TOP OF THE SIXTH: CARDINALS 7 2 – 3 D-BACKS
Patrick Corbin is on the mound tonight for Arizona, wearing all-white shoes in the vein of the Pee-Wee Herman biker bar dance scene of Great Adventure, as he delivers a strike to Yadier Molina and proudly mutters to himself under his breath, “Tequila!!”
Molina flies out deep to center on the second pitch, and the Cardinals bring the many-game downward skid further down—St. Louis in the pangs of second-class sportistry, the redbirds back 5 games back already from the Cubs and Rams off and gone for sunny L.A.
Jedd Gyorko steps up next and knocks an opposite-field single to right, bringing up Ruben Tejada, recent Mets transfer from the Mets and he lines the first pitch into right, Corbin leaving a slider hanging over the plate. Two men on, Gyorko charging safely into third.
You’d think now Corbin would be on his way out, the polished white veneer on his kicks seeming to backfire, just shiny enough to have turned into a mirror, tipping all his pitches and making things easy for the rallying Cardinals.
But he stays in, up over 90 pitches at this point, and up comes Aledmys Diaz, the last in a long line of Cards who’ve gone from the so-so world of prospect to the world-beating world of all-star in a matter of months–the Allen Craigs, Randal Grichuks, the Stephen Piscottys the Matt Adamses of the franchise, the winning formula infuriating to anyone outside of St. Louis.
Diaz, who’d already hit a home run earlier, gets fooled on on a slider trailing low and inside, and it’s a 2-2 count. Corbin’s working slowly, almost a minute between pitches, and Diaz bites on a slider way outside, getting a piece of it to stay alive. Delgado and Clippard getting loose in the pen.
Another slider and Diaz rips it to left—just barely foul… nabbed with gold-glove dexterity by so-named “Bam Bam” Valderama–the mustached, middle-aged ball boy sitting patiently down the left-field line for stray foul balls.
On the next pitch, Diaz walks. The bases are loaded.
But it’s all good, Adam Wainwright is coming up, the pitcher, who’ll deliver a nice strikeout or even better, a double play to end the inning easy, still with the lead. Does Matheny pinch hit here?
This being the same Wainwright who’s sporting an ERA over 7.00, was lit up by the Cubs in last year’s NLDS, and whose ten-year run as the Cardinals’ franchise player looks, very possibly, to be nearing its end.
Matheny sticks with him. Bases loaded, one out. And… the pitch:
Waino makes contact–striking it sharply down onto the infield grass, a hard-hit ground ball that sneaks past third base and down the left field line. Redemption!! Two Cardinals sprint home to score, and the ball rolls away embarrassingly from Tomas in left, and now even Diaz is waved home, Waino standing up easy on third, the dugout all a-hugging, relieved after a week that saw almost nothing quite go their way.
“Boy,” says TV guy Bob Brenly, “he got a cookie right down the middle of the plate, and a wicked carom over the side there.”
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) April 28, 2016
Somehow, probably because his control still looks alright, Corbin stays in, as Matt Carpenter strides up to the plate. Ground-out to second, Segura throws to first and Wainwright stays put over at third. Two outs. Corbin might have an escape route yet.
But now, it’s Piscotty, one of those perennial Cardinals robots, programmed into guaranteeing them the NL Central title year after year. He dials in, spots a slider, and the rally continues with a single to left on another sharp ground ball to left–end of the evening for Corbin.
6-3 now Cardinals, and we’re suddenly staring at an all-new ballgame. The hits just keep on coming… Piscotty steals second, Matt Holiday hits a ground-rule double to right, the first big hit of the inning, after fighting back from an 0-2 count to bring it full, before driving home the fifth run of the inning. 7-3 Cards.
That would end up being it, as Grichuk goes down swinging, but the Cards grab their gloves and head back out to the field, equipped with a 7-3 lead and the confident-momentum combo that might just be enough to see them start playing ball with the NL Central standings, in pursuit of the loathed-and-loathing Cubs.
They’ve just moved one game closer.