Aramis Ramirez always destroyed the St. Louis Cardinals. For his career, he hit .309/.366/.520 against them. He had 38 home runs (he only had more against Houston) and–this is what I really remember about him–he always seemed to drive in runs. He had more RBI (147) against St. Louis than any other team. No matter what team he played for–Pittsburgh, Chicago, Milwaukee–he always loved seeing the Cardinals come to town or stopping under the Arch.
Travis Shaw has healthy career numbers against the Redbirds, but he must have taken some lessons from the #SithLord because he is absolutely torching the Cardinals this season. He has eight hits in the five games the two teams have played with an OPS of 1.213. A quarter of his RBI total has come against Cardinal pitching. He has a bWAR of 0.0 this season–the definition of a replacement player–yet he becomes a Hall of Famer when he sees the birds on the bat.
Which is why last night’s deciding blow seemed so obvious even at the time. Ryan Helsley had gotten two outs in the eighth after the Cardinals had tied the game at 1 in the top of the frame. At that point, the hope was to follow a similar plan as Tuesday night–outlast Devin Williams and Josh Hader and win the game against some lesser bullpen arms. Helsley’s 1-2 fastball reached 101 mph, blew past a swinging Daniel Vogelbach….and right over the head of Yadier Molina. The ball didn’t ricochet very much and by time Molina had corralled it and thrown to first, even a lumbering Vogelbach was safe. With Shaw coming up, it felt like the game was about to take a turn.
Turn it did with Shaw’s double, which plated the go-ahead run. Avisail Garcia then blasted a huge home run, giving Hader a three-run lead that is well more than he usually needs. The Cards did make him work–between Tuesday’s appearance and his 30 pitches last night, Milwaukee’s going to have to find another option in the late innings if it is close–but while they got runners on, they couldn’t get them in.
The fact that the Cardinals were actually in the game was a testament to how well John Gant pitched. The control was better–three walks in five innings, but one of those was intentional–and he gave up only an unearned run when Harrison Bader slipped on the warning track and somehow still made the catch of Shaw’s (of course) deep fly ball, but he dropped it on the exchange and Lorenzo Cain was able to score from second. Cain might have tried to score regardless, given that Bader was throwing from his knees, but that miscue made it much easier. It was still a remarkable play for Bader to stay with the ball even as the dirt below him seemed to shift.
We could give the Hero tag to Gant, but I’m going to give it to Tyler O’Neill. Broneill only had one hit, but it was an opposite-field liner that got over the wall and tied the game up in the eighth. Given that Brandon Woodruff took a no-hitter into the later innings, any offense was nice, but to get the game tied on one swing was incredible. At least until the bottom of the inning. A note: since his return from the IL O’Neill is slashing .288/.317/.627. He only has two walks compared to 16 strikeouts, which is concerning, but he also has six homers in 18 games (16 starts). This is sort of the player we thought O’Neill might be with a regular run. Hopefully it continues!
I don’t want to give the Goat to Helsley because if that pitch is caught, the inning is over and no damage is done. I don’t know if Andrew Knizner, being younger and possibly a bit more athletic these days, might have been able to get to that ball either before it got past him or more quickly after. It’s possible, I guess, but there’s no real way to know. We’ll go with Dylan Carlson, who went 0-4 with three strikeouts. One of those came to lead off the ninth inning, but he did put a good at bat on Hader before succumbing.
Both of the first two games have been strong pitching duels and today doesn’t seem to be any exception. However, we do know that the Brewers have been able to get to Jack Flaherty in the past and his worst starts of 2020 came against them. Corbin Burnes is coming back from the COVID IL and, while he was asymptomatic, we’ll see if the layoff and/or the virus affects his remarkable start to the season. If both of these guys are on their game, it could be another one decided late, which may tilt to the Cardinals as Hader is surely unavailable and they might have Williams restricted as well given he’s pitched the last two nights.
The Cardinals so far have only won series that they’ve swept. I’m fine with them snapping that factoid today!