Sunday Game Report: White Sox 7, Cardinals 2
By Rob Rains
For three of the four players who made their major-league debut for the Cardinals on Sunday, it was a day they will always remember.
Unfortunately for Roel Ramirez, it was a day he immediately wanted to forget.
One pitch away from getting out of the fifth inning, Ramirez instead gave up four consecutive home runs, in a span of 14 pitches, that carried the White Sox to the win in Chicago.
It was the first time in Cardinals history they allowed four consecutive home runs in an inning. It was only the 10th time it has happened in major-league history.
Ramirez, who was called up from the satellite camp in Springfield after several relievers tested positive for COVID-19, struck out Luis Robert to open the inning and had two outs and two runners on base when Yoan Moncada homered on a 2-2 pitch.
That was followed in quick order by home runs from Yasmani Grandal, Jose Abreu and Eloy Jimenez that turned a 1-0 game into a 7-0 lead for the White Sox.
John Nogowski watched the inning unfold from first base.
“It’s just baseball,” he said. “Until he gave up that one to Moncada he had made some really good pitches. We were just one pitch away from getting out of that. That’s just the game. It can run away from you really quick.
“I faced Roel in Springfield and his stuff looked great. He will be fine. As long as he’s getting that splitter down he’s really nasty.”
Dakota Hudson, who started the game, said he felt for what Ramirez was going through.
“It stinks that that happens but the only thing you can do is learn from what you did and try to pick something up,” Hudson said. “I think he will be fine his next time out. I know my first game I just kind of blanked out. You don’t always have your wits about you in that first one. I’m looking forward to seeing him get back out there.”
Manager Mike Shildt knew how close Ramirez was to getting out of the inning.
“He did what we asked,” Shildt said. “He was aggressive. He threw strikes. They put some swings on him in the middle of their lineup. … One of the reasons we liked Roel in spring training was the fact he wasn’t afraid to go after guys. I have every confidence he is going to be aggressive when he gets another opportunity. He will learn the aggression has to be with a little better command in certain areas.”
According to Baseball Reference, the only other reliever in major league history to allow four home runs in his debut was Jeff Shaw of the Indians, against Toronto, on April 30, 1990. The last Cardinal to allow six or more runs in his debut was Mike Mayers, who allowed nine runs in 1 1/3 innings in a start against the Dodgers on July 24, 2016.
Nogowski and relievers Seth Elledge and Rob Kaminsky had much more favorable debuts. Nogowski started at first base and got his first hit; Elledge struck out five in 2 1/3 scoreless innings and Kaminsky worked a 1-2-3 inning, getting the three outs on just eight pitches.
Here is how the game broke down:
At the plate: Matt Carpenter drove in both of the Cardinals’ runs with a bases-loades single in the sixth … They had only one hit, a single by Dylan Carlson, through the first five innings and only one other baserunner, on a walk against Dallas Kuechel.
On the mound: Hudson gave up a run in a long first inning, stranding two runners, before he settled down and retired the last 10 batters he faced through the fourth inning … Elledge struck out the first batter he faced, Edwin Encarnacion, and the only hitter to reach base off him came on a catcher’s interference call on Andrew Knizner … Kaminsky got his first strike out against Jimenez.
Key stat: The last Cardinals pitcher to allow home runs to three consecutive batters was Matt Morris against the Reds on Oct. 2, 2005.
Worth noting: Jake Woodford, who allowed one run in three innings in his debut in game two of Saturday’s doubleheader, was optioned to the taxi squad since he won’t be able to pitch for the next couple of days … Ramirez allowed a total of six home runs in 75 innings last season combined between Springfield and Memphis … Shildt said the Cardinals hit seven balls with an exit velocity of more than 100 miles per hour but only one of them went for a hit.
Looking ahead: The Cardinals move to the north side of Chicago on Monday to open a five-game, three-day series against the Cubs. Kwang Hyun Kim will make his first major-league start in game one, with a “bullpen” game planned for game two. The starter for that game will be determined by which relievers pitch in the opening game.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains