Mike Matheny’s quick hook pays off as Cardinals even NLDS with Nationals

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UPDATE: Well, this adds a new wrinkle to Matheny’s decision. According to Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jaime Garcia was pulled from the game because he aggravated a previous shoulder injury. He has been sent for an MRI.

8:13 PM: After being outmaneuvered by Davey Johnson in the Cardinals’ Game 1 loss to the Nationals yesterday, Mike Matheny made an interesting call in the bottom of the second inning this afternoon.

His starter, Jaime Garcia, labored over the first two innings, giving up one run on two hits and three walks while throwing 51 pitches. Meanwhile, the Cardinals had two runs home in the bottom of the second and the chance for more against Jordan Zimmermann, who was on the ropes. After the Cardinals squandered a number of scoring opportunities yesterday, Matheny wasn’t going to let it happen again, so he sent Skip Schumaker up as a pinch-hitter for Garcia. The Cardinals ended up scoring two more runs in the second inning and well, they never really stopped.

The Cardinals poured it on again Zimmermann and the Nationals, collecting 13 hits and four home runs as part of a 12-4 win. Carlos Beltran had a pair of home runs and drove in three while Daniel Descalso and Allen Craig added solo homers.

Lance Lynn wasn’t all that great in relief of Garcia, allowing back-to-back homers to Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche in the fifth inning, but he ate up three innings before handing the ball to the rest of the bullpen. Joe Kelly, Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Trevor Rosenthal then held the Nationals to just one run over the final four innings to lock down the victory.

The NLDS is now tied 1-1 and will resume Wednesday in Washington, D.C. for Game 3. Edwin Jackson, who was a member of the Cardinals’ World Series team last year, is scheduled to pitch for the Nationals while Chris Carpenter is expected to pitch for the defending champs.

James Paxton has a fantastic new nickname

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James Paxton of the Mariners is 3-0 with a 1.39 ERA, 39 strikeouts and only six walks in 32.1 innings of work over five starts. Last night he shut the Tigers down, tossing seven shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing only four hits. With Felix Hernandez looking less than king-like lately, Paxton is asserting himself as the new ace of the Seattle staff.

And now the tall Canadian native has a nickname to match his ace-like status:

“Pax was really outstanding and we certainly needed it,” manager Scott Servais said of the Canadian southpaw. “Big Maple is what he was nicknamed tonight and I kind of like that. He was awesome.”

“Big Maple” is a fantastic nickname. That’s the sort of nickname guys used to get back when nicknames were great. Before managers just put “y” at the end of dudes’ names and before the “First Initial-First Three Letters of The Last Name” convention took hold in the wake of A-Rod.

“Big Maple.” That makes me smile. I’m gonna be smiling all dang day because of that.

The Rays gave Seth Smith a little league homer last night

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I mentioned this in the recaps this morning, but I think it deserves it’s own special place. Get what went down in the second inning of last night’s Rays-O’s game:

Ryan Flaherty was on first with Seth Smith up to bat. Smith hit a single to center. Flaherty, who was running with the pitch, was making for third base. All-world defender Kevin Kiermaier tried to gun him down but threw wildly to third, causing Flaherty to break for home.

Pitcher Alex Cobb had the play backed up, however! He got the ball near the dugout. Flaherty scampered back to third and Cobb tried to throw him out. The ball hit Flaherty’s helmet, richocheting into left field, allowing both Flaherty and Smith — who had stopped at first and then stopped at second, like a kid at tee ball or something — to come around and score.

Watch:

 

I still think the Rays walking home the winning run on four pitches in the 11th inning was worse, but this looked worse.

Oh well: the Rays get the day off today and tomorrow, of course, is another day.