Friday’s Game Report: Ponce de Leon finally gets first win as starter to give Cardinals doubleheader split
By Rob Rains
When Daniel Ponce de Leon walked off the mound in Cincinnati after making his major-league debut with seven no-hit innings on July 23, 2018, the Cardinals were leading the Reds 1-0 and he thought he was just two innings away from being able to celebrate his first win.
The wait to get that first victory as a starter turned out to be a bit longer than he expected, but Ponce de Leon finally got it on Friday night.
After 795 days and 19 winless starts for the Cardinals – some good, some not so good and a couple of ugly ones – Ponce de Leon earned that first win as a starter by holding the Brewers to one hit over six innings in a 9-1 win that gave the Cardinals a split of their doubleheader at Busch Stadium.
“No one ever thinks they are never going to get a win,” Ponce de Leon said. “There’s nothing you can do. You win some, you lose some, or you lose a lot in a row. But the team always has my back and they put up a hundred today it seemed like.”
In those 19 starts, the Cardinals won 10 of those games, including his three previous starts this month. Often, a high pitch count drove Ponce de Leon out of the game before he had a chance to pitch the required five innings to qualify for the win.
When he failed to get a win in his start against the Twins on Sept. 8, he broke the Cardinals record for most consecutive starts without a win, which had been 16, set by Anthony Reyes between 2006 and 2007.
“My wife. Jennifer, a few weeks ago texted me that I was a record holder,” Ponce de Leon said. “The record was so many starts without a win and I was like, ‘Dang. I feel like I’m not pitching that bad you know.’”
He certainly has been better lately than the start he made against the Indians on Aug. 28, when he failed to get out of the first inning and was optioned to the satellite camp in Springfield, rejoining the team to make that start against the Twins.
“The next game I was walking out of the apartment to go leave and my son asked me if I was going to make mommy cry again,” Ponce de Leon said. “I said, ‘Why would I make her cry?’ He said, ‘Last time you pitched she was crying.’ Man … she felt it just as much as I did, she’s my partner.
“I know she’s happy right now and hopefully she’s crying tears of joy.”
The win was an important one for the Cardinals, following a 3-0 loss in the opening game. With the split, the Cardinals were able to stay in a virtual tie with the Reds for second place in the NL Central. Both teams trail the Cubs by three games, but the Reds have only two games left to play while the Cardinals could have four remaining, if the two makeup games are needed on Monday in Detroit.
Here is how the games broke down:
At the plate: Before breaking out in the second game, the Cardinals managed just five hits in the opening game and had only one runner reach second base, when Paul Goldschmidt doubled leading off the seventh … Paul DeJong’s single in the fourth did snap an 0-of-31 streak by the Cardinals’ cleanup hitters … In the second game, with the Cardinals as the visitors for the first time in history, they took a quick 3-0 lead on an RBI double from Matt Carpenter in the first and a two-run second, which including a triple by Kolten Wong … Tommy Edman hit a two-run homer in what turned into a six-run fifth inning that blew the game open. Dylan Carlson added a two-run double, giving him 11 RBIs since he rejoined the team last weekend in Pittsburgh. Matt Wieters single also drove in two runs in the inning.
On the mound: Jack Flaherty continued to have his troubles against the Brewers in the opener, giving up the three runs in five innings. Flaherty fell to 1-5 against the Brewers since the start of the 2019 season, allowing 30 earned runs in 33 innings … Ponce de Leon did not allow a hit in game two until Orlando Arcia led off the sixth with a home run to center field. Arcia was only the second baserunner allowed by Ponce de Leon, who walked Jacob Nottingham on a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the third. Ponce de Leon also issued another walk before coming out of the game. He struck out six … Ponce de Leon did have one win already in his career, coming in a relief appearance.
Key stat: In his four starts this month, two of which have come on short rest, Ponce de Leon has allowed seven total runs in 20 innings, an ERA of 3.15. He also has recorded 28 strikeouts and perhaps just as important to his success has only issued six walks.
Worth noting: By winning the game, Ponce de Leon avoided tying the major league record for most starts without a win to start a career of 20, last done by Mike Mohler of Oakland between 1993-1997. Mohler was 0-13 in those starts, while Ponce de Leon was 0-7 in his 19 winless starts … Between games of the doubleheader the Cardinals placed John Gant on the injured list and activated Nabil Crissmatt from the taxi squad. Gant had to come out of the first game after facing one batter when he aggravated a groin injury.
Looking ahead: Adam Wainwright will get the start on Saturday which potentially could be his last regular-season start at Busch Stadium throwing to Yadier Molina. Both are eligible to become free agents after the season.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains and read his stories @STLSportsPage.com