It’s (Not) A Tarp!

With the rain coming down on Thursday night, the Mets leading 4-2 with just three outs to go, a decision was made to not bring the tarp out–well, to return it, as the grounds crew had already started bringing it out–and try to get the game over without a delay.

In an alternate dimension, the Mets put the tarp on the field and then, either later that night or the next day, finished off a routine win.  Thankfully, we don’t live in that dimension.  Whether the rain affected Edwin Diaz or the grounds crew delay did (and I’ll grant it’s possible it was neither, as Diaz has had his issues this year and this was his third blown save and fourth loss), he walked Marcell Ozuna to lead off the frame.  Two outs later, Kolten Wong poked a single that scored Ozuna from second and made it 4-3.

Then Game 1 Hero Harrison Bader, who came out fired up to play in front of his hometown fans, roped a double for his third hit of the night, sending Wong home with the tying run.  Bader got a little too aggressive, especially with the wet track, and wound up falling between second and third but the damage was done.

Speaking of damage, the field was starting to get unplayable (probably farther than starting) and the tarp came on.  The bottom of the ninth and extra innings would wait until the next day.

It was interesting to see the Cardinals get to this point, though, given that they were facing Jacob deGrom and offensive exploits in general had not been their forte, so going against deGrom looked like a recipe for disaster.  However, the Cards scored first, getting an RBI single from Matt Carpenter in the third that scored Bader.  Unfortunately, Jack Flaherty gave that right back with a single and a home run to Michael Conforto.

Paul DeJong, who really enjoys seeing the Mets–you wonder if he’ll name his kid Citi in honor of how Chipper Jones marked his success against the club–homered to tie the game in the sixth.  It was interesting to hear Dan McLaughlin summarize a conversation that he’d had with DeJong where DeJong felt like, since he wasn’t striking out, he was close to coming out of his slump.  For the month of June before this game, he was hitting .200 but had nine strikeouts in 36 plate appearances.  That’s a 25% strikeout ratio which is higher than his season-long rate of 18%.  Maybe he wasn’t striking out every time, but I don’t know that I’d say on the face of it that he was right on his theory.  (Also, he wound up striking out three times in the second game, so there’s that.)

Unfortunately, the tie didn’t last long.  Flaherty struck out the first man in the sixth, but then gave up a double to Pete Alonso on a ball that got stuck under the tarp (hey, that’s ironic!).  Dominic Smith then singled to tie the game and Flaherty then allowed another single to Todd Frazier and walked Wilson Ramos to load the bases.

Perhaps recognizing that Giovanny Gallegos has been pretty darn good, especially when you need a strikeout, Mike Shildt made the switch.  Gallegos gave up a fly ball that brought in what looked like an insurance run, but Bader threw out Frazier trying to go to third with help from Carpenter and Wong.

Our Goat in this one is Paul Goldschmidt, who went 0-5 and left two on, but it wasn’t exactly the greatest of outings for Flaherty either.  Four runs in 5.1 innings isn’t going to be that effective even if the offense is OK.  The broadcast talked about his times through the order numbers and they are notable this season, though I don’t know if they are that much different than most pitchers.

Times Facing Opponent in Game
Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1st PA in G, as SP 14 126 113 5 19 1 0 3 0 0 10 39 .168 .242 .257 .499
2nd PA in G, as SP 14 126 116 22 31 6 1 7 0 0 8 28 .267 .312 .517 .829
3rd PA in G, as SP 13 56 47 8 15 3 0 3 0 0 7 14 .319 .411 .574 .985
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/15/2019.

He tears them up the first time, they adjust, and then if he can stick around to see them a third time they have a much better idea of things.  One of the concerns of Flaherty is that he’s never really going deep into games (as you can see, his facing of batters three times is less than half of one and two) and I’m not the person to ask on what he does to get better at this.  Maybe it’s different pitch sequencing, maybe it’s adding another pitch.  Whatever the case, it’s going to be tough to view him truly as a staff ace in the future if he can’t go six regularly and seven isn’t uncommon.

After the 20-plus hour delay, it would have been terribly deflating had the Cardinals then immediately given up a run to the Mets.  Instead, Carlos Martinez went 1-2-3 and things moved to the 10th, where DeJong singled in Yairo Munoz off of Diaz, who returned to pitch the 10th.  Maybe the delay wasn’t as integral to the win as I thought.  Jordan Hicks had a clean 10th and the Cards had a big win.  Taking a game that deGrom started was huge.

