The old saying is that you wouldn’t touch that with a ten foot pole. Last night, the Cards got touched by a tenth inning one. This team is getting to be a little extra, what with three games in a row going past the ninth frame.
Taylor Walls was 0-3 going into that at bat. Drew VerHagen, who gets our Goat for the evening, had him down to his final strike. However, if any franchise should know the necessity of getting that final strike, it’s the Cardinals. Wallis roped a pitch down the line that honestly resembled Tommy Edman‘s swing in the top of the first, but where that bookend went foul by inches, Walls’s clanged off the pole and took the Rays from defeat to victory in one sudden swoop.
I don’t fault Oli Marmol for going with VerHagen there and even though he was more erratic than I would like, including walking the leadoff man in the 10th when the zombie runner was already on, he did a pretty decent job until that last pitch. He got a bunt out (thanks to Nolan Arenado doing what Nolan Arenado does, making a spectacular play), an infield fly, and, as noted, was one pitch away from the save. It wasn’t a meltdown by any means, it was just disappointing.
Marmol didn’t have a lot of options, though. He’d used Giovanny Gallegos in the eighth and Ryan Helsley in the ninth to keep the game tied. Of course, we’ve seen that both of those can go multiple innings, but given that they were both coming off of such an outing this weekend, I imagine that they were limited last night. Besides the fact that if either goes two, they are probably out for the rest of the series. This way, they are available for at least Thursday’s game if not possibly for an inning tonight.
With those two out and Genesis Cabrera still off-limits after his heavy lifting Sunday night, VerHagen was really the clear choice. We talked last time about how the bullpen is set up and the various roles that these guys have and VerHagen was the only one that you’d trust in that situation. In theory, I guess, you might have used Andre Pallante but you’d rather him in a spot where he’s going to give you at least two innings. Overall, no complaints with Marmol there, it just didn’t work out.
With the extra runner on, it meant that the play in the top of the 10th didn’t wind up meaning as much. After the Cardinals scored on Lars Nootbaar‘s sacrifice fly, Harrison Bader singled but Paul Goldschmidt tried to score from second base. The single wasn’t that deep, though, and it looked like Goldy tried to find the ball as he turned around third. It was a close play and the Cardinals challenged (because it was the bottom of the 10th and who knows, you might get lucky) but he was clearly out. With Yadier Molina coming up, even though he already had two hits in the game, that might have been the smarter play to push the envelope. It didn’t work out but if the Cards had lost 3-2, it would have been a very painful gamble.
We’re going to give the Hero to our new PitchCom overlord Dakota Hudson. He stumbled a little bit in the seventh as he got around the 80-85 pitch mark, but he was able to throw his second consecutive start of seven innings, this time allowing just two hits and a run while only walking two. The last two starts have coincided, I believe, with the Cardinals using PitchCom and it seems to have allowed Hudson to pick up his pace, which seems to be helping him throw strikes and stay in a rhythm. This is the third straight start where he’s thrown 90 or more pitches after only doing that once in his first eight starts, so we’ll see if there’s any fatigue or if he’s starting to adjust to that workload. Whatever the case, Hudson is shaking off that “pitcher I least want to watch” label and it’s great to see. (EDIT: My good friend Bill Ivie points out the broadcast last night highlighted a conversation between Marmol, Mike Maddux, and Hudson that told him in no uncertain terms his pacing wasn’t going to work at this level. That certainly plays a role in this new version of Hudson!)
Offensively, as noted Molina had two hits, which was great to see, and Albert Pujols moved into 9th all time in hits by himself with #3,320. Also, a lot of times with the DH a bench isn’t that necessary, but Marmol pulled out all the stops in this one, pinch-hitting for Pujols with Nootbaar once the lefty starter was pulled, pinch-hitting for Edmundo Sosa with Nolan Gorman when the righty reliever came in, and then pinch-hitting for Gorman with Juan Yepez when a left-handed reliever made an appearance.
The last one was a little iffy for me. One, Yepez has reverse splits, smashing righties but struggling against lefties in limited action. Two, at some point Gorman is going to have to go up against left-handed pitching. I understand not starting him here, but removing him just because there’s a lefty reliever seems a little too pro-active. So far in the bigs Gorman is 1-4 with a walk and two strikeouts against left-handers. He did struggle against the port-siders in Memphis, hitting .174, but he did have three homers in 46 at bats. It felt like maybe a button too far, but in a tight game late you look for every advantage you can get I guess.
Two hits for Tyler O’Neill in his return from the injured list. The last time he had two hits in a game was May 5 and he hit .138 from there until his IL stint, so we’ll see if TON is actually back to form or had a nice night over the next few days. Still, it’s good to see him in the lineup.
A stinging loss, especially since Josh Hader proved mortal and allowed two homers last night to lose the game for the Brewers. Who’d have ever thought THAT would happen! It keeps the Cards 1/2 game back as they go into tonight’s game with Patron Pitcher of the Blog Packy Naughton going against Corey Kluber. Could be a tough one!