Dateline: Fox Mill 2
The Cards continued their home stand against the league leading Astros. Starting the game only half a game back in the standings, the fans were on the edges of their seats. This reporter noted that no Cards fan relaxed the entire game — it was a thriller. There was a threat of rain before the game, but happily it subsided and the game was played under ideal weather conditions under the lights for a pleasant Saturday evening.
Conor went to the mound and continued to pitch brilliantly for the Cards. The young fireballer gave up a infield hit, but then Robbie made a nice play on a grounder to first. The runner went to third on a wild pitch. After a walk, with runners on first and third, Coach Grossman signaled for the team to throw down to second on a steal. Astros management sent the runner from first to steal second. The Cards made a nice play at second, but the runner was safe and the runner on third broke for home and scored. Conor settled down and struck out the next two. In the bottom of the first, Conor beat out an infield single, went to second and third on wild pitches. Daron walked to make it first and third. He stole second with no throw. With runners on second and third, the Astros tried to pick off Conor at third, the throw went into left field and Conor scored easily. After one it was tied Cards 1 Astros 1.
Conor was masterful in the second with three quick strikeouts on only fifteen pitches. The Cards made nice contact in the second with ground outs by Jack, Aaron and Peter, but credit the Astros with some solid defense plays.
Coach Grossman, seeing Conor on a roll sent him out for the third inning. He struck out the first batter and walked the next two. With one out, the leadoff man drilled a hard shot to right to load the bases. Conor then got the next batter to hit a shallow popup about 15 feet behind second base — unfortunately a rare Cardinals communication mix up occurred and, all of the Cards — short, center and second all thought someone else was going to get it and the ball fell softly to the ground. Two runs scored and Coach Grossman walked slowly to the mound signaling to his bullpen. Robbie came in and the next batter hit a long fly to center. TJ got under it and made a huge catch for out two. Robbie settled down and got a big strikeout to end the inning. Coach Grossman called the team in for a rare third inning pep talk. The team responded as TJ got things going with a one out walk. Conor drilled a long shot to right which the right fielder barely caught. Austin walked to move TJ to second. With two outs, Daron got a huge RBI single to score TJ. Then Ian followed with a long double to left to score Austin and Daron. Robbie then continued the offensive barrage with a sharp single to left to score Ian. In the blink of an eye the Cards now held the lead which they would not relinquish. After three it was Cards 5 Astros 3.
The Astros fought back in the fourth. After a leadoff strikeout, Robbie ran into some control problems and walked three batters in a row to load the bases. A strikeout gave hope to Cards fans that the inning would end with no damage. Unfortunately, two more walks resulted in two more runs to tie the game. Robbie than got the leadoff man to hit a sharp grounder to Greg at third. Greg made a nice play on the ball and alertly stepped on third to end the inning. The Cards bats were alive in the fourth as Jack led off with a smash to short that was played nicely and the throw to first beat Jack by a step. Keegan beat out an infield hit and with two outs Peter turned on a high fastball and launched a blast to right field. Unfortunately, it was right to the right fielder who camped under it and made the play. After four it was tied again at Cards 5 Astros 5.
Ian came on in the fifth and he was dominant. He struck out three and gave up only two walks — no balls were put in play despite the fact that he was facing the heart of the Astros order — the 2,3,4,5,6 hitters. In the bottom of the fifth, Greg started things off with a walk. TJ moved him to second on a groundout to first. Conor was hit by a pitch. Daron walked to load the bases with one out. Ian walked to and as Greg crossed the plate the Cards had the lead. After five it was Cards 6 Astros 5.
Ian continued his great work on the mound in the sixth with two strikeouts. With two outs the next batter drilled a hard shot to Keegan at second who picked it up and made a nice throw to Daron at short. As Daron caught it the Cards rejoiced.
Coach Goldstein in his post game press conference said, “Again, our team continues to come together. This was a big win for us as it should really build confidence in our pitchers and catchers that we can play with anyone in the league. “
With no game scheduled until next Thursday, Coach Grossman was able to spend some time with this reporter. In a brief question and answer session, we have decided to publish the complete transcript:
Q: So, Coach how does it feel to be in first place.
A: Well, you know, I really don’t pay too much attention to the standings this early in the season. We’ve got about ten more games to play so really anything can happen. But I will say the Astros are a solid ball club and this game does say quite a bit the character of our team as we came from behind. If we keep playing like this and working hard in practice, I suspect good things will happen for this ball club.
Q: What were you thinking about when you called for a throw down to second when the Astros had runners on first and third in the first inning. Surely, you knew it was a key run. Why throw down and basically hand them a run?
A: I want our team to know that I believe we can make that play at second anytime. I thought a nice out in the first inning would let the Astros know that we were going to shut down their running game. In any case, even though the play didn’t work — I hope it made them think twice before they sent more runners.
Q: Oh please, you know it was just a bad call.
A: Now, here we go again, you reporters, try to take the fun out of all this with a whole bunch of second guessing. I did what I thought was right at the time and I think our guys are going to rise the occasion next time and nail some runners at second.
Q: So what did you think about the offense and defense?
A: All of our guys made solid contact with a lot of balls. They made some good plays in the field, but I think we’re going to keep improving and do well next week. Defensively, I have to point out TJ’s catch and Greg’s huge play with the bases loaded — but we have room for improvement. The good news is I think our guys are improving quite a bit each week.
Coach Grossman then excused himself as he obviously needed to start preparations for next weeks games. Some tickets still remain for the Cards first game against the division rival Pirates.