(In case you missed it on KSDK Sports this morning)
The game of baseball will smack you around many times throughout the 162 game season. Heartache follows the brutal losses and mad elation follows the thrilling wins. After engaging in a unintentional vigilante bean ball war brought to you folks by Tony Soprano over the first two games at Wrigley Field, the Cardinals stole the finale on Sunday and gave fans a sense of calm. Well, sort of.
The pitching was good for the most part. Carlos Martinez quieted the mighty bats of the Cubs down over 6.2 innings, allowing just two runs and striking out six batters in a frenzied environment. Right when you think this 24 year has impressed us to the tilt, he blows you away again. After a shaky stretch of starts that started midway through August, Martinez has fired off a pair of brilliant starts in a row on the road against division opponents.
The bullpen bent but didn’t break. Kevin Siegrist put out a fire and started another. Jonathan Broxton walked a couple guys, evoking painful memories of Chris Perez from years ago. Seth Maness came on and got the most unlikely double play before Trevor Rosenthal threw 6+ pitches at 100 mph or more for his 46th save. After a walk heavy season where K/BB ratio was 2-1, in 2015 Rosenthal has improved that ratio to 4 to 1. Impressive for a guy with a newborn at home. Can you imagine his daughter when she grows up? “When I was born, my dad was throwing 100 mph fastballs.”
The lineup did just enough. Young guns Tommy Pham and Stephen Piscotty provided all the offense the Birds would need with a pair of early two run home runs before Cubs pitcher Jon Lester settled down. Pham’s was a true shot, flying high out of Wrigley. It was the rookie’s fourth home run on the road trip.
The defensive came in the form of Jason Heyward and Tony Cruz. Maness induced a flyball with the bases loaded in the 8th inning and Heyward caught it in shallow right center field and fired a strike to Yadier Molina at homeplate to nail Anthony Rizzo and keep the game in the Cardinals favor. Heyward, according to Fangraphs, has saved 19 runs above average in right field this season and is arguably the defensive rightfielder in the game. He also leads the team in batting averages and stolen bases. Worth every penny. He will only get better as the years go by.
With the win, the Cards slipped out of Wrigley with a little dignity and kept the hard charging Cubs in check. The lead over Chicago is now six games and the Pirates are still four games out with 13 games left in the regular season. The final homestand includes three games with the Cincinnati Reds and four games with the Milwaukee Brewers before the Pirates get one final three game shot and then the Birds finish in Atlanta.
The Cards have clinched a wildcard game spot at the very least, but now aim to seal their lock on the division this week at Busch Stadium. If the Cards go at least 7-6(finishing with 100 wins), the Pirates would have to go 11-2 to tie them. That’s just one of the scenarios. Time is on the Cards side as the final stretch of 2015 unfolds. It may not have seemed like it(wait, it really did), but Sunday’s was huge to come home on a high note and to get the last laugh in Wrigley during the regular season.
What do you think the Cards’ record will be after the action on October 4th wraps up?