With their passage to the Divisional Round of the playoffs in sight, Giovanny Gallegos’ wipe-out slider didn’t slide. It did get wiped out, though.
The three-run homer off the bat of Fernando Tatis Jr. initiated a sequence of 5 San Diego home runs over a span of 15 batters, and flipped the narrative of this round of the WildCard Series. Instead of flying out to Arlington, St Louis will have to stay one more day in San Diego.
In the aftermath of that 11-9 Padre victory (boxscore) that saw San Diego wring 7 innings and 134 pitches from its bullpen, while the Cards were patching 4.2 innings from their pen at the cost of 113 pitches, the question as both teams face tonight’s decisive Game Three is, “Who’s left?” Who has innings to give?
The Cardinals, of course, will start with Jack Flaherty. The erstwhile ace and opening day starter, Jack is a high ceiling hurler whose 2020 has been inconsistent. Jack will be pitching on six-days’ rest. A deep start by Flaherty will go a long way to soothe a bullpen that has contributed 10 inning and 193 pitches over the last two days.
If the Padres make short work of Jack – as they have the other two starters in the series – who is left to throw for the Cards?
St Louis has three relievers who have pitched in both games (Genesis Cabrera, Gallegos, and Ryan Helsley). Cabrera has thrown 25 pitches over 1 innings of work; Gallegos has thrown 2 innings at the cost of 41 pitches; and Helsley has achieved 1.2 innings at the cost of 25 pitches. I don’t think anyone can be ruled out of this game, but these three – especially Gallegos – would figure to be the most compromised.
Of the pitchers that worked yesterday, but not on Wednesday, the loss exacted a fairly high pitch total from Austin Gomber (28) and Daniel Ponce de Leon (30). Mike, I believe, would rather not use either of them again tonight. On the other hand, Tyler Webb and Kodi Whitley both pitched yesterday, but threw relatively few pitches (8 for Webb and 9 for Whitley). Having not pitched on Wednesday, both of these pitchers should be ready options tonight.
Shildt also held back a couple of high leverage arms from last night’s game, so even though both pitched on Wednesday, both have had a day off. Andrew Miller threw just 11 pitches on Wednesday, and Alex Reyes threw 16. I would tab either of those as the top options for tonight.
And then there is Johan Oviedo. The hard throwing rookie whose promise is , for the moment, greater than his polish, is the only pitcher on the roster not to have worked yet in the series. He’s been a starter, and could give multiple innings, if needed.
For all of the innings and pitches the bullpen has already provided, St Louis should be well enough equipped to cover innings today – if necessary.
The bigger question lies with San Diego. Where will they get innings today?
They will, apparently, start with Craig Stammen. Craig, who was saddled with a 5.63 ERA over 24 innings this season has been selected to be the starter. He threw a 26-pitch inning in Game One and wasn’t used in Game Two.
After him, the two pitchers who started the first two games – while not throwing as many pitches as the Cardinal starters – have still thrown enough that they probably won’t be asked to shoulder any of the load tonight. Chris Paddack – Wednesday’s starter – threw 46 pitches, and Zach Davies threw 55 more yesterday.
Beyond them, the Padres have 6 relievers who have worked in both of the first two games. Of those, the hardest ridden have been closer Trevor Rosenthal, who has fired 45 pitches over the last two days. He is followed by Emilio Pagan (41), Matt Strahm (38) and Drew Pomeranz (37) as arms that have been heavily leveraged through the first two games.
Given the severity of the situation, all will probably be available, but one would have to wonder if they have reached the point where the workload will start to catch up to them. Pomeranz and Rosenthal are the big guns at the back of the bullpen. Their presence on this list could be quite significant.
The other two who have pitched in both games haven’t expended quite as many pitches. This list includes Pierce Johnson (24) and Garrett Richards (13). I would think that both of those worthies could be looked to for at least a few batters tonight, if needed.
