The St. Louis Cardinals entered tonight’s game against the Washington Nationals with a one-series losing streak that they hoped to reverse by defeating a Nationals team running out the clock on the Bryce Harper era. Here were the lineups.
While one could easily have made the case that the Cardinals lineup did not properly adjust for recent struggling players, with recent offensive black holes Jose Martinez and Matt Adams batting behind Matt Carpenter, who has been even more blatantly OBP-y than normal recently, the lineup construction paid instant dividends in the top of the first, with back-to-back singles being followed up by Matt Adams’s first home run for the Cardinals this season, giving the Cardinals a 3-0 lead which could be safe if Miles Mikolas pitches the entire game and somebody gives the bullpen the wrong directions to the stadium. This is the second sentence of this paragraph. Yep, this is the kind of recap I’m writing tonight.
The Nationals threatened in the bottom of the first, but the inning ended without damage after the latest installment of Harrison Bader Does Something I Cannot Understand. With Bryce Harper on second base, Anthony Rendon singled to left, despite a valiant attempt from Bader, who trapped the ball. But Bader instantly popped back up and fired a rocket to home plate, where Bryce Harper was easily out. Maybe Harper checked out for the season, and I can’t say I blame him, but it was a tremendous play regardless.
Speaking of Bryce Harper checking out, he gave compelling new evidence of this in the top of the second, when what probably should have been the inning’s third out was badly misplayed, allowing Matt Carpenter to score the inning’s second run, having already driven in Miles Mikolas (?). Following a 1-2-3 bottom of the second, the Cardinals held a 5-0 lead and, despite recent history, gave me a sense of confidence in this game’s outcome.
Some defensive miscues loaded the bases for the Nationals in the bottom of the third, but ultimately, all three runners were stranded and the Cardinals maintained their shutout, which as somebody who is writing another article in the other Chrome window, I greatly appreciate.
In the top of the fifth inning, Matt Adams hit a home run five million miles. And got us all cheap drinks in the process. God bless that man. 6-0 Cardinals. And when the Nationals threatened to score their first run of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning, Yairo Munoz got into the outfield assists at home plate game by throwing out a runner at the plate. Now, he was most definitely safe, and the call was correctly overturned, but he deserves an A for effort. As if to apologize for his assist being overturned, in the next inning, Munoz hit a home run. I still don’t know what Yairo Munoz is, but I’m enjoying finding out.
The Nationals scored their second run of the game on a Wilmer Difo double. Notoriously poor baseball thrower Marcell Ozuna charged at the ball to throw it into the infield rather than Harrison Bader, and before the obvious throwing mismatch could be exposed, Ozuna bobbled the ball and aided a runner scoring from first base. In keeping with the “As So Never Happens” tradition of the game, Ozuna got his fourth hit of the game in the next half-inning, though nothing really came of it. So let’s move on.
The Nationals threatened in the bottom of the seventh, which saw the Cardinals pulling Miles Mikolas after 100+ pitches in favor of Dakota Hudson. Hudson pitched yesterday, but with an off-day tomorrow, Mike Shildt appears to really want to lock this game down. *Hudson walks Juan Soto on four straight pitches to load the bases for Ryan Zimmerman* *Zimmerman hits a bases-clearing double just out of the reach of Harrison Bader to pull the Nationals to within two runs, with the game-tying run approaching the plate* *Wilmer Difo singles to bring home Zimmerman* Dakota Hudson is still pitching.
Wilmer Difo advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Hakota Dudson. Mercifully, Harrison Bader made a nice running catch (let’s just say “nice” and not oversell it, as we have been wont to do with Bader defensive plays of late) to end the inning, but I was looking forward to stopping paying attention.
Yadier Molina was caught stealing and was slow to get up, which sums up the direction of this game pretty nicely. Also Harrison Bader was called out on a pickoff, and while replay showed he was most definitely safe, C.B. Bucknor isn’t exactly a man known for his self-analysis, and thus the call stood.
Carlos Martinez, who hasn’t been great since returning from the DL but frankly his bullpen competition isn’t exactly stiff, came in to pitch the eighth and was quite good! He struck out two batters, including Bryce Harper, despite Harper’s 8.000 career OPS against the Cardinals.
In the top of the ninth inning, the Cardinals mounted a somewhat surprising rally, with Francisco Pena and Jose Martinez (less surprising in a vacuum, but he had struggled mightily before his three-hit effort tonight) singling and Patrick Wisdom drawing a walk to load the bases for Marcell Ozuna, but a pair of flyouts to Adam Eaton from Ozuna and Paul DeJong ended the half-inning with the Cardinals still winning by just one run and me terrified.
Guess who’s back? Back again. Carlos back. Tell a friend. Carlos Martinez took the mound for a second inning of work which, I mean, he’s a starter by trade, and while I understand that he probably doesn’t currently have the endurance for that level of work, I would imagine he can still stomach two innings. Things got off, however, to a rocky start with Anthony Rendon reaching on a single just over the head of Greg Garcia. The next batter, Juan Soto, grounded the ball directly to Matt Carpenter, but it bounced off his glove. Carlos Martinez grabbed the ball and made a valiant effort to reach first base, but with Carpenter out of position for the putout, it was to no avail, and the Nationals had a runner in scoring position and the winning run at first base with nobody out for Ryan Zimmerman. *Deep breath*
On a full count pitch, Ryan Zimmerman did that annoying “act like it was definitely Ball Four” thing and it was ruled Strike Three (it was a close pitch, but I think the umpire made the right call). And just like that, with Wilmer Difo at the plate, the Cardinals could reasonably be one pitch away from winning the game. Or from losing the game, but that’s not new. Neither happened in this particular AB, but it was advantage Cardinals as Difo hit a benign fly out to Harrison Bader. Michael A. Taylor came in to pinch hit, Jose Adolis Garcia came in as a defensive (throwing) substitute for Marcell Ozuna, and with Mike Maddux coming to visit Carlos Martinez and thus delay the end of this game, there’s plenty of time to get concerned again.
Full count Michael Taylor strikeout wooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!