In her excellent series preview, noted Diamondbacks fan I.H. Boog highlighted the fact that coming into last night’s game, the DBacks were precariously perched atop the NL West, while we lowly redbirds find ourselves in third place in the Central and on the outside looking in at the second wild card berth. There’s still a lot of season in our season, but after dropping the Flaherty-Bieber Indians finale and getting swept over the weekend by the NL East-leading Braves, a win looked like a pretty nice, if remote, possibility.
Carlos Martinez took the mound for the visiting Cardinals, while Robbie Ray, freshly recovered from a pretty ugly injury he sustained from a comebacker the last time he pitched in Busch, toed the rubber for the Diamondbacks.
As nostalgic as I am to see Jon Jay and Dan Descalso reunited, and while the Diamondbacks appear to be grabbing as many former Cardinals as they can get their hands on (Hi Shelby! Hi David Peralta!), I have no problem rooting for a series sweep against our old friends.
The Cardinals struck first in the top of the 1st, and they hit hard. Matt Carpenter, at one time opposed to swinging at the first pitch on deeply-held religious grounds, swung at the first pitch of the game and hammered it into right for a stand-up double. Tommy Pham walked on a full count, and recently recalled “Pillar of Meat” Tyler O’Neill sharply grounded into left field to load the bases. Marcell Ozuna was rung up on a questionable called strike 3, but Yadi picked him up with an 0-2, fifth-pitch, 2-RBI single to center.
At this point, Torey Lovullo decided he needed to visit Robbie Ray to calm him down. It didn’t appear to do anything. Jedd Gyorko fell behind 1-2, but followed Yadi’s lead by singling up the middle to drive in another run. Yairo Munoz kept the carousel spinning with an oppo double to right, scoring Yadi. Gyorko tried to score on the play as well, but the Jay-Descalso relay cut him down at the plate. Kolten Wong grounded out to end the inning, with a slightly bemused Carlos Martinez standing in the on-deck circle. Cardinals led 4-0.
I don’t think it’s unfair to surmise that Carlos’s long wait after warming up, along with his practice swings, took him a little bit out of his pitching game. After running leadoff man Jon Jay up to an 0-2 count, Jay pounded his third pitch into the ground and beat Gyorko’s throw out to snap an ugly O-fer streak (something like 0-24, I think). Perfect Baseball Machine Paul Goldschmidt, fresh off Player of the Month honors, put Jay on third with a single of his own; Jake Lamb cashed in the run with a third consecutive ground ball single. Martinez sat the next three batters down in order, getting a flyout from Pollock, a strikeout from Peralta, and a popout from Descalso. At the end of 1 inning, the Cardinals still led, but 4-1.
Carlos hit a ground rule double to right-center, but Ray roared back to strike out Carpenter and Pham and to strand Martinez with an O’Neill flyout. A sort of foreboding settled in on the game, at least for me. Martinez and Ray traded short half-innings until the bottom of the fifth, when a leadoff walk to Nick Ahmed came back to bite us on a Goldschmidt single. “Bleeding away this game after staking our best starter to a 4-run lead would be the most 2018 Cardinals thing possible,” I thought to myself as I sipped my frosty beverage. “It is okay though, I’m sure I’m overthinking this. After all, the Cardinals still lead, 4-2.”
Folks, it turns out that I was definitely overthinking this. Yadier Molina put the third pitch of the next half-inning in the left-field seats, about two rows in front of our very own IHB (who was probably wearing a DBacks shirsey, but I can’t confirm that). IHB had this to say about Yadi’s monster shot:
Nice work, Yadi. Jedd Gyorko followed up with a solo shot of his own, getting just enough of it to put it over the wall in the right field corner. And just like that, the Cardinals were back where we started, leading by four runs, 6-2.
The foreboding was gone. Martinez batted for himself and pitched the bottom of the 6th without incident, then Mike Mayers took over in the 7th, erasing a Ketel Marte 1-out single with a nifty 6-4-3 DP.
Greg Holland gave up a first-pitch single to Goldschmidt in the bottom of the 8th. Jake Lamb grounded into a 4-6 FC, then A.J. Pollock grounded into a 6-4 FC. Kolten tried to turn 2 on the latter play and Carpenter couldn’t handle the throw, advancing Pollock to 2nd with 2 outs. David Peralta hammered a sharp grounder to right on the first pitch he saw, scoring Pollock from 2nd. Chris Owings flied out, and we had a bona fide save situation for Bud Norris, with the Cardinals leading 6-3.
Norris must’ve been ready for bed, because he converted the save without any drama, using only 12 pitches to get a flyout to right, a strikeout, and a 6-3 groundout. Cardinals win, 6-3.
Nice to get a win. Let’s try that again tonight. 8:40 PM again, this time young buck Jack Flaherty against ageless wonder Zack Greinke. Jack vs. Zack. Jack’s looking to rebound from his loss to the Beliebers (though even with his last rough-ish outing, Jack’s having an excellent year), while Zack is rolling strong with a 3.41 ERA and 108 Ks in 103 innings in this, his age-34 season.
I am Jack’s undying optimism.