Sunday’s Game Report: Cardinals 6, Reds 2
By Rob Rains
It still wasn’t a win, but there was progress, and a win for the Cardinals, and that’s really all Daniel Ponce de Leon can worry about.
Ponce de Leon was one out short of qualifying for his first career win as a starting pitcher for the Cardinals on Sunday when he was pulled from the game by manager Mike Shildt.
The Cardinals had a one-run lead, there were runners on first and second and a tough left-handed hitter, Mike Moustakas was coming to the plate. Ponce de Leon also had thrown 93 pitches.
The move worked. Cabrera retired Moustakas on a fly ball and the Cardinals added more runs behind a four-hit day from Yadier Molina and Dylan Carlson’s first career home run to get the win at Busch Stadium, giving them three victories in the four-game series against their division rival and moving back above .500 with a 9-8 record.
They are now 7-5 since resuming their season following a 17-day break because of the COVID-19 outbreak on the team.
“I would say there’s a couple or three guys that took the next step today,” Shildt said. “That was a big swing from Dylan and has to make him breath a little bit. I did think Ponce took a little more of that next step. There’s not a lot of mystery in his game but I did think he was able to work through the fourth, get some outs in the fifth.
“Cabrera also definitely took the next step. He got six outs on 14 pitches, with a walk mixed in there, and that’s huge for him. … There’s a lot of positives. When guys grow it bodes well for the future.”
Ponce de Leon’s only career win came in one of his 13 relief outings since he made his major-league debut in 2018. In 15 career starts, he is now 0-6 with nine no-decisions.
The 15 consecutive starts without a win is tied for the second longest streak by a starter in Cardinals history. Donovan Osborne made 15 starts in a row without a win between 1993 and 1995 and John Denny also had a 15-start winless stretch in 1977.
The team record is 16 consecutive starts without a win, set by Anthony Reyes in 2006-07.
Ponce de Leon allowed only three hits, including a two-run homer by Eugenio Suarez in the first. His problem once again was control, walking four and hitting a batter, which ran up his pitch count.
“I could definitely find some solace in the way the game ended, still not completely happy with it, but I did somewhat improve to get that far in the game,” Ponce de Leon said. “I tried to tell myself it was a 0-0 game the whole time. I gave up a two-run bomb early and usually I will be killing myself for that, but I really tried to let that one go and get as far as I could.”
In his first two starts this season, Ponce de Leon threw 85 pitches in 3 2/3 innings and 79 pitches in 3 1/3 innings.
Here is how the game broke down:
At the plate: Molina singled four times, the 19th time in his career he had four hits in a game. It’s the first time he ever did it against the Reds … Molina had two RBIs and also scored on Carlson’s first-homer, in the seventh. Carlson also singled in the fourth … “It was so exciting,” Carlson said about the home run, “something I will always remember.” Coming into the game Carlson had just four hits in his first 35 at-bats. “It’s been a lot of learning, a lot of trusting, just sticking to the process and grinding and believing in myself,” he said … Harrison Bader also homered and for the second day in a row had a home run and double out of the ninth spot in the order … Paul Goldschmidt drew a walk for the eighth consecutive game. He also doubled and scored a run.
On the mound: In the first time through the Reds order, Ponce de Leon gave up the home run to Suarez, walked three and hit a batter. He then retired nine of the next 10 hitters he faced before Nick Castellanos doubled with one out in the fifth. After a walk, Ponce de Leon stayed in the game and struck out Suarez, his last batter … The bullpen – Cabrera, John Gant, Andrew Miller and Alex Reyes – combined to cover the final 4 1/3 innings, allowing no hits and just two walks, both of whom were erased in double plays.
Key stat: After Adam Wainwright allowed four runs in the first three innings in the series opener, the Reds had just 11 hits in 107 at-bats over the final 33 innings of the series, a .103 average. All of their runs came on two hits, a grand slam home run and a two-run homer.
Worth noting: Paul DeJong was activated off the injury list, a day earlier than planned, and started at shortstop. He was hitless in four at-bats. To make room on the roster reliever Seth Elledge was optioned to the Springfield camp. That leaves 15 pitchers and 13 position players on the roster, which will likely be the composition of the roster for at least the near future … Carlos Martinez is scheduled to throw live batting practice before Monday night’s game. It appears likely the Cardinals will bring him back as a reliever but a final decision about his role has not been made.
Looking ahead: Mike Matheny’s Royals come to town on Monday to begin a three-game series. Jack Flaherty will get the start, likely working with a pitch count of 60-70 pitches in his second outing since the Cardinals resumed their season.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains