Capping Off a Series in the Right Way

In 2006, Anthony Reyes threw a gem at what was then called U.S. Cellular Field.  He went the distance, allowed just one hit, and struck out six.  It was a masterful performance.  However, the distance was only eight innings because the one hit he allowed was a home run to to-be Hall of Famer Jim Thome and his team didn’t score squat against Freddy Garcia and Bobby Jenks.  The Cardinals lost the 1-0 game.

Yesterday, the Cardinals almost flipped that game on its head.  Carlos Rodon was probably never going to go nine innings (which would have been required since again this game took place in Chicago, now blazoned with Guaranteed Rate Field) especially since his strikeout mojo was working.  However, through seven the Cardinals just had one hit.  Tommy Edman isn’t going to be a Hall of Famer, but his home run in the third was the only tally in the game as John Gant continued doing what he does–getting into and out of jams–and the rested bullpen meant that Mike Shildt could go to the Big Three Arms as early as he wanted.

It turned out to not exactly mirror that 2006 game because Edman hit a second homer in the eighth and the Cardinals were able to “explode” for two runs in the ninth as Edmundo Sosa kept his hit streak alive while driving in Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.  Facing Jose Ruiz must have been a little easier than the rest of the arms that the Pale Hose were able to use.

Gant wound up lowering his ERA to 1.81 even though he had so many baserunners in the five-plus innings he worked.  Five hits, three walks, an error of his own, an error of his third baseman.  Yet he worked out of each and every one.  First inning, one out, bases loaded, he gets a 7-2 double play to walk away unscathed.  Third inning, the first two single and then Tony La Russa, who has small ball etched into his DNA, had his second place hitter (Adam Eaton) bunt them over.  If you don’t trust your second place hitter to help you out, why is he hitting second?  Gant then loaded the bases with a walk but got a popout to leave them all stranded.  Two on, two outs in the fifth and Gant induces Yermin Mercedes to ground out.

Gant’s FIP (fielding independent pitching) is 4.07.  His xERA, based on his batted ball profile, is 4.95.  Yet his ERA is 1.81.  Numbers like that to the novice than I am seem to indicate a crash is coming.  The ERA is not sustainable, especially not with a 15% walk rate (which, give credit, I think has gone down a couple of ticks) and a 17% strikeout rate.  Both of those numbers were much better in the past, which makes you wonder if the limited action and needs of the bullpen aren’t better for him.  Whatever the case, I hope that the Cards are able to get a replacement for him before everything goes south, but I have a feeling that won’t be the case.

Our Goat is pretty clear in this one as well.  While the bottom three in the lineup combined to go 0-12 with nine strikeouts, Max Moroff was, well, more off all day.  He went 0-4, struck out four times, made an error in the sixth, and followed that up by misplaying a tag allowing a runner to arrive safely at third.  The decision to DH Arenado made some sense–he’s not had a day off yet this year, so this at least gives him some rest–but it almost was very costly.

Then there was the Gallegos affair.

As noted above, Mike Shildt was able to get to the good arms of the bullpen and not leave Gant out there too long.  Genesis Cabrera came in with one on in the sixth and retired the next three (though he did have a wild pitch that led to Moroff’s missed tag in there).  Cabrera’s seventh was less effective, as he walked two men around a sacrifice bunt–this time by Billy Hamilton, which makes more sense.  Needing some big outs, Shildt went to the mound and signaled for Giovanny Gallegos.

And that’s when things got weird.

Gallegos, like about half the pitchers in the major leagues these days, came in with a spot on his cap.  It’s not Steve Kline levels of dirty, but it’s a spot that’s got some sunscreen, rosin, and dirt on it.  It’s too round to be natural, but it’s also something that pitchers are clearly not worried about hiding.  You’ve all seen it on various pitchers.  There was one shown on Twitter of a Yankees pitcher (I believe Gerrit Cole) with a bright white spot against the blue of the cap’s bill.

Is it entirely legal?  Probably not.  However, it’s also something that aids in player safety.  I believe we are seeing it more prevalently this season because of the changes to the ball, which have made it harder for pitchers to grip.  It’s not designed to doctor the ball’s movement, just to make sure that it doesn’t take someone’s head off.  Given the lack of control around the Cardinals, especially their bullpen, nobody wants it to get worse.

However, Joe West (and, to be clear, this didn’t start with him nor did anyone on the field blame him) told Gallegos to change his hat before he started pitching.  This actually was to his benefit, since he didn’t get thrown out of the game, but it set Mike Shildt off.  He was ejected complaining about it and, well, his post-game press conference says it all.

As noted, Gallegos struck out Jose Abreu and Mercedes to end the threat and nothing appeared to be any different about how he went about his business.  It’s going to be interesting to see the response from Major League Baseball on this.  If they start policing at this level, things could get ugly.  If they don’t fine Shildt for his comments, though, it might be a tacit acknowledgement that this is still fine.

(Personally, I could watch that video all day long.  Love to see fired up Shildt.)

Cardinals head to Arizona, who are in the midst of a 10 game losing streak.  I never want to see anyone with that sort of streak, because you know the chances are it’s not reaching 14.  Hopefully St. Louis can take three of four and get their feet back under them before heading to LA.  Some late starts here on the holiday weekend!

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Last updated: 10/06/2022