Getting Serious Late

I don’t really follow boxing or any of the martial arts, but my general understanding is you have to be able to take a couple of jabs and avoid the big ones before landing a solid punch of your own.

My understanding of Brad Boxberger after last night is that he will allow the big punches.

In truth, that’s not really fair to Boxberger, who had pitched a scoreless inning against the Cardinals back in April and was generally having a fine season until he ran into the heart of the Cardinals order in the 11th last night.  He just was the most hittable pitcher on a night that didn’t have a lot of hittable pitchers on either side.

Freddy Peralta was supposed to be the one weak link in the pitching matchups for this series.  After all, the next two guys have ERAs under two and Thursday’s starter, Corbin Burnes, has a FIP of 0.51.  Peralta wasn’t chopped liver, but was coming off a tough start and seemed more hittable than Burnes or Brandon Woodruff would be.  If that’s the case, the next two games are going to be rough because Peralta allowed just one hit in seven innings, walking one and striking out eight.  It was a masterful performance and when Travis Shaw (who seems to be quickly ascending to that tormentor role Ryan Braun left with retirement and Christian Yelich vacated with injury) doubled in a run in the sixth, that seemed to be all the Brewers needed.

It took until the sixth for Milwaukee to score in part because Kwang Hyun Kim was on his game.  Kim kept Milwaukee scoreless through five on three hits with five strikeouts.  Lorenzo Cain doubled to start the sixth, though, and after a strikeout Shaw did as well, ending Kim’s night.  Ryan Helsley walked a guy but got them out of that jam and Kodi Whitley took the seventh, allowing a hit but no runs.

Still, when you get to the eighth trailing in Milwaukee, your win expectancy is probably in the single digits.  That’s because the Brewers can then run out Devin Williams and Josh Hader and good luck getting anything off of them.  Apparently, fortune took a shine to the Cards.  Harrison Bader singled on Williams’s first pitch and Matt Carpenter came in and did what he does best (at least, in a positive sense), walking to put two on with nobody out.  Williams tried to work out of it, but Bader advanced on a deep fly to center, then Dylan Carlson drove him in with a fly ball of his own.  Suddenly the game was tied and with these two bullpens, there was a chance it was going to go a while.

Giovanny Gallegos was splendid last night.  He hit the first batter he faced, but Tyrone Taylor then tried to steal on Yadier Molina and while he was initially called safe, replays showed that Tommy Edman‘s foot protected the bag from Taylor’s hand.  Gallegos then retired the next five men he faced, setting up extra innings.

St. Louis looked to capitalize in the 10th, with Tyler O’Neill moving zombie runner Molina to third with nobody out.  Mike Shildt worked the managerial wheels and pinch-ran Edmundo Sosa for Molina after he hit third, apparently hoping to capitalize on a wild pitch.  In fairness, J.P. Feyerelsen threw a lot of balls in the dirt that catcher Manny Pina had to work to corral.  Unfortunately none got away, though, and Bader popped out in the infield and, after Justin Williams walked, Tommy Edman grounded out.

More wheels turned in the 10th.  Alex Reyes got the first man he faced, then Shildt ordered Kolten Wong intentionally passed.  That seemed a good idea to me because Wong already had two hits and a third was robbed by a great play from Paul DeJong.  That seemed like a situation where Wong would get a hit and win the game.  Reyes struck out Cain, then sent a ball under Andrew Knizner‘s glove (it was ruled a wild pitch but it probably should have been a passed ball) to make it dramatic before he struck out Taylor.  The drama hadn’t even started, though.

Looking at the 11th, you had a feeling if the Cardinals were going to win, this would be where they’d do it.  Edman was your zombie runner, meaning Carlson, Paul Goldschmidt, and Nolan Arenado were due up against Boxberger.  Carlson grounded out, moving the runner to third.  I thought Craig Counsell might think about walking Goldy for the double play, but it’s not like you really want to face Arenado in that situation.  It’s also the difference between being in the top of the inning versus the bottom.

If he thought about it, Counsell probably wished he’d done it.  Our Hero Paul Goldschmidt took the first pitch he saw from Boxberger and parked it deep over the wall, giving the Cards a 3-1 lead.  Thankfully, for all of our heart health, they weren’t done.  Arenado then doubled on another hard hit ball.  DeJong flew out, but then Knizner was hit by a pitch, bringing up O’Neill, who tattooed a ball so hard it looked like Molina to dead center field.

A 6-1 lead, especially when your closer is on the mound, should be enough.  It was, but at times it didn’t feel like it.

I’m not completely convinced that, when a Cardinal pitcher is anointed the closer, that ceremony doesn’t include instructions on how to make sure every save is eventful.  I feel like they probably string up some wire between two points so they can practice walking on a tightrope.  Jason Isringhausen, Trevor Rosenthal, and now Alex Reyes have all had that capability.

Reyes, of course, had the zombie Taylor on second base to start the inning.  That run, by itself, wasn’t going to hurt thanks to O’Neill.  Except then Reyes walked Shaw.  Two on, nobody out.  He struck out Luis Urias.  Two on, one out.  Breathing is a little easier.  Then he walks Pina to load the bases.  Chests tighten up.

Whatever words Mike Maddux said in his mound visit, he needs to keep them handy.  (Perhaps it was the old aphorism: “Throw strikes.  Babe Ruth is dead.”)  Reyes came back and struck out the last two batters, stranding all the runners and sending everyone to the postgame show happy, if drained.

Alex Reyes’s walk rate is 20.3%.  For comparison, John Gant is walking people at a 17.9% clip and we are worried about how that holds up in the rotation.  Reyes obviously sees fewer batters than Gant but that rate is frightening.  Here’s Reyes’s game log, showing how many balls he is throwing.

Date Opponent Total Pitches Balls % Balls
4/1 Reds 21 10 47.6%
4/5 Marlins 13 6 46.2%
4/6 Marlins 21 10 47.6%
4/8 Brewers 16 6 37.5%
4/14 Nationals 16 8 50.0%
4/17 Phillies 28 15 53.6%
4/20 Nationals 6 3 50.0%
4/21 Nationals 16 9 56.3%
4/23 Reds 23 13 56.5%
4/25 Reds 25 14 56.0%
4/27 Phillies 22 6 27.3%
4/29 Phillies 25 7 28.0%
5/2 Pirates 12 6 50.0%
5/3 Mets 20 12 60.0%
5/5 Mets 7 2 28.6%
5/8 Rockies 30 10 33.3%
5/11 Brewers 28 11 39.3%
Total 329 148 45.0%

That’s not exactly the rate you’d like to see.  I’m sure there’s a better way to see this but I had to go through box scores, so I’m not doing it for other closers, but I can’t imagine you want any pitcher basically being a coin flip on every pitch.  It does look like it has gotten better over the last few starts–even last night wound up to be a better rate than some of the early games–but there would still seem some work to do.

We’ve tagged our Hero, so we have to pick the Goat.  I’m going with Paul DeJong.  Even though he made a nifty play on Wong and had some other solid plays in the field, he also went 0-4.  He didn’t strike out, though, which is more than some folks can say.

Carlos Martinez went on the IL yesterday with that ankle sprain.  It sounds like it was just in a weird place–nothing ever is normal with Carlos!–and not really severe, just wanting to make sure.  Hopefully that means he’ll be back soon.  Miles Mikolas threw four innings last night for Memphis, so he’ll be returning soon.  It could be in a week or so we’ll actually see the projected rotation for the first time in 2021!

Should be another pitcher’s duel tonight.  Maybe the Cards can find a way to win it in regulation, though!

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