"This is the kind you don't like to lose," said Cardinals manager Mike Shidt. "Ouch."
Ouch is right.
After taking the first series of the season from the Reds on the road, the Cardinals were glad to escape with no injuries, or at least, no physical ones. But the start of their turn in Milwaukee hurt badly enough.
After outfielder Tyler O'Neill received a two-game suspension for his part in the brawl that marred the final game in Cincinnati, the Cards entered Miller Park for the first of a three-game set against the Brew Crew, and the result was a painful 4-2 loss.
While the three previous matches had little drama at game's end, this one culminated in a walkoff. St. Louis (2-2) nemesis Ryan Braun clobbered a Giovanny Gallegos hanger some 430 feet to left center with two on and two out, grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.
The loss spoiled a very nice start by Austin Gomber, who spread three hits, with no walks, over five innings and an efficient 69 pitches. His only damage came in the fourth on a Lorenzo Cain homer, when Gomber kept teasing the outside corner, only to come too close on a full count.
But justice could point just as well to Brett Anderson, who gave up only an earned run through six. Trouble was, the earned run, from an earlier Kolten Wong homer, became two on third baseman Eric Sogard's throwing error that allowed Yadier Molina to score from second with two out in Anderson's final frame.
The game up to then was marked by some slick fielding on both sides. Mike Moustakas, not known for his range at second, was quick up the middle on a two hopper in the third off Dexter Fowler's bat that stranded Harrison Bader.
Bader himself robbed the always dangerous Christian Yelich in the opening stanza, crossing behind Fowler and stretching his frame to capture the ball at the top of the right-center field wall.
"That guy (Bader) is something," said the himself speedy Tommy Edman, getitng his first start of the season in left field. "It's not just how awesomely fast he is, he also gets a great jump and so it doubles the effect of his speed."
Those defensive thefts, however, paled in comparison to the ninth-inning torment the Cards suffered. Gallegos, after Ryan Helsley delivered a quick 12-pitch eighth, was heading toward what seemed his first save of the season. Shortstop Orland Arcia started with a soft liner to DeJong, and pinch-hitter Ben Gamel struck out.
Then second baseman Keston Hiura directed an average-at-best roller between first and second, and Yelich wincingly took a full-count ball, maybe three inches outside. Gallegos seemed perturbed, glancing toward home plate for an elongated moment, but thought better of it and turned.
There was nothing halfway about Braun's stroke, though, on a 2-1 count breaking ball that didn't. That one was certain from the get go.
"I don't know who kills us more, Yelich or Braun," said Molina. "They're both killers. We come up here, and when we leave, if we've lost, it's one or both of those guys. Almost always."
Josh Hader pitched the scoreless ninth for the Brewers and took the win.
Next Up and Notes: Tomorrow night Daniel Poncedeleon will get his first start of the young season, against the Brewers' Josh Lindblom. Jack Flaherty will finish up the series for the Cards versus their ace Brandon Woodruff, as Adam Wainwright will get the start at Busch stadium for the home opener Thursday.
Paul Goldschmidt's is making progress with his tender elbow, and is expected to start actively working out in a couple weeks.
It wasn't the first prize fight the Cardinals have had with the Reds, but it was a bit surprising this early in the season, and marred an otherwise well-played, 4-2 Cards win on Sunday in Cincinnati.
A home run and double by Dexter Fowler contributed three of the four runs, and Dylan Carlson, starting in left field, drove in his second run of the year by bringing home center fielder Harrison Bader.
And the bullpen shone today, with Tyler Webb, for the second time, contributing a strong bridge. He finished the sixth and pitched the entire seventh without incident, and John Brebbia captured the last two innings with only a brief scare.
But the unfortunate story today, for better or worse, was Carlos Martinez. His presence on the mound was cut short by a one out ejection in the sixth inning. His third hit by pitich was the immediate cause, but there was plenty of foreshadowing beyond his prior warning from home plate umpire Angel Hernandez.
From the outset, CMart had great stuff, but the problem was, he had great stuff. His breaking balls were both unhittable and uncontrollable. While he wasn't overtly emotional as he sometimes can be, the results spoke for themselves -- 71 pitches, only 36 for strikes, with six strikeouts, four walks and three hit batsmen.
