Well, the last two games of this series sucked. It had been a while since we witnessed a series that was essentially blown by the bullpen, but of course it would happen against the Cardinals. Your mileage may vary but for me, with nothing particularly unpleasant happening between us and the Cardinals in the past couple years and the huge divider of the pandemic separating us from the previous decade, I had forgotten about, you know…the searing hatred. Well, if you’re like me, this weekend gave you enough of a taste to wake you back up in that regard. Tyler O’Neill (or Charles Atlas, as ububba amusingly referred to him in the game thread) hitting the game-winning homer after A.J. Minter had just blown through their two best hitters is pretty much vintage Annoying Cardinals.
The pitching matchup did not favor us coming into this contest, making Saturday night’s blown save bode even more ill. However, Jake Odorizzi more than held his own against Adam Wainwright (by the way, on the ESPN Adam Wainwright content blitz last night I give a big thumbs up to them micing him up for his pregame warmup in the bullpen and a big thumbs down to them subjecting us to his country music recording) for five innings. Jake even had a no-hitter going through 5 2/3. Not only did the no-hitter end at that point, though, he didn’t record another out. He lost the no-hitter and the shutout on an irritating home run by the delightfully named Lars Nootbaar that just barely cleared a corner of the outfield wall that no one knew existed (to be fair, the home run was cheap but the hit wasn’t…it would’ve been a double even without the crazy wall angle). This seemed to totally unravel Jake, and the next three St. Louis hitters all singled, driving in another run to make it 2-0.
That seemed to bode very ill given the Braves had gotten nothing against Wainwright (there were a variety of hard-hit balls right at people, I should probably point out), but the veteran righty tired in the seventh. Eddie Rosario and Michael Harris singled to put the potential tying runs on base for the Braves and, after a couple of force outs, the Cardinals brought Ryan Helsley into the game to face Dansby Swanson with two outs. Dansby promptly teed off on a fastball for a three-run bomb, giving the Braves a 3-2 lead.
Dylan Lee had gotten out of Odorizzi’s mess in the sixth and faced the first two guys in the seventh, walking Paul De Jong with one out. The Braves brought Collin McHugh into the game to get out of the inning in four pitches, but did not bring him back for the eighth. Instead, they went with Minter, who was pitching his third game in a row. Look, I think relievers should be able to go three days in a row without imploding, particularly if all three games are late and close and the reliever is one of your best arms. The annoying thing is that all three games this series were not close. Minter pitched on Friday night in a blowout because he had already been warming or something…I don’t know. This is the type of thing that drives us folks who are not enamored with Brian Snitker’s bullpen management (particularly in the regular season) a little bit nuts. Anyway, Minter gave up a first-pitch home run to Tommy Edman and got into a huge mess…which he almost got out of with the game still tied. But he didn’t.
So we now stay three games behind the Mets and well ahead of the pack for the top wild card spot. This week, it’s three at home against Colorado and three against Miami before striking out on our final West Coast trip of the season.