By: Jim Tsapelas
The St. Louis Cardinals avoid the sweep by the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday. A late inning rally propelled the Cardinals past the Cubs by the score of St. Louis four-Chicago three. I don’t write this lightly or write this with exaggeration; this was one of the biggest wins for the Cardinals in the 2015 season. If the Cubs had maintained their lead and would have won, they would be five and one-half games out of first place in the NL Central Division. With the Cubs loss, St. Louis is seven and one-half games in front of Chicago; and currently sits five games in front of the Pittsburgh Pirates who play later on Wednesday against Cincinnati.
Since July 28th the Cubs have been the second hottest team in baseball with twenty-eight wins. Only the Toronto Blue Jays have been hotter as they have won twenty-nine games during that time period.
Chicago’s starter Jon Lester was magnificent in his body of work against the Redbirds. In seven innings of work, Lester allowed two hits, one earned run, walked one, and struck out seven. Lester left the game after tossing one hundred-five pitches; sixty-seven of which were strikes.
As Lester held the Cardinal hitters at bay, relievers Pedro Strop, Clayton Richard, and Fernando Rodney, offered the Cardinals’ much in the way of offensive possibilities.
With one out in the bottom of the eighth, with Chicago’s Strop on the mound, Mark Reynolds walked and moved to second on a pinch-hit single by Greg Garcia. Against Chicago reliever Richard, Matt Carpenter singles, scoring Pete Kozma who was pinch-running for Reynolds. With the Cubs’ Rodney on the hill, pinch-runner Peter Bourjos and Carpenter scored on the thirteenth double of the season by Stephen Piscotty to make the score Cardinals four-Cubs three.
Both teams had scored in their respective halves of the first with the Cubs platting two runs and the Redbirds platting one. The Cubs scored their third run in the top of the second inning.
One of the most odd and confusing events of the game was manager Mike Mathney’s decision to start Randal Grichuk in center-field. Activated Tuesday from the DL, Grichuk homered in his first returning at-bat. As reported on this blog on Tuesday, Grichuk is fine to run and hit, however, he is not able to throw. So choosing to start Grichuk in center was, at best, an ill-advised decision.
It took three batters for the Cardinals to experience trouble with this experiment of playing Grichuk in center. Anthony Rizzo, with a runner on first and two outs, hit a ball to the gap in center. Grichuk was able to make his way to the ball before it got to the wall. Grichuk under orders not to throw flipped the ball to right-fielder Jason Heyward. Heyward threw the ball back into the infield, but it was too late. The extra time involved in passing the ball to Heyward allowed Chris Coghlan to score from first; it also allowed Rizzo to wind-up on second on a ball usually seen as a single.
Cardinals’ starter Carlos Martinez, threw five innings, allowed ten hits, three earned runs, walked one, and struck out eight. Neither Lester nor Martinez were named in the final decision. Jonathan Broxton (2-4) who came into the game for the Cardinals in the eighth inning, striking out the side, gets the win. Cardinals’ closer, Trevor Rosenthal, earned his forty-third save. Chicago’s Clayton Richard (3-1) is credited with the loss.
This was a must win for the Cardinals. As the Cardinals potentially head to the playoffs, their starting pitching shall need to regain the form which brought them to this point in the season. The starters shall need to be sharper and have the ability to go farther into games than what we have experienced this past week; and experienced, particularly, in the last two series. The hitters need to go deeper into the pitch count and not freely swing at the first pitch. The Cardinals must go back to the fundamentals which has sustained them this season, but were eerily missing as of late.
Thursday the Cardinals travel to Cincinnati and the Great American Ball Park to begin a three game series with the Reds. Jaime Garcia (8-4) with a remarkable ERA of 1.89 meets the Reds John Lamb (0-3).
Thanks for reading!