The last time there were two big blasts from an Adams, John and John Quincy were going at it.
It’s funny how baseball can change story lines throughout a game. I was all set to make Matt Adams the Goat when he struck out with two on and two out in the eighth. I mean, I know he was facing a lefty, but he’s done OK against them at times this year and it was Zach Duke, a guy the Cards have beaten up regularly through his career. Seeing Adams flail at the 3-2 pitch (it really was a pretty solid at-bat), I was sure the last best chance for a win had passed us by.
Baseball is a funny, spiteful game. After that strikeout, there was a fairly intense discussion about Adams in the BonFyre we have going for this series. Wes Keene stated that his opinion was that Adams was never going to figure it out in St. Louis and really should be shipped off. To Wes’s credit, this isn’t a theory he just came up with last night nor did last night’s events change his mind. However, after strong words, you just knew Adams was going to play a role.
Obviously, Adams is our Hero this morning with not one but two extra-inning home runs. Not terribly surprisingly, but it’s the first time ever a Cardinal player has done it and probably one of the rare times in Cardinal history it has happened as well. Adams’s power might be raw, but it is also unmistakable. To give you an idea of how needed a power jolt was, here are a few Cardinal hitters and the dates of their last two home runs:
Home run power just isn’t there, so seeing one home run was rare enough, but two from the same guy? That might almost be enough to get Hero status carried over into today’s game.
We’ll see Adams in today’s game because he was in the game replacing Craig, who hurt himself on an infield hit/error that tied the game at 2. Craig turned to go to second and either changed his mind or tried to correct for the umpire that was in between him and second and hurt his ankle. Craig went back to St. Louis to have his ankle, which was announced as a sprain, examined by the team doctor. I assume best-case scenario is that the swelling goes down, they can give him something for the pain, and he can be ready when the club gets home for this weekend’s series against Pittsburgh. Seems unlikely he’d play until Saturday or Sunday at the earliest, though.
Adams isn’t Craig, obviously, but it’s nice to have him fill in rather than having to turn to lesser lights such as Brock Peterson or something like that. Of course, I guess if they didn’t have Adams (or if Craig is out long-term, something we might see against lefties), you can put Freese at first, Matt Carpenter at third, and Kolten Wong at second. That’d work pretty well also.
The reason Adams got a chance to make history is Edward Mujica blew his third save of the year. It wasn’t like he got beat up, though. A base hit by Ryan Ludwick, who was then replaced by Billy Hamilton to set up Hamilton-Molina 2. Again, Hamilton won against Yadi, but again it wasn’t a clean victory. Zack Cozart really should have been called for interference, falling across the plate like that in the midst of Molina’s throw. Even with that, the throw was almost good enough to get Hamilton. Then Cozart hits a ball that bounces around 10 times on its way through the infield, but nobody could get to it and Hamilton, with that speed, scored easily.
You have to love the fact that the Reds believe in bunting just like Mike Matheny does. In the fifteenth, they get a leadoff single by Shin-Soo Choo. Obviously, that’s the top of the lineup, which means your second place hitter, Brandon Phillips, who until recently was your cleanup hitter, is up. Good time to have a dangerous hitter at the plate, a guy that’s already homered in the game and got his 100th RBI….until they take the bat out of his hands by having him sacrifice bunt for the second time on the night. That turned out to be huge when Choo ran into an out at home on what seemed to be a safety squeeze. You don’t get innings gift-wrapped like that often.
I don’t want to give the Goat to Mujica given the circumstances, so who should get it? I’m going to go with Jon Jay. Rough night for Jay, who went 0-7 and struck out three times. Jay is back to struggling, hitting .121 in his last 10. With him, whomever plays shortstop, and the pitcher, it’s almost like you give the opposition three innings. That makes it tough to win ballgames.
You can’t let last night pass without heaping praise on the bullpen. Shelby Miller wasn’t terrible–he did walk four, but three runs in 5.2 innings usually keeps your team in the game–but the bullpen (save Mujica) was outstanding. Their combined line was 9.1 innings, two hits, no runs, seven strikeouts, one walk. Special acknowledgement to Tyler Lyons, who went two innings and struck out four, a great weapon to have against all those left-handed batters.
Carlos Martinez got the win for pitching two innings, getting bailed out somewhat by the baserunning in the 15th. I’ve not had a chance to watch Martinez a lot this year, but you could tell last night he’s going to be one of those guys we’re going to love and other fans are going to hate. He had some emotion going on the mound and was really pumped in the 16th if his body language meant anything. Whether he’d keep a lot of that movement and excitement in the starter role versus a relief appearance, I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to seeing it more often next season!
Thankfully someone else figured out how to beat Francisco Liriano so the Cards gained a game last night as well. If the Cardinals wind up going on a run, people will point back to this game as a turning point. If they don’t, it’ll just be another missed opportunity. (Narratives usually are more clear after they’ve happened and you can assign what you want to them.) Still, this does feel like a game that could jump start a team.
However, momentum is tomorrow’s–well, now today’s–starting pitcher. Lance Lynn takes the hill for St. Louis and we know what kind of roller coaster that can be. Lynn hasn’t allowed less than four earned runs since mid-August against the Cubs, when he gave up three. The game before that, though, was in Cincinnati, when he allowed two runs in eight innings. If we can see that Lynn tonight, momentum will pick up some steam.
Middling success in the past against the Redlegs. Besides that early August game, he allowed four runs in six innings to the Reds in Cincinnati in June, but shut them down pretty well in two different starts at Busch. If he can just avoid that one big inning……
Cincy sends out rookie Tony Cingrani to try to avoid splitting the series and wasting a lot of their good work. Cingrani gave up three runs in five innings to the Cardinals in that series in GABP in August, but he struck out seven in that span. The biggest issue for him was control, walking five. He’s been on the DL (should be activated for tonight’s game) so his last outing was just 3.2 innings against Arizona a couple of weeks ago, when he allowed a run.
Not a completely unknown hurler but he is a lefty. It’s not going to be a walk in the park for the Redbirds tonight, unless Cingrini has the same control issues of course.
No game for the Pirates today, so the Cards can close within 1/2 game of first with a win. Hopefully they can get it a little quicker tonight!