The Cardinals are now 7-16 in 1-run games, and no one in the Bay Area or Major League Baseball in general are too concerned about that. The Cardinals have been good for a long, long, long time and even when they’re not playing well, they’re still scary.
Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Paul DeJong, Willson Contreras, Brendan Donovan, Tommy Edman, Nolan Gorman—they have Gold Gloves and MVP trophies and speed and power and tall guys and small guys, all of them straight-faced, void of any outward emotion when they field their positions or step into the batter’s box.
I’m sure some have said similar things about our Giants. But we have the kids now, like Patrick Bailey and Camilo Doval. We’re fun and moody, and that’s better than having MVP awards right?
No matter how poorly the Cards are playing, and how well the Giants are playing—when the two teams collide, great baseball tends to happen.
Monday’s game was a one of those games: decent starting pitching, good pace, lead changes, gut wrenching home runs, some manager match-up chess, a late-inning, 2-out rally sparked by a walk, a late rally sparked by an 11-pitch at-bat, a spooky grounder, some wildness from the closer, and a save with the tying and winning run on base in the 9th.
Gabe Kapler blew the dust off the right-handed lineup and rolled them out against lefty starter Matthew Liberatore. Austin Slater in the lead-off spot playing center, with Wilmer Flores at first, Casey Schmitt at third, J.D. Davis as the designated hitter.
Knowing these opportunities come few and far between, Slater jumped on the first pitch of the game for a single. He’d lead off the 3rd with an infield single, as well—setting a pesky tone at the plate and on the base path against Liberatore and the rest of the Cardinals’ staff.
Slater would score on a fielder’s choice ground out to Arenado at third, and with two-outs, Mitch Haniger stayed back on a first pitch change-up and lined it to left for a 2-out RBI double.
The Giants are in business in the third inning pic.twitter.com/VwssOwELB2— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) June 13, 2023
The two runs didn’t necessarily feel Fort Knox secure, but it felt okay with how the Giants were finding ways on base and Logan Web’s pitching in the opposite half-innings.
The first couple innings were beautiful for Webb. After a 1-pitch ground out from Brendan Donovan, he K’ed Goldschmidt on 3 pitches with the classic Little League offering: fastball, fastball, breaking ball. Goldie didn’t even swing the bat. Ha! After that he went back into the dugout, threw all his bats in the trash, kicked Nolan Arenado in the shins, knocked over a tub of Dubble Bubble and disappeared into the clubhouse. That was the last time we saw Paul Goldschmidt. Rumor has it he’s working on an off-shore oil rig, others have claimed to see him in a corduroy sports coat teaching a Renaissance Literature seminar at Middlebury. Who knows if that’s true or not—all I know is he never hit a slider ever again…
Webb threw a 6-pitch 2nd with 3 ground-outs. A lead-off single from Jordan Walker was erased on a steal attempt by a crack shot throw from Patrick Bailey, and he picked up Flores after a fielding error by baiting a swinging strike 3 on a change-up at Donovan’s shoelaces to end the inning.
Webb was efficient and threw only 88 pitches over 7 innings of work. The change-up featured more prominently in his arsenal with nearly 50% usage while he limited his slider to just 16%. The off-speed coupled with the sinker got the job done. Corners were painted, balls in play were on the ground. 5 of his 6 strikeouts were delivered by way of the change-up.
The slider was the issue. This game would’ve been majestic for Webb if not for two sliders in particular.
Paul DeJong came into the series hitting 5 for 9 with a homer against Webb. He hit the ball hard in his first at-bat, then got an 0-2 cement mixer in his second AB that he easily lifted into the left field seats. The pitch had no business in the location it ended up in. It didn’t snap out of his hands like the previous slider that dotted the outside for a called strike 2. DeJong recognized the pitch, diagnosed it as a hanger, and crushed it. Giants 2-run lead halved in the 5th.
Two batters later, in the bottom of the 6th with a runner on first, Paul Goldschmidt came to the plate. And two batters later, the lead was gone.
Like DeJong he knew what a good slider looked like. Tight, barely scraping the plate on the outside corner—he had been wrung up on one 5 innings previous that sent him on a journey of isolation, pain, love, and ultimate self-discovery. He was back now and ready to play baseball.
In a 2-2 count, he got the slider, poorly located down and in, and Goldie slapped into the visitor’s bullpen in left. Cardinals now up 3-2.
This turn of the events should be no surprise to anyone. Bryan Murphy’s series preview is mostly about the Cardinals first baseman and for good reason. Here are his career stats against the Giants before Monday night’s game.
If the Giants past decade was akin to Dante’s journey through the Inferno, the three-faced creature in the 9th circle of Hell that eternally chewed on San Francisco pitchers (i.e. Satan) would be Goldschmidt. Paul Goldschmidt is Satan.
