In a lineup with Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina, it’s Allen Craig who has been chosen to hit cleanup of late. He showed why yet again Thursday, singling home the go-ahead run in the seventh as the Cardinals took the opener of a four-game series against the Dodgers 2-1.
Both the Cardinals and Dodgers had lost three straight entering the night, leaving St. Louis with the one-game edge as they battle for what will likely be one wild card spot. The Cardinals jumped further ahead in the competition thanks in part to a strong effort from All-Star Lance Lynn, who was filling in for the injured Jake Westbrook and making his first start since being bounced from the rotation last month.
Lynn allowed one run in six innings and struck out seven on the night. He and Josh Beckett pitched to a draw after Beckett allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings.
Beckett’s night will be better remembered for the single that wasn’t, as he was thrown out at first by Carlos Beltran on his hard shot into right field in the third inning.
The Dodgers got their only run on an Adrian Gonzalez single in the first. The Cards came right back and tied it in the top of the second on a Skip Schumaker single.
The Cardinals, who racked up 10 hits and five walks (two intentional), wasted several opportunities after that. They had 16 at-bats with runners in scoring position, yet only twice converted (though they had four hits; two of them didn’t score runs). Before Craig’s single in the seventh, the Cards got leadoff hitter Shane Robinson on via a walk from Paco Rodriguez in his third major league appearance. Instead of remaining patient, Jon Jay decided to sacrifice him along, only to pop up the bunt. Fortunately, Matt Carpenter singled afterwards and Craig delivered his hit with two outs.
For Craig, it was his 77th RBI in 102 games this season. He’s driven 37 runs in 47 games as a cleanup hitter. Obviously, that’s less than one-third of a season worth of action. However, it’s a better rate of driving in runs than Albert Pujols maintained in either of his last two seasons with St. Louis.
The first game of Thursday’s doubleheader against the Mets in Philadelphia didn’t go so well for the Phillies. The pitching staff — which included two position players — served up 24 runs on 25 hits and seven walks. The defense also committed four errors.
The most damage came in the top of the fifth inning when the Mets hung a 10-spot. That inning featured a balk, two errors, and a grand slam from José Bautista. In the seventh, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler called on position player Roman Quinn to pitch. Quinn gave up a leadoff home run to Michael Conforto. After José Reyes singled, Quinn uncorked a wild pitch, which moved Reyes into scoring position. Kevin Plawecki then knocked him in with a single. In the eighth, the Mets jumped on Quinn again as he loaded the bases, then forced in two runs with walks and gave up a two-run double to Plawecki. Kapler brought in another position player, Scott Kingery, to pitch. Kingery gave up an RBI single to reliever Jerry Blevins before getting out of the eighth inning. Kingery gave up two more runs in the ninth before the game went in the books.
Kingery, by the way, was pitching so slowly that his velocity wasn’t being picked up by the radar guns at Citizens Bank Park, according to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
In total, the Phillies’ pitching staff gave up 11 earned runs. It’s the most unearned runs a team has allowed since May 5, 2016 when the Giants gave up 17 runs, only six of which were earned, to the Rockies. The only other time that happened in the 2000’s was on September 28, 2000 when the Blue Jays gave up 23 runs, 10 of which were earned, to the Orioles. A team has yielded 11 or more unearned runs in a single game only 11 times since 1943. The 24 total runs the Phillies allowed were the most a team has allowed since… the Mets gave up 25 to the Nationals on July 31 this year. The 24 runs the Mets scored marked a franchise record. They also became the first team since 1894 to both score 24-plus runs and allow 24-plus runs in a game in the same season.
Thankfully for Phillies fans, Thursday afternoon’s contest was only broadcast on Facebook Live. Which, by the way, is another one of Major League Baseball’s brilliant marketing ideas. When games are broadcast on Facebook Live, they’re blacked out everywhere else, which includes cable TV and MLB.tv.