The Cardinals played the second of a three-game set against the Kansas City Royals Saturday night. Coming off a 7-0 victory on Friday, the boys in red were looking to deal another loss to their cross-state rival. Indeed, if this team has any hope of making the post-season, they absolutely have to pummel on lowly teams like the Royals.
Jack Flaherty got the ball for the Cardinals tonight, facing off against Daniel Duffy. Flaherty has been very good this year, but started off a little shaky tonight. He issued a leadoff walk to Whit Merrifield, though it was quickly erased when Alex Gordon lined out to Matt Carpenter, who touched first to complete the double play. Merrifield didn’t stand a chance. Unfortunately, Flaherty gave up another walk to Salvador Perez before striking out Lucas Duda to end the inning. Although he escaped unscathed, a 20-pitch first inning is never good.
Turns out, I was worried for no reason. Flaherty skated through the next three innings, allowing just one hit. Meanwhile, the offense was doing its job, as the Cardinals busted the game wide open in the third inning, scoring four runs on five consecutive hits: Yadier Molina double, Jose Martinez single, Marcell Ozuna triple (!), Paul DeJong double, and Jedd Gyorko single. Whew! When it was all said and done, the Cardinals had taken a commanding 4-0 lead.
Flaherty did stumble a bit in the bottom of the fifth inning, giving up a single to Ryan O’Hearn and a home run to Alcides Escobar, 4-2 Cardinals.
The Cardinals got those two runs back in the very next half inning. After Gyorko singled, Bader followed with a two-run shot to left field. 6-2 Cardinals. Danny Duffy and Ned Yost both got tossed from the game shortly thereafter. Duffy was upset because of a check swing called in the Cardinals’ favor during Bader’s previous at-bat, which would have been strike three if it had been ruled a swing. Duffy could be seen quite clearly saying “fuck you” twice to the umpire, so that was fun. For what it’s worth, even with the super slow-mo replay, it was a call that could have gone either way.
Flaherty continued to mow down the Royals’ hitters, setting down six in a row in the sixth and seventh innings – including striking out O’Hearn on a 95-mph fastball, his 106th pitch of the game and his ninth strikeout.
Newbie Dakota Hudson came in for the eighth inning. He immediately got into hot water, giving up a leadoff walk and a single. HOWEVER, he got Merrifield to ground out to third base, and with quick work from Gyorko and Wong, combined with a good stretch from Carpenter, the Cardinals were able to complete the double play. Unfortunately, Hudson walked the next hitter in Alex Gordon. Molina missed the fourth ball, allowing the runner to score from third. 6-3 Cardinals, and Hudson’s night was over.
Shildt went to Jordan Hicks, who has not pitched since August 5, which seems unpossible, but Baseball Reference and Fangraphs both insist this is true. He struck out Perez on three pitches. BOOM.
The Cardinals piled on in the ninth. With two out, Molina hit a seeing-eye single and Martinez followed with another two-run home run, his 14th of the year. 8-3 Cardinals.
Hicks, who threw just three pitches in the eighth inning, stayed in to finish out the game. After giving up a leadoff single to Duda, the next three batters were retired on ground balls. Cardinals win, 8-3!
- Matt Carpenter walked in the top of the seventh inning, bringing his on-base streak to 29 games, longest in the majors.
- With tonight’s win, the Cardinals have won five straight series. They’re now just 5.5 games back from the division-leading Cubs, who lost to the Nationals earlier today, and 2.5 games back from a wild card spot.
- Technically, the Diamondbacks and Dodgers are both ahead of the Cardinals in the wild card standings, but in reality, only one of those teams is ahead of them, because they’re tied for the NL West division lead. It seems that just a few weeks ago, the Cardinals had four teams they needed to leapfrog to get a wild card spot – now, at least as of the time I’m writing this, they only have one. It feels pretty darn good.
- The Cardinals will go for the sweep tomorrow at 1:15 CT. Luke Weaver takes the hill against Jakob Junis. Neither pitcher has been particularly good this year. Luckily, the bullpen is well-rested and Shildt has a quick hook. Advantage: Cardinals.