Dateline: Running Cedar
On a warm, sunny afternoon, the Cards started the day in second place by half a game due to their stunning loss on Tuesday. The Cards regrouped during warmups and prepared to play the league leading Astros. The Astros were extremely fired up and obviously wanted to avenge their previous loss to the Cards.
The Cards jumped on the Astros starter for two quick runs in the first. Conor beat out an infield single. He stole second and moved to third on an errant throw into center field. Ian picked up his first RBI on the day with a solid smash to left to score Conor. He stole second and scored on a huge two out single by Robbie.
The Astros led off with a walk, a stolen base and a single to right to score a run. A stolen base and a ground out put a runner on third with one out. A walk put runners on at first and third. Coach Grossman signaled in a defensive play. Cards infielders nodded quietly and relayed the call to the outfield. After the pitch, the runner on first broke for second to steal the base. Instead of throwing all the way to second, Ian fired to Jack who remained at the shortstop position. Happily for Cards fans, the runner on third broke for home as Ian released the ball — thinking it was going all the way to second. Jack caught it and calmly fired back to Ian to get the runner at home for out two. The runner on first continued to third on the throw but there were now two outs. Another walk put runners on at first and third. An infield single scored the second run of the inning for the Astros but Conor settled down to strike out the last batter. After one it was all tied up at 2-2.
The Cards went down quietly in the second and Conor quickly struck out three Astros so the game moved swiftly to the third inning. Keegan walked, Daron walked and Robbie beat out an infield single to load the bases with one out. Unfortunately, the Cards couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity and stranded the runners. Conor threw heat in the third, striking out two and getting the last batter to ground out to Aaron who made a nice play at first.
In the fourth, Greg walked stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch. TJ walked and stole second. Conor hit a big single which scored Greg and TJ. He then stole second and moved to third on an errant throw (it was the second time for Conor that his speed induced a bad throw to second). Ian came up with a big two out single to score Conor. In the fourth, Robbie came on and had some initial control problems despite looking pretty good on the mound. He walked two, got a key strikeout and walked a third. With the bases loaded and one out, Coach Grossman walked slowly to the mound and signaled for Greg. He struck out one batter on a 2-2 count and then calmly struck out the next batter on three pitches. Cards fans rejoiced after four with a 5-2 lead.
The Cards went down quietly in the fifth. Greg gave up a leadoff double in the fifth and Coach Grossman brought in Ian. Ian made the coach look very smart with three swift strikeouts to end the inning. In the sixth Coach Grossman called the team together and asked them to obtain a few more insurance runs. The Cards responded with a single by Daron and a single by Ian. Robbie hit a long fly to center for out two. A double steal resulted in runners on third and second. Jack stood in and drilled a huge two out single to score Daron and Ian. Ian made quick work of the Astros in the sixth with a leadoff popup to Conor who made a nice catch behind second base and two quick strikeouts to end the game.
Coach Goldstein said, “What a great game. It was nice to come back and play like this after Tuesday’s game. Our catchers did a great job of blocking the ball and what more can we say about our pitchers who gave up only four hits on the day and only one after the first inning. “
Coach Grossman was only briefly available as he wanted to start preparing for the Tigers for next Tuesday’s game. “This team plays so well together and we absolutely showed it today. Our guys were ready for every pitch. Our pitchers looked great — I can’t say enough about how great a job they did today. Conor did a great job starting, Greg got us two huge outs in the fourth with the bases loaded and Ian was extremely sharp and confident on the mound. Our bats were alive with ten hits. Robbie and Ian each had three hits and Jack’s two out single really was big. “
This reporter asked Coach Grossman when the team had put in their “throw down to the shortstop play” that was crucial to nipping the Astros first ending in the bud. He said, “You know we always close down our practices to the press and we certainly don’t talk about specific plays. I will say that is one play I remember running when I was a Little League player and it always brought me great pleasure whenever it worked. We executed it perfectly today and by doing it in the first inning, it really forced the Astros to worry about it all game. Special credit goes to Ian, Jack and the whole team for pulling it off.”
Tickets are selling extremely quickly as the Cards finish their long mid-season road trip with a game on Wednesday against the American league leading Tigers. It will feature the two first place teams in their respective leagues.