Yesterday’s post was entitled “A Walk on the Wild Side Has Consequences“. Yesterday’s game, however, shows that you can have a little fun on the wild side as well, while also serving as a cautionary tale about an eye for an eye.
The victorious tenth inning was in part influenced by the revenge of the ninth. With two outs in the inning, Hector Neris ran a fastball right in the middle of Nolan Arenado‘s name on the back of the jersey. To be fair, one of the reasons that Cardinals fans gave for the innocence of Genesis Cabrera was the fact that he wouldn’t be trying to hit someone in a 3-3 game. That would have been even more notable here, as it was putting the winning run on base in the bottom of the ninth.
However, there were some differences. I was unable to watch the game, being at work, but everyone noted that Cabrera immediately showed remorse and unhappiness when Bryce Harper and Didi Gregorius were hit. Neris, well, not so much. There was also the fact that Cabrera hit these guys with the first two pitches and showed erratic control after that. Neris had calmly gotten the first two, then plunked Arenado, then quickly retired Tyler O’Neill. Everyone knew it was intentional and it seemed everyone was OK with that.
To some degree, I understand the mentality of standing up for your team and all the reasonings that go along with the general theory of retaliation. I understand them more in the same game and I understand them more when there’s at least the idea that the other side is doing things intentionally. Cabrera was obviously not trying to hit anyone and had no control of his pitches. What good does it do you to plunk someone else in this situation? And what good does it do you to do it a day later? (Granted, there’s a school of thought that asks what good is it at any time, which also makes sense.)
I remember when Ned Yost put retaliation ahead of winning in 2007 in a crucial late-season game that kept the Brewers from making up ground in their chase for the divisional title. Thursday’s game isn’t likely to have that sort of impact on the Phillies’ season, but you can draw a pretty solid line between that action and the final winning tally.
In real baseball, you couldn’t have of course. However, since 2021 is doing this silly baserunner on second thing, plunking Arenado and then retiring Tyler O’Neill to end the ninth mean that the speedy O’Neill was on second in the 10th instead of Arenado. Andrew Knizner moved O’Neill to third (which would have advanced Arenado as well) and then the Brewers intentionally walked Justin Williams. Now, I get why they did that, as they wanted a double play opportunity to get out of the inning. Walking Williams right now, though, is helping the Cardinals. Williams was 1-12 in this series with eight strikeouts. There’s a strong chance the Brewers could have struck him out and then had a runner on third with two outs.
With runners on the corners, David Hill bounced a 1-2 pitch that skipped off J.T. Realmuto, popping up high in the air and behind him. O’Neill scampered home and beat the throw, winning the game. Would Arenado had the same success? Maybe. There’s no doubt the ultra-competitive third baseman would have attempted it and O’Neill did beat the throw back by a step or two. Arenado might have arrived at the same time the ball did and been safe. Or he might have arrived a split-second late and been out. We’ll never know but it’s possible the score got unsettled because the score got settled.
Of course, you have to get to a tie game and that’s where are Hero and Goat come in. Aaron Nola was almost as sharp as he was in the finale of the last Phillies/Cardinals series for the first few innings. In the fifth, though, he slipped up. He struck out O’Neill, but Knizner singled and went to second on an error. Nola went after Williams instead of trying to set up a double play and struck him out, but then intentionally passed Edmundo Sosa to force the Cardinals into a decision.
That brought up the pitcher’s spot and even though Kwang Hyun Kim had pitched well and probably had another inning in him, Shildt wisely took the chance and pinch-hit Matt Carpenter. When Carpenter was announced, I wasn’t sure this was the best spot for him. You typically want him leading off an inning, trying to work a walk. He could have walked here and let Tommy Edman bat with the bases loaded, I guess, but the only other options on the bench were Paul DeJong, who you probably save for a late inning home run shot if necessary, Austin Dean (similar thinking), and Ali Sanchez. Carpenter made sense for where we were in the ballgame.
He made a lot more sense two pitches later when he launched one toward the Cardinals’ dugout. It was right at the wall and Roman Quinn leaped and briefly had it in his glove, but for the first time in 2021, Matt Carpenter got some good luck. The ball came out, went into the bullpen, and the Cardinals had a 3-1 lead.
We’ll see if the warmer weather coming is going to add enough to the fly balls that Carpenter starts getting a few more to drop, even if they aren’t homers. We’ll also see if it takes him forever between hits still. He was 1-23 between his home runs and was 0-9 with two walks since his last hit. Carpenter’s had some great moments but they have been great in part because of how big the struggles are. With the reconfiguration of the roster that happened Thursday night, he’s going to need to shorten those gaps between good things or the gaps between him playing will get longer.
It was a tough day for the offense as the top four batters went 0-15, with only the plunking of Arenado getting one of them on base. Two of the four hits came from Knizner, who got the chance to play in a day game after a night game much like Yadier Molina often does. Knizner’s hitting .300 on the season now and has shown himself as a worthy fill-in. Worthy enough to play more often when Molina returns, though it remains to be seen if that will happen.
So you could make any one on the offense the Goat, but I’m going with Andrew Miller. Now, this might not be entirely fair, since Miller was placed on the 10-day injured list yesterday evening with a toe blister. If he has such a thing–and coming when he has an 8.59 ERA, it’s fair to wonder how serious said blister really is–it may have affected him yesterday. That said, he pitched well Wednesday night and had plenty of rest before then. To give up two doubles in three batters and be charged with two runs (Giovanny Gallegos allowed the inherited runner to score) that tied up the game is heartbreaking, especially after Carpenter’s triumph. It’s been pointed out there’s a strong decline in Miller’s velocity, among other things. We said last year that vesting that option wasn’t the brightest move, but given how 2020 played out and all the doubleheaders, it would have been very difficult to avoid it, I think, without leaving the team open to a grievance.
Last night, the Cardinals made a few moves. One, Harrison Bader is now apparently ready to go and he’s activated for the Pittsburgh series. For the first time this season, we’ll get a chance to see that projected O’Neill-Bader-Dylan Carlson (who made a spectacular throw to nab a runner at third in extras, with a hat tip to Arenado’s exquisite tag) outfield. I’d imagine Bader’s going to hit eighth, where Williams was, and the struggles of Williams means there’s not a high bar for him to keep things where they were at a minimum.
As noted, Miller went on the IL. Unexpectedly, Adam Wainwright wound up on the COVID-19 IL due to a family member testing positive. Given that Wainwright has had his shot, this would seem to be just a precautionary move, but he’s not going to Pittsburgh where he had been set to pitch on Sunday. I am guessing (as you can read in the series preview) Carlos Martinez gets that spot. To help out in the bullpen, Kodi Whitley returns. I was surprised they brought up Seth Elledge before Whitley and I’m glad to see him back out there.
Should be a good series with the Pirates this weekend, but if you have a legitimate claim to being a contender, you have to at least win the series no matter how well the Pirates are playing now. Games lost against Pittsburgh will bite you at the end of the year!