It’s the Twitter hashtag that tries to explain some of the remarkable things that we’ve seen out of this organization over the past few years, usually in regards to almost impossible comebacks. Personally, given the fact that they share a name with one of the highest levels of the Catholic Church and the fact that they play in Baseball Heaven, I’d be more inclined to think their help came from the opposite direction, but whatever. The hashtag exists because the Cardinals have almost made a habit out of winning unwinnable games. It seemed as of recently that the magic was dwindling.
Apparently they recently got in a fresh supply.
Just a month after they won a game against the Reds by scoring five with two outs in the ninth, the Cardiac Cards struck again last night. Down by one with two outs and two strikes on the hitter, pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter smashed a Tony Watson pitch into the seats, tying up a game that would have been devastating to see slip away.
That opened the floodgates.
Before Watson was removed from the game, he’d allowed a double (Yadier Molina) and back-to-back homers (Randal Grichuk and Jhonny Peralta) to move the game from an almost assured Pittsburgh win to a comfortable St. Louis lead. In his career, Watson had never had trouble solving the Cardinal mystery. He’d limited Redbird hitters to a .188 average and had allowed just two homers in 182 plate appearances. The .495 OPS against versus St. Louis was the lowest he had against any team he’d faced fairly regularly. There was no way the Cards should have been able to get him for that win.
Besides, of course, #CardinalDevilMagic.
By all rights, Molina should be our Hero. After all, when you get four hits, including a grand slam to start off the game and two doubles later on, that’s quality Hero stuff. And if the Cardinals had held on to the 5-0 lead they ran out to, he probably gets it. However, you just can’t deny Matt Carpenter the spot with dramatics like that. Grichuk, with his two hits including the ninth inning blast, and Kolten Wong also could get some consideration, though that’s really downballot stuff compared to the main two folks.
Matt Adams got into the fun as well, smashing a pitch that wound up getting wet in the Allegheny. That gave the Cards a five run lead, something that Luke Weaver and our Goat Matthew Bowman couldn’t keep from slipping away as the Pirates furiously tried to save their season.
Weaver had a couple of good innings and just about worked out of two on, nobody out trouble in the third before allowing an RBI single to John Jaso. In the fourth, he allowed what is becoming his trademark, a home run. Weaver has made five starts and he’s allowed a long ball in each of them. Just imagine how good he’ll be when he keeps all the balls in the yard. Weaver ran his pitch count up in the fourth, putting two more on after the homer but wriggling out of it. That meant that Bowman came in to try to eat some innings.
Mike Matheny did what Mike Matheny does, double-switching Bowman into the game because it’s better not to have the pitcher hit than to have your fourth place hitter (Adams) available for doing damage. I get that Matheny thought Bowman would go two or three frames, but he would have hit third in the sixth. That either means he ends the inning or he’s got a chance to bunt. Trading that possibility for the removal of your cleanup hitter seems excessive and, as it turned out, completely unnecessary.
We’ve talked about it often as of late, but Bowman really just seems to have hit a wall. He still can get by on adrenaline, it seems–witness his coming in successfully with the bases loaded against Cincinnati of late–but not including last night, since August 1 his ERA is at 7.30 and his slash line against is .292/.382/.479, numbers that only got uglier after last night’s debacle. The defense didn’t necessarily help him, though one of the errors was his own, but to give up four runs in a third of an inning is a tough pill to swallow. I don’t fault Matheny for bringing him in there instead of, say, Alex Reyes, because it’s a three run lead and you probably want Reyes available for Mike Leake‘s start today, but I think the use of Bowman should be very judicious between now and October.
Otherwise, the bullpen did fine. Kudos to Mike Mayers for not only easing part of the sting of the memory of that disastrous start by having a perfect inning but also gaining his first major league win when the bats erupted in the ninth. It seemed like a white flag maneuver by Matheny to run Mayers out into a one-run game, but the kid did great and kept it right where the team needed it to be.
Jung Ho Kang continues to live up to Aramis Ramirez‘s legacy as Sith Lord, smashing a home run in the fourth then another again in the ninth off of Seung-hwan Oh as part of his three hits. Thankfully the Cardinals had a bit of a cushion. I think Kang got Oh for a hit the only other time the two have faced off, so maybe Oh needs to figure out a new approach to his countryman.
It was a fascinating, exhilarating, can-you-believe that kind of win that crippled Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes. The Pirates now sit 5.5 behind the Cardinals for the second wild card spot and only have four head-to-head meetings left. If they can’t salvage a game tonight, they’ll probably start looking at October vacations.
We know that momentum hasn’t been a huge thing for the Cardinals this year, but what about the Pirates? Are they going to come out a bit downcast and beaten after those stirring heroics? A loss like that is tough to take and can linger for a while. I imagine they’ll be fine, but if the Cardinals can get on them early, maybe they can break their spirit and get the sweep.
They do get to run out one of their bright young stars in Jameson Taillon today. Taillon made his major league debut earlier in the year and this is just his 15th MLB start, but so far so good as he’s put up a 3.25 ERA, if only a 3-4 record. Last time out, he allowed just three hits and one run to the Brewers, who torched him for five runs in three innings the start before that. Taillon hasn’t faced the Cardinals yet this year, though that’s not necessarily an issue.
Mike Leake returns from his shingles-related DL stint, though you’d have to think the stamina won’t necessarily be fully back. Hopefully that means Matheny will have a quick hook, especially with Reyes fully rested in the bullpen. The Pirates have seen Leake plenty in the past and that’s not really been much of an issue.
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Leake has faced the Pirates three times, with two not-so-good outings bookending a fairly decent start. Let’s hope he’s alternating and we get a good one out of him today!