a pair of walks in the fourth with bad contact and a strikeout. The fifth went quickly as well (8 total pitches), with Gant logging another K from Joe Dirt and groundouts from Lindor and Brantley. Gant retired the heart of the Indians order in the sixth, spending 13 pitches. Gant did it again in the seventh, spending 10 pitches on a four-pitch walk to Kipnis, a first-pitch GIDP from Gomes, and a lineout from Naquin. I like to think that Matty Carp took some joy in starting the DP off Gomes’s bat, after that nonsense infield hit in the second.
The Cardinals tacked on insurance runs in the 6th (Fowler single, Wong double) and 8th (Yadi double, Fowler groundout to advance Yadi, Bader infield hit after a challenge overturned the out call on the tag play at first). The Bader hit in particular was fun. He had this big goofy grin on his face after they overturned the call:
and apparently they had him on the Busch jumbotron, and everybody in the house was laughing. I have this on good authority. Great stuff.
Hicks took over for Gant in the 8th, logged two quick outs with a Brandon Guyer groundout and a Lindor K, and then got into trouble with a walk to Brantley and a single to Ramirez. A Maddux Mustache Mound Visit calmed him down though, and he got a gentle 6-3 groundout to end the threat.
Austin Gomber, a favorite among local pharmacists as I’m told, took the 9th. He surrendered back-to-back singles to Rajai Davis and Jason Kipnis, earning himself a hook after just five pitches. Bummer, man. Bud Norris saved the day, striking out Yan Gomes and getting a little help from his friend Greg Garcia with a nifty game-ending unassisted double play (caught the liner up the middle en route to beating Davis back to the bag). CARDINALS WIN, 4-0!
John Gant: 7 IP, 1 H, 5 BB, 4 K, Game Score 74. Very nice effort for what I had down for a 40% chance at a bullpen game and a 50% chance of a blowout.
Stealing the Gant-Clevinger game feels big. If good Martinez shows up tonight against Kluber (oh please oh please oh please), we’re right back in the mix.
Cubs lost their fifth straight last night against the Dodgers. We are now 3-2 in that span. We should keep doing this thing where they lose and we win. We also picked up half a game on the Brewers, as they were off last night.
Tonight’s game is scheduled for another 7:15 start. Let’s hope for no rain delays on this one. Kluber v. Martinez, as I might have already mentioned. The Cubs get Lester v. Stripling, and if you haven’t heard of Ross Stripling, he’s the Dodgers’ answer to “what will we do with Kershaw injured?” Brewers get the Royals, which, I mean, can’t gain on them every night I guess.