Two of the relievers that worked last night – Adrian Morejon and Austin Adams – hadn’t pitched on Wednesday. Adams threw the fewer pitches of the two (he threw 16) and I imagine he should be good to go. Morejon’s 1.1 innings cost him 23 pitches – a little much for him to come back again tonight, but San Diego has already asked two pitchers in this series (Pagan and Rosenthal) to pitch Game Two after each had thrown at least that many pitches in Game One, so I don’t think they’ll hesitate to put the ball in Adrian’s hands if they like the matchup.
The Padres also have three pitchers who they have yet to use in the series. What that says about their confidence in these guys may be open to interpretation, but they are, at least, rested.
Tim Hill and Luis Patino are the two most used. Hill (the lefty of the group) posted a 4.50 ERA over 18 innings, and Patino finished with a 5.19 ERA over 17.1 innings. Patino is MLB’s twenty-third ranked prospect, and may be the same kind of secret weapon for the Padres that Oviedo could be for St Louis.
Dan Altavilla is also on the roster. He pitched just 8.2 innings on the season, allowing 3 runs on just 6 hits, but with 5 walks and 10 strikeouts.
Out of all of this, there seems to be enough pitches available for the Padres to make their way through the game. The question will be how effective can some of these heavily-worked pitchers be – especially the ones who might be asked to pitch for a third game in a row.
For the Cardinals, the optimal scenario has Flaherty going deep into the game. The mystery here is whether the momentum the Padres seized last night will carry over to today. Baseball wisdom holds that momentum is only as good as tomorrow’s starting pitcher, so Jack will have a shot tonight to test that axiom. Team history, however, is somewhat solidly on his side.
Five times this season, the Cardinal pitching staff has been battered for 10 or more runs. Each time, they allowed exactly 2 runs the following game. If that pattern holds, the Cards will gladly take it.
Whether Shildt would ask Ryan to pitch in a third consecutive game is a question worth asking. What is assured is that the kid with the 100-mph fastball and nasty slider is back in form. He has allowed just 1 hit to the last 27 batters he has faced. He did pitch yesterday, but faced only one batter.
Gio surrendered two huge home runs last night – after allowing just one all season. He finished the season a little shaky – he allowed 6 runs in 7 September innings – and a groin injury figured into that. If Mike chooses to go away from the heavily worked Gallegos tonight, I will be OK with that.
One of the reasons for the sudden uptick in offense is the heating up of Paul Goldschmidt. Just as the games became super-critical, Goldy has risen to the need. He had 2 hits last night – including a homer – and, beginning with the final game against Milwaukee, Paul has 6 hits in his last 14 at bats (.429). His hits include 2 home runs and a double – a .929 slugging percentage.
Yadier Molina is peaking right along with Goldschmidt. Yesterday Yadi put together his sixth multi-hit game in his last 12 – he is hitting .349 over that span (15 for 43).
On the plus side, St Louis scored first for the third game in a row, and the seventh time in the last 10 games.
Congratulations to MLB management. American League baseball has finally fully come to the National League. Last night’s slugfest was by far the Cardinals’ longest game of the season – extra-inning games included – at 4:19. (And this in the year that baseball was trying to shorten its games.)
For sheer length, this game tied for the second longest nine-inning game that St Louis has played in this century. The longest was a 9-8 win in Wrigley Field against the Cubs on September 21. That game lasted 4:24. The other 4:19, nine inning game played by the Cards this century occurred against Colorado on April 16, 2000. Not surprisingly, that 14-13 Rockie victory took place in the rarified air of Colorado.
At one degree hotter than the Wednesday game (92 degrees) yesterday’s game becomes the warmest Cardinal game since the 95 degree game against Kansas City on August 24 – and the season’s hottest road game.
My Designated Hitter Rant
As the DH seems to be a real threat in the near future – and many expect it to be universal and permanent by 2022 if not sooner – I am going to include the link to my DH rant at the bottom of all my baseball posts this year (and next, probably). If you have already read it, you should know that I added a section on July 30 after the Cards first five games with the DH. Here is the link. If this idiocy is to become law, I want to do everything I can to make sure as many people as possible understand why this is wrong.