Then they turned around and played the regularly scheduled Friday game.  This one was probably the most life, the most fight, that we’ve seen out of the Cardinals in quite some time and it gives a little hope that things might be improving.  As Allen said before we were recorded Meet Me at Musial last night, both of these games were ones that the Redbirds wouldn’t have won a week or two ago, definitely not in May.  To see them take these two is a hopeful sign.

Daniel Ponce de Leon took the spot that normally would have been Adam Wainwright‘s and didn’t give us anything more than a healthy Waino would have, most likely.  Only two hits, which wasn’t bad, but four walks as he didn’t seem to have a feel for anything but his fastball.  Given that qualifier, you wouldn’t be surprised to see him make the next start, especially since it’s home against Miami.  After that, should be the A’s at home, which would be reasonable as well.  Perhaps Wainwright will be ready by that time or, ideally, a solution from outside the organization will present itself.  That’s a topic for a different day (or podcast–we discussed it on Musial).

Mets got their run off of Ponce in the first, the Cards answered in the third when Carpenter drove in Tommy Edman, who had made his first major league hit a double.  In the top of the fifth, with two runners on, Shildt decided this was the moment and pinch-hit Jose Martinez for Ponce de Leon.  It was a huge decision as Martinez smoked a home run that put the Cards up 4-1.

We’ve been proponents of Tyler Webb in this space, arguing that he’s got his use in the major league bullpen given his ability to get lefties out and his general if slightly dangerous success.  Hard to say much about him in this one, though, as he allowed a home run by the opposing pitcher Steven Matz immediately after the Cards grabbed the lead.  A single and a strikeout later and he was done for the night.  Pitchers have hit five home runs against the Cardinals this season and are slugging .316.  Just for a random comparison, the Marlins have allowed one home run to a pitcher and a .154 slugging.  The Rockies, who play half their games in Homer Heaven?  One home run, .168 slugging.  It would seem that there’s a fundamental flaw in how the Cards go after the opposing hurler.

It was Andrew Miller who gets the Goat in this one.  A day after striking out the heart of the Mets’ order, Miller couldn’t get anyone out in the seventh and a two run lead.  A hit by pitch and two singles and again Shildt didn’t wait around to see if Miller might be able to get right.  He went to our Hero, John Gant.  Gant came in and got a ground ball that Kolten Wong made a good play on, but then threw away trying to hurry for a double play.  If he makes a solid throw, there’s an out at second and while a run would score, you are in line to get out of the inning.

Gant didn’t let that phase him, though.  He got a strikeout then a grounder to third that resulted in a force out at home.  He would have been out of the inning without the error but the extra batter burned him.  Wilson Ramos singled and that plated two.  It seems funny to give a guy that might have gotten a loss out of the bullpen the Hero tag, but Gant did everything he could there and it almost worked, plus he pitched the last two innings of the game.  Granted, with a cushion, but he didn’t let the Mets ever think about rallying.

The Mets didn’t stay up long as DeJong–of course–homered to tie the game.  I remember when the Cards had the game a year or so ago where they rallied off of Jeurys Familia and it was a huge deal, snapping his save streak.  Now, Familia seems to be a shell of that pitcher.  After the DeJong homer, Paul Goldschmidt hit the ball hard for an out and Marcell Ozuna grounded out, but then Yadier Molina singled and Harrison Bader worked a walk, letting Dexter Fowler get the big moment as he crushed a three-run homer on the first pitch he saw.  With the struggles that Fowler has been having, it was a great thing to see him put the Cards back on top.

Wong finished the scoring in the ninth with a solo shot of his own and now the Cards are two games over .500, 3.5 behind the Brewers, 2.5 behind the Cubs.  For all the struggles, they are still right in the race for the NL Central.  If this takes hold and we start to see more wins and better baseball from them, this might not be a lost season after all.  (Perhaps the Cards will be taking back their winning ways after letting the Blues borrow it for a bit.)  Of course, they run into Noah Syndergaard today and while Syndergaard has struggled some this year, he’s also coming off of shutting out the Rockies on one hit over seven innings.  Still, if the Cards can get to the Mets bullpen while in range, there’s some hope!  And even a loss today doesn’t necessarily wipe out the good feelings, depending on how it goes.  Look forward to finding out!

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NL Central Standings

TeamWLPct.GB
Cubs5445.545 -
Brewers5348.5252.0
Cardinals5147.5202.5
Pirates4652.4697.5
Reds4453.4549.0

Last updated: 07/21/2019

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