A Game of Inches

I thought he was going to do it.

Last night I had church meetings and so didn’t get a chance to sit down with the game until bottom of the sixth inning.  I knew the Cardinals were winning handily because I’d checked the score and almost thought it wasn’t worth catching the last three innings of a game that was basically over.  However, I got dinner and sat down to watch.  I didn’t realize anything of note was happening until Miles Mikolas got his first out in the top of the seventh.

Then the bug at the bottom of the Bally Sports Midwest broadcast clued me in: “Miles Mikolas has a no-hitter through 6.1 innings.”

Now, given the state of how these things usually go, I expected a hit right about that time.  Instead, he got through the seventh and I started to really think it was possible.  The pitch count was increasing, but this wasn’t Dakota Hudson or a returning Jack Flaherty or someone that the club was going to have to balance pitch count versus history.  Mikolas has had his injury issues but he’s also a reliable starter later in his career.  There was no doubt they were going to give him a shot at getting it done.

Mikolas is also a guy that, when he’s on, is going to get the weak contact and let his defense work behind him.  Once I saw the news, the substitution of Tyler O’Neill for Juan Yepez in a game of that score made a lot more sense.  Nolan Gorman, the weak link in the infield, made two great plays to get outs early on, which led to this idea that “hey, this is going to happen.”

As the game carried into the ninth, three things came to mind:

  1. I still remember, in September of 2001, watching Bud Smith finish off his no-hitter against the Padres late in the night.  My wife was actually watching it with me back then (I think because we were just about to go to bed, not because she had any interest) and she wound up talking with me and watching the end of last night’s as well.  It would have been fitting for those two game to match in that way.
  2. Michael Wacha.  I know everyone was likely remembering September of 2013, when Wacha took a no-hitter to the very brink before missing out.  The one against Washington is the one that stands out, but Wacha also took one to the ninth in June of 2018.  It’s been a long time since anyone not named Wacha has taken a no-hitter into the final frame.
  3. This may have been mentioned on Twitter–I’ve drastically cut back my interaction on there–but if Mikolas completed the no-no, Andrew Knizner (with 125 total major league games) would have “caught a no-hitter” on his resume and Yadier Molina (with 2,183 games) would not.

Two outs.  Two strikes.  Unfortunately, as this franchise knows all too well, you have to get that final strike.  Cal Mitchell–a name which definitely would fit a slightly disreputable smuggler who crossed paths with Han Solo a time or two–made contact on Mikolas’s last pitch.  Off the bat, I thought it was caught.  It felt like a little mid-range fly ball and that is apparently what Harrison Bader thought as well, but the ball kept carrying and carrying, winding up just out of reach and hitting the ground, bouncing over the wall for a double and the end of history.  You can’t blame Bader for perhaps being a little farther in than normal so that a dying quail didn’t break it up.  And, like Oli Marmol said, there’s some consolation that if Bader doesn’t catch it, nobody in the league is going to catch it.  It just wasn’t meant to be but it was tantalizingly there for the taking.

The Cardinals sweep the double header while the Brewers lose to the Mets, meaning St. Louis is now up 2 1/2 games for their largest lead of the season.  They get Jack Flaherty back and still have another game with the Pirates.  To paraphrase Maxwell Lord, life is good….but it could have been better.

RECAP

Monday (7-5 win)

Hero: Dylan Carlson.  Two hits, both for extra bases, including a crucial three-run homer that brought the Cardinals back even with the Pirates after getting down by five runs.

Goat: Nolan Arenado.  0-4 with five men left on base, which could have been very costly.

Notes: I said something about Paul Goldschmidt cooling off.  Fair to say that was premature, given the last few days.  Here, he put together three hits, including the go-ahead home run in the seventh….Zack Thompson apparently just ran out of gas.  He allowed just one run in the first four innings but was touched up for four in the fifth.  The good four innings will probably keep him in the big leagues for a while, though….T.J. McFarland got to pitch in a game the Cardinals won!  Of course, they were down 5-0 when he came in but they let him get an out even with the game tied.  It was one of his good outings as well, giving up nothing in that inning and a third.  Is that enough to save him?  With Jack Flaherty coming back today the club will need a 40-man spot and a 26-man spot.  Those decisions should be interesting….three hits by Brendan Donovan (two doubles) and the two RBI that started the Cardinal comeback.

Tuesday, Game 1 (3-1 win)

Hero: Paul Goldschmidt.  Another homer and he drove in all three runs with his two hits.  Pretty sure that cool down was just temporary.

Goat: Nolan Gorman.  He did draw a walk, but otherwise went 0-4 with three strikeouts and five left on base.

Notes: Another excellent outing by Matthew Liberatore, who kept the Pirates off the board for the five innings he was out there.  He only threw 79 pitches and while it didn’t matter given how the nightcap went I’m a little surprised they didn’t let him try the sixth and save an arm.  I imagine it’s related to third time through the order and all that, but it would have been a good opportunity to stretch him a bit in my mind….Genesis Cabrera allowed the only run, a solo homer by Yu Chang.  That’s his fifth home run allowed on the year, two ahead of his previous high….tough day for Diego Castillo of the Pirates, who made three errors, two on back-to-back plays.

Tuesday, Game 2 (9-1 win)

Hero: Miles Mikolas.  One of the easiest selections ever.

Goat: Juan Yepez.  Not only did he go 0-4 with two strikeouts, he badly misplayed a ball in the outfield, which led to the Pirates scoring a run way before they got a hit.

Notes: Booster Goldy continued with another TWO home runs, part of a 4-4, 5 RBI night that had a walk tossed in for good measure….four hits for Brendan Donovan as well, who is hitting .328 with a .943 OPS in June….three hits for Tommy Edman, two for Nolan Gorman….Edman led off the game with a homer, his seventh on the season.  We’re at mid-June and Edman still has a 130 OPS+….0-4 for Albert Pujols but he gave one pitch a ride late in the game.  It wound up caught right at the warning track but initially it looked like it was a home run.  He’s hitting .175 since that two homer day in Pittsburgh.

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NL Central Standings

TeamWLPct.GB
Brewers4233.560 -
Cardinals4134.5471.0
Pirates2943.40311.5
Cubs2845.38413.0
Reds2547.34715.5

Last updated: 06/27/2022

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