Yadier Molina's usual magic cajoling with the Cards right hander wasn't in evidence, perhaps because of his shift to first base for this outing. Spotted to an early lead on a Dexter Fowler double plating leadoff hitter Tommy Edman, Martinez' troubles began almost immediately.
He hit Shogo Akiyama and walked Joey Votto. He then struck out two before retiring Jesse Winker, who hit a soft fly ball to right on a low inside slider.
Though it was apparent Martinez couldn't find the plate, when he hit Nick Castellanos with two out and no one on in the fourth, Hernandez gave Martinez a warning.
At the same time, Reds manager David Bell, who had been unhappy with Carlos' lack of command and near misses an inning earlier, shouted something rather unseemly from the dugout. Martinez glanced over, but it was clear he was as unhappy with himself as with Bell.
That changed in the sixth.
Having retired pinch hitter and two-way threat Michael Lorenzen, Martinez plunked Akiyama (again) square in the high ribcage. Hernandez tossed the righty, Bell came out of the Reds dugout screaming more niceties, and the obligatory bench-clearing ensued.
It was perhaps a middleweight fight, as a few pushes and grabs were in evidence, but only one punch, a pop from workout fiend Tyler O'Neill to Mike Moustakas, was landed. O'Neill, who also was tossed, will almost surely land a suspension. But order was restored within about two minutes of the player flood onto the field.
Fights seem to energize one team over the other, and this time momentum favored the Cards. Down at that point 2-1 on Moustakas' second-inning homer, St. Louis charged back with three in the seventh.
Amir Garrett, who won his major league debut as a starter against the Cards in 2017, struck out Paul Dejong, then gave up a sharp single to Bader. Carlson followed with a sizzling gapper to right center batting from the right side, on which Bader easily scampered home.
After retiring pinch hitter Rangel Ravelo, Edman drew a base on balls against the lefty, Fowler, switching to the right side against the southpaw, lined a too-fat fastball over the shortest part of the left-field porch.
(It should be noted that Garrett, who was involved in two major scrapes last year versus the Pirates, played no part in this game's pugilistic exercises; all he was tagged with today was the loss).
The Reds (1-2) didn't threaten in the eighth against Brebbia, but he gave up a walk and a hit to start the ninth before a double play by Castellanos and a Tucker Barnhart lazy fly ended matters.
Notes: Matt Carpenter moved across the diamond to third as Molina grabbed his first baseman's mitt, while Matt Wieters caught for the Redbirds. Edman filled second base in place of Kolten Wong, who was a last minute scratch from a stomach ailment.
Up Next: The Cards travel to Milwaukee to face the Brewers. Brett Anderson will lead the home team. The Cardinals have not yet named their starter, but it is expected they will call up Austin Gomber for the series opener, with Daniel Poncedeleon slated for the second game and Flaherty with his second start in the finale. Adam Wainwright is the anticipated home opener starter for the Cards against the Orioles.
An overcast evening chock full of cumulus clouds added gloom to a lifeless St. Louis offense, as the Cincinnati Reds squared the season's initial series.
The good news? It didn't last long. A brilliant Sonny Gray and two relievers stymied the Cardinals for seven innings on just four hits, as the Reds (1-1) only needed 2:21 and a homer from Josh VanMeter to seal the deal. The Cards fell to 1-1 on the early season.
It wasn't that Cards starter Dakota Hudson was bad. Coaxing eight ground balls over six innings, Hudson kept the ball in play and his infielders awake. And he added four strikeouts to boot, three of them of the called variety. He only gave up five hits overall.
But oh, those walks., Hudson twice found himself with two men on base as a result of a hit and base-on-balls combo. In the first and third innings, his sinker came to the rescue on double plays, the latter a nifty one-bounce snare by Kolten Wong up the middle with a backhand toss to Paul DeJong.
In the third odd-numbered inning - also known as the fifth -- he wasn't quite so fortunate. Freddy Galvis led off with a walk and Hudson threw a sink pitch that, unlike most of his others, didn't.
