A rookie for the St. Louis Cardinals allowing no hits to the Cincinnati Reds as he starts the seventh inning, clinging to a small lead since his offensive teammates weren’t able to pile on. Haven’t we seen this movie before?
While Austin Gomber‘s start last night had some strong similarities to Daniel Poncedeleon‘s from the night before, thankfully the details were switched up a little bit. Most notably the letter that went along with the game: a W instead of an L. While Gomber didn’t get to take home a win, much like his mound counterpart, the team was able to celebrate at the end unlike on Monday night.
Gomber had a stellar outing and, unlike Poncedeleon, didn’t run up his pitch count. Poncedeleon was approaching 100 when he started the sixth on Monday night, while Gomber was only around 80. Unfortunately, given the fact that Gomber had been doing more relieving than starting, 80 pitches was about as deep as he’d gone into a game as of late. Even if everything had gone right, you wonder if he’d been able to complete the no-hitter, though I imagine Mike Shildt would have kept him out there until he gave up a hit.
We didn’t get to find that out because Gomber gave up a long drive that Tommy Pham chased down to start the sixth, then a solid base hit to Joey Votto–which, really, no shame there–broke up the run at history. Unfortunately, Eugenio Suarez followed with a blast into the seats, just like he did in the ninth the night before, and Gomber left with the game tied at two.
Most folks wanted to blame the entire seventh on the fact that, between the top and the bottom of the inning, a fire alarm started going off in the stadium. Play was delayed as a siren blared and lights were flashing, most notably in the batter’s eye. Gomber actually walked off the mound before the siren went off right before he reached the dugout. Everything after that was hit pretty hard and it’s possible he got out of rhythm, but it’s also possible that running the bases (he beat out an infield single when he went to bat, then moved to second on a walk to Matt Carpenter) and reaching the limit of where he’d been conditioned so far might have played contributing factors.
Normally, a pitcher taking a no-hitter into the seventh would be our Hero of the piece but as great as Gomber was I have to give the award to Yairo Munoz for a few reasons. One, his RBI double in the top of the seventh gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead and possibly kept Gomber in the game. We saw Mike Maddux come over and give Gomber a handshake like his night was done while Munoz batted with two outs and a runner on second. Greg Garcia was in the on-deck circle. If Munoz hadn’t driven in a run there, it at least appeared that Gomber’s night would be done even with no hits allowed, much like his counterpart from Monday.
Now, given how quickly Gomber popped up and grabbed a bat and helmet after Munoz’s double, it’s possible that it was all an elaborate ploy to fool the Reds into pitching to Munoz instead of the pinch-hitter coming. I didn’t watch the postgame presser and there weren’t any comments about it in the game stories that I saw, but it really seems possible that Mike Shildt would think like that. It’s a Tony La Russa-like move, honestly. You could easily see Tony doing something like that to try to get an advantage. Whether that was the case or not, it worked and Munoz got the insurance that was much needed, as we saw in the next frame.
However, Munoz’s biggest contribution to the game may have come defensively. He started the game at second but moved to third when Garcia came in to replace Jose Martinez in the bottom of the seventh. In the tenth, Sam Tuivailala allowed a flare to Adam Duvall and then walked Phillip Ervin to start things off. Curt Casali then tried to advance the runners with a bunt. Munoz took in the bunt, then immediately wheeled and fired to Paul DeJong covering third to get the lead runner by a step, something replay confirmed. Tuivailala then got two fly outs that defused the threat, but it’s likely Tucker Barnhart‘s drive would have scored the winning run if there’d been someone on third.
There were a number of Hero possibilities in this game, though. The much-maligned bullpen did its job, giving up just three hits and a walk in 4.2 innings of work. Tuivailala did a lot of that, going 1.2 scoreless to pick up his third win of the year, but others chipped in as well. Mike Mayers came in after Gomber left and got the team through the seventh. Jordan Hicks allowed a hit but nothing else in the eighth. Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons came in and got Scooter Gennett to led off the ninth (with a couple of good pitches, which was nice to see from Lyons) before Shildt went to Tui for Votto. It was interesting to see Shildt not try to force that lefty-on-lefty matchup since Lyons has struggled and Votto has had very good success against him in his career, even when Lyons was going well.
Then there’s big Dexter Fowler. Dexter’s two-run homer in the eleventh, his second in a week and a half, gave the Cardinals the two-run lead that they’d win by when Bud Norris came in and closed the door. (Not really slammed, since he allowed a hit and there was an intentional pass in there as well, but it closed.) Besides the homer, which is great, it was also good to see Fowler steal a base and draw two walks in this one. Fowler’s eye has always been his major selling point and to see that perhaps coming around is a great thing.
I put out there on Twitter that Fowler has two homers since the manager change. That wasn’t to really draw conclusions there, just that it’s an easy place to measure a change. Shildt has been getting a lot of grief on Twitter for continuing to run Fowler out there, but he made a commitment to him when he took over that he’d give him that regular playing time shot and so far Fowler is starting to make the most of it. He is talking about things clicking for him, the reps paying off. In those eight games that he’s gotten that regular time, Fowler is hitting .214/.286/.500, The batting average and OBP still need work, but that’s a better line than .174/.270/.285. We’ll see if those averages continue to rise but the fact that the manager has told him he’ll play seems to be an encouraging factor to Fowler.
The offense that looked so good in Chicago has gotten back to their bad habits, however. One run on Monday and only eight hits in this one, needing 11 innings to score four runs. He’s been so hot that it’s not surprising he’d finally have an off night, but Matt Carpenter gets our Goat tag for going 0-5, though he did draw that walk in the seventh. We could have gone with Yadier Molina for not capitalizing on that bases-loaded situation, but he did put a good drive on the ball there (it just didn’t drop) and he had a hit earlier in the game.
Anytime Tommy Pham has a multi-strikeout game, I start wondering if he’s going into another slump. He singled ahead of Fowler in the 11th, though, and the two strikeouts last night mean he’s only struck out five times in his last ten games (nine starts). Most likely it was just an off night. Hopefully, because Pham’s bat has been alive over the last week or so and it has helped out tremendously.
The Cardinals send out Jack Flaherty, who basically is like a grizzled veteran compared to the last two guys the Reds have seen, to try to take the series this afternoon. He’ll match up against Sal Romano, who has a 5.19 ERA but shut down the Cardinals the last time he saw them. Granted, that was an 1.2 inning relief outing in the first game Shildt managed, but it is the most recent time they’ve seen him. The Cards got to him for four runs in 4.1 innings back in April in Great American Ball Park, so maybe they can do more of that today. It’ll also be interesting if the Cardinals will use the offday tomorrow to make some deals or if we’ll have to go into the Chicago series with the same roster we see now. Something to watch for!