Cards host the NL East-leading upstart Braves tonight. Josh Matejka’s series preview is very much recommended reading. Tonight we get my favorite Cardinals pitcher, Miles Mikolas, vs. Julio Teheran, who has struggled while flashing occasional dominance this year. Lineups:
Mikolas and Teheran traded zeroes for six innings, and Mikolas in particular dominated and dazzled the Braves lineup. Miles allowed only allowed 4 hits and a walk through his first 6 innings of work, with only one of those hits leaving the infield. He worked all over the strike zone with his full mix of pitches, pushing it up to 95 effortlessly here while peppering in off speed stuff there, slamming the door over there with a cutter on the corner, and sneaking curves and sliders in for backdoor strikes or getting guys to chase them at will.
Teheran was also downright respectable through his six innings of work. The Cardinals squandered an opportunity in the first by failing to produce any additional baserunners after Teheran led off the inning by walking Carpenter and Greg Garcia. Beyond that though, Julio squelched Cards batsmen, giving up a measly two hits, and facing only those two more than the minimum, for the rest of his night.
The Braves broke the detente in the seventh. After Mikolas surrendered back-to-back 1-out singles, Braves skipper Brian Snitker made the gutsy but excellent tactical decision to pull Teheran and try to maximize his chances at scoring. It worked, as Danny Santana punched a rocket up the middle to load the bases and end Mikolas’s night. Matheny made a puzzling call to go to Austin Gomber, who is far from the best reliever we have, in one of the highest leverage spots you’re likely to see. It didn’t work. Gomber threw one pitch, right at Ender Inciarte’s head, giving the Braves the lead and ending his own night. Mike Mayers took over and struck out Ozzie Albies on three pitches (the third was a buried slider that made Albies look downright foolish) and induced a first-pitch groundout from Freddie Freeman to end the threat. But the damage was done – 1-0 Braves.
The Braves tacked on 3 more insurance runs in the 8th and a fourth in the 9th. The Cardinals acted like they might make a game of it yet in the bottom of the 9th, loading the bases with 1-out singles from Ozuna and Molina and a Tommy Pham 10-pitch walk, but Dan Winkler entered the game to put out the fire, Wong grounded into an RBI 4-6 FC, and Harrison Bader struck out. Braves win, 5-1.
If you’re gonna have a slow hook, Mike, you’d better bring in your best relievers, or even a good reliever, to put out the resulting high-leverage fires. Pitching Gomber with the bases loaded and one out in a tie game, and then going to Jordan Hicks for the following inning when you’re losing by 1, is baffling and just generally bad baseball.
On balance though, it’s hard to win if you don’t score. I’m not aware of any reason to think that’s Matheny’s fault.
Oh well, that’s why they play 162. Get ’em tomorrow night. Weaver takes on TBD (the original projected starter was Brandon McCarthy, but he hit the DL earlier today). Game starts at 6:15 CDT. Be there.