"I don't know what happened there," Hudson said. "Maybe my grip was off. I'm really not sure. But I knew (VanMeter) had a tough time the first time through with the sinker, and I was confident. It just stayed up on the way in and the way out."
The Reds saw the full potential of leadoff man Shogo Akiyama, who, like Matt Carpenter the day before, was on base three times. Akiyama, a five-time All-Star in Japan's major leagues, also stole a base.
Carpenter did not have a good day, failing to get on base in four tries. Gray kept him off balance with two called strikeouts and a weak grounder and fly ball.
"That was textbook Sonny Gray today," said Carpenter. "Everything was sharp, especially the four-seamer (fastball). Every time I looked for a pitch somewhere, it was somewhere else. Just wicked."
He wasn't alone in his frustration, as Gray only let three Cards on base. Wong had two opposite-field singles and a walk. DeJong and Tyler O'Neill contributed a hit apiece. Only once was a Redbird on second base.
"It's quite something to be able to start the season with Castillo and have a pitcher like Sonny Gray second," said Reds manager David Bell. That's the kind of one-two that will win us a bunch of games over a long season."
Bell was initially inclined to remove Gray from this early-season jaunt after six frames, but he had only thrown 68 pitches. He capped his performance with 12 more in the seventh, and surrendered to reliever Michael Lorenzen, who, after an easy eight-pitch eighth, finished up in the ninth.
Tyler Webb and Giovanny Gallegos took the final two innings for St. Louis.
The rubber match on Sunday matches Carlos Martinez against Anthony DeSclafani, who was moved up due to Trevor Bauer having some minor soreness in his calf.
Friday was a great day for baseball in Cincinnati. Low 60s, a smattering of clouds in the sky. It was a prototypical sold-out Opening Day, made better by the Cards' 8-3 victory.
The win was propelled by a solid Jack Flaherty start and three Matt Carpenter runs from the leadoff spot, as he doubled, drew a walk and singled. Other offense came from a fifth-inning, two run homer from Paul DeJong, and solo shots from Tyler O'Neill and Kolten Wong.
The game may be most remembered, though, as the start of the Dylan Carlson Era, as the highly touted rookie grabbed the start in center ahead of Harrison Bader. Carlson doubled once in his four at bats, driving in a run, and showed exceptional range in the field on a tailing line drive off the bat of Mike Moustakas.
Flaherty threw 84 pitches in his five innings. All three runs came in the fourth inning on a Jesse Winker home run with one out, following a walk to Joey Votto and a single by Moustakas' fellow Reds newcomer, Nick Castellanos.
"I didn't have my very best stuff," said Flaherty, who struck our three, topped out at 95 mph, and surrendered four hits and three walks. "But I felt pretty good and they were mostly chasing and topped a bunch of pitches. so that made it a bit easier."
Reds starter Luis Castillo had the same issues plaguing him as he saw in spring training -- a fastball that had little movement, and breaking balls that either couldn't find the plate at all or too much of it. Castillo has had two weak springs in a row, but showed long stretches of dominance last season that made him the anointed ace of the staff.
The Cards lineup was altered in part because of the lingering elbow issues facing regular first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Carpenter and Fowler took the first two spots but O'Neill stepped into the 3 hole and left field, followed by Molina. Tommy Edman batted fifth, followed by DeJong, Wong and Carlson.
Manager Mike Shidt started Carlson "on the road, to ease the pressure for the young man. Bader will get plenty of opportunities to play. We have a team that has some versatility and will give everyone plenty of chances to contribute."
Carpenter started the offense out by doubling to left center in the first, and with two outs, scored on a sharp Molina grounder up the middle. He was once again plated by the catcher in the sixth, and on a base hit by Fowler in the eighth.
Three Cardinals relievers finished out the game without a run. Left Kwang Hyun Kim handled the sixth and seventh, surrendering only a hit, while John Brebbia and Ryan Helsley had little issue in the final two frames.
NEXT GAME: The Cards go again in Cincinnati tomorrow, with Dakota Hudson taking the mound against Sonny Gray.