The first baseman already has a 2-HR game against San Francisco this year. In 160 games spread across 13 seasons, he’s on par with his 2022 MVP season. The ownage shouldn’t be a surprise, but I suppose that’s the hellish quality of it. How he does it without break or hesitation or emotion, those dead eyes and receding hairline quietly keeping the wounds fresh while destroying your spirit and feasting on your soul
Goldschmidt’s home run was already the 12th allowed by Webb in 2023. Over 148.1 IP in 2021, he allowed 9. Over 192.1 in 2022, he allowed 11. The home run per 9 innings rate in those seasons were around 0.5. It’s always a good idea to give up half a home run when you can. Right now, Webb is dangerously close to allowing a 1 and a quarter patties (new slang for home run I just invented, particularly one’s given up on sliders) every 9 innings.
It seems Webb has mentally steeled himself against the long-ball. In early games this season, he’d spiral. Battling these St. Louis in late-April, a solo shot from Alec Burleson to break up a 0 - 0 duel in the 7th derailed Webb. Three of the next four batters reached base and he didn’t finish the inning.
The home run rate is perplexing but Webb, at least in this game, made peace with it, washing his hands of each blast before retiring the next batter.
The Giants knotted the game up at 3 the next inning against right-handed reliever Andre Pallante.
With two-outs, Wilmer Flores worked a five pitch walk, moved to second on a J.D. Davis single, and scored on Mitch Haniger’s single struck through the gap between Goldschmidt and first base.
Webb came out and pitched a scoreless 7th while the Giants again pieced together another rally in the top of the 8th, this time against the familiar-face, new-look Chris Stratton. With one-out, Patrick Bailey, hitting for the first time from the left-side of the plate, had the at-bat of the game. An 11-pitch duel in which Bailey fouled off 5 consecutive full-count offerings from Stratton—4-seam, curve, 4-seam, slider, 4-seam—before lining a double to left. Brandon Crawford would bring him in with a slap single against the shift.
Of course, with the lead regained in the 8th, there were still beasts to be slain.
Goldschmidt again got to hit with the potential tying run on base, this time against Tyler Rogers. On the seventh pitch of the AB, Rogers broke down Goldschmidt’s swing and Flores made a nice play to keep the tying run from advancing into scoring position. The defensive risk paid off when Nolan Gorman singled putting runners at the corners with one out. Rogers got Arenado to pop up in the infield and Gabe Kapler decided that he needed some swing-and-miss stuff and went to Camilo Doval.
I love watching Doval pitch. He’s not expressive facially at all but his body language screams. When he doesn’t have command of his pitches, the way he mopes around the mound or receives return throws from the catcher lets everyone in the ballpark know. He walked Willson Contreras on four not-close pitches to load the bases.
With no wiggle room for error, Doval was going to have to be in the zone to Dylan Carlson. Luckily, his conservative, get-it-over-the-plate fastball is a 101 cutter. In an 0-2 count he threw one of those right-down-the-freakin-middle, and Carlson flied out to center.
Doval came out for the 9th and immediately put himself in a 3-0 hole to Jordan Walker. Things got spooky when Walker’s routine ground ball to short mysteriously levitated over Crawford’s head into left for a lead-off single. A Backyard Baseball power-up? The devil at play?
What did the ball just hit? pic.twitter.com/zeEH14QZSs— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) June 13, 2023
Whatever boost that may have provided the Cardinals bench were erased when DeJong got jammed on an inside slider and grounded into a double-play.
But dark forces were still at work. Goldschmidt was in the hole, helmet on his head and bat in his hand when Doval’ pitches went haywire and walked Edman.
Goldschmidt on deck when Doval hit Donovan in a 2-2 count.
Of course, the climax, the culmination of good versus evil, must end by meeting and defeating the final boss.
Tying run in scoring position. Winning run on first. Cardinals fans got giddy. Giants fans prepared to rip their hair out. But in a blink of an eye, first pitch swinging, Goldschmidt had hit a come-backer to Doval.
That throw to first from Camilo is probably the stankiest thing I’ve ever seen on a baseball field.
Most pitchers would secure the ball in their glove, carry it like a newborn halfway to first base before underhanding it to the bag. Doval doesn’t move his feet. He stands right where he finished his wind-up, right where he snagged the ball, and throws it to first. But even this isn’t straight-forward. There’s so much attitude in this delivery, the way he slowly pulls his arm back at the front of the mound, as if deciding which pitch to throw to first—slider? triple-digit sinker?—or, he’s briefly considering not throwing down to first at all. He had a base to give, why not make things a little more interesting, turn the heat up a bit? The world would’ve exploded if he pocketed it and Doval wouldn’t had blinked an eye.
Ultimately he takes the out, the game, the 4-out save, but instead of a boring ol’ 1 - 3 putout, he adds some flare by dipping his shoulder, dropping the release point, and slinging the ball over to Flores. Little dash of salt in the open wound that is the reeling St. Louis Cardinals.
And for Paul Goldschmidt—evil incarnate finally vanquished and banished from this world—well, he never played baseball again.
Tuesday’s first pitch: 4:45 PM. Alex Cobb v. Jack Flaherty
(Disclaimer: All views expressed are soley those of the author. I do not know Paul Goldschmidt. He is probably not the Devil.)