It is great to be back home!
The Cardinals took game two of the series from the Mets last night in a 5-1 victory. It was one of those nights where everything seemed in control from start to finish. The pitching started great, the hits started to fall, the runs started to build up … and when everything works together, great things are bound to happen.
So, let’s take a look at last night’s “Good, Better, and Best.”
Yadier Molina entered last night’s game with 999 career hits. Certianly, it wasn’t out of reach that he get to 1,000 against the Mets. And the suspense didn’t last long.
In the second inning, Yadi was the lead-off man, and he smashed a 95 MPH fastball deep in the hole … but Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada made a stellar play to get there, and fire to first. Only problem? Daniel Murphy’s foot came off the bag.
Yadi was safe, his 1,000th hit recorded as an infield single, of all things. That’s about par for the course this season with Yadi the base-stealing machine!
Once the crowd at Busch Stadium realized (thanks to the sign on the scoreboard!) the significance of that hit, there was quite the standing ovation for Mr. Molina. Such an ovation, in fact, that the ever-humble Yadi looked a little confused … or, perhaps, a touch embarrassed. If he got that kind of reaction for 1,000 hits, just imagine when he reaches a really spectacular milestone!
Hey, at least he knows he’s loved.
When the Cardinals do things right, this is an easy game. Last night, the offense played a little old-fashioned small ball, rapping out 5 runs on 10 hits — none, though, for extra bases. They simply took advantage of what the Mets gave them.
Example: The second inning started with Yadi’s lead-off infield single. Then, David Freese singled to right field. A passed ball moved both runners up, and Skip Schumaker and Daniel Descalso singles drove both runners home. And then things got really “small.” Jaime Garcia laid down a perfect sac bunt — one of three on the night — to move the runners again, and with only one out, Matt Carpenter brought Schumaker home on a sac fly.
Speaking of Carpenter, don’t overlook the value of Matt’s ability to get a timely pop fly to score a run. Plenty of times, the rest of the lineup couldn’t muster that. He leads the team with seven such sacrifice flies on the year.
Another example of hard-nosed, manufactured runs? The sixth inning.
Daniel Descalso (2-for-3 on the night) singled to start the inning. After another Garcia sac bunt, Descalso swiftly stole third. He proceeded to score on a Jon Jay groundout to put the Redbirds up 4-0.
After such frustrating dry spells where the team couldn’t buy a run, that kind of execution is brilliant to see.
Boy, when Jaime Garcia is good, he’s really, really good.
It’s no secret that he’s had a hard time getting a grasp on away games, for whatever reason (he told reporters after the game that he “didn’t want to talk about it.”). But at home? His stuff is just ridiculous.
Perhaps Yadi said it best: “He kept the ball down … When he’s down, he’s nasty.”
The mental side of the game sometimes gets to the young southpaw. Not this time. In and out of trouble he worked, giving up a pair of singles, then striking out a pair to end the inning. He looked as in control as ever.
His final line was 7.1 IP, 9 hits, 1 run (unearned), 0 BB, 5 K.
It was beautiful.
The lone Mets run scored on a series of less-than-pretty events. Garcia, pitching into the eighth inning, gave up back-to-back singles. Then, Lance Lynn was called upon to replace the lefty, with one out and two on. I wish that inspired more confidence than it actually does, these days. But, nevertheless, our “Wolf Pup” took the mound and nearly shut the Mets down.
He induced a ground ball to Descalso, whose defense we’ve come to adore. Only this time, instead of a sure double-play, Dirty Dan was a little less dirty, and everyone was safe. E6.
That loaded the bases, and a sac fly scored one run. But a stellar defensive play by Adron Chambers, just called up from Memphis, kept the tally at one.
Also of concern, Matty Holliday left the game with an injury … after a walk. Go figure. The word from the clubhouse was “tightness” in his lower back, and he’s currently day-to-day.
The night of scoreboard watching ended with a 50-50 split — the Reds and Pirates both won, but the Braves and Dodgers both lost. That means the Redbirds are just two games back of the first Wild Card spot (that would secure the one-game playoff at home) and 1.5 games up on the Dodgers for the second spot.
This afternoon, Adam Wainwright looks to bounce back from his last start and cap the series sweep against R.A. Dickey and the Mets.
Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball and a contributor to Around the Horn. Follow her on Twitter @tarawellman.