Sunday’s Game Report: Brewers 9, Cardinals 3
By Rob Rains
Daniel Ponce de Leon threw his first pitch on Sunday a couple of hours after Kwang Hyun Kim completed a simulated game at the Cardinals alternate site camp at GCS Credit Union Ballpark across the river in Illinois.
Lorenzo Cain hit the pitch for a double off the left field wall, and by the time Ponce de Leon threw his 52nd and final pitch of the day, which was hit by Travis Shaw for a long three-run homer, it appeared likely there will be a change coming to the team’s starting rotation.
Ponce de Leon, making his second start while Kim completed his recovery from back stiffness that interrupted his spring training, only recorded four outs in his abbreviated outing as the Brewers scored four runs in the first and three in the second.
After saying he felt fine while warming up in the bullpen, Ponce de Leon immediately found himself in a different frame of mind as the game began.
“Couldn’t get the arm going,” he said. “Obviously nothing was there. My arm just felt real heavy. I could not get it out in front. Using my whole body just to get a strike.”
In his last start, Ponce de Leon threw 83 fastballs among his 93 pitches in five innings of work against the Marlins, allowing only three hits and one walk. Not having command of his fastball on Sunday led to the short outing.
“As we know my fastball is my pitch to get me out of situations, in good counts, and when the fastball’s not there everything else was not there,” he said. “I was going out there naked against big-league hitters and that’s never a good look.”
Manager Mike Shildt said he was hoping that once Ponce de Leon got past the first inning he could get himself into a better groove in the second but that did not happen.
“Ponce can typically be kind of a tightrope pitcher meaning that he’s a little bit on the tightrope with high pitch counts a lot of times but also has the stuff to get out of it,” Shildt said.
Kim, threw about 90 pitches in his simulated game and in all probability will make his next start for the Cardinals next weekend in Philadelphia.
Here is how Sunday’s game broke down:
At the plate: Nolan Arenado’s first-inning single extended his hitting streak to nine games. It’s the longest streak of his career to begin a season … Austin Dean doubled in two runs in the sixth, his second hit of the game … Paul DeJong was dropped out of the cleanup spot for the first time this year. Mired in an 0-of-21 streak, DeJong was in the fifth spot and went 0-of-3 but did reach base when he was hit by a pitch … Matt Carpenter flied out to deep right as a pinch-hitter and is now 0-of-12 for the season. “I’m literally scratching my head at the madness that is taking place with Carp,” Shildt said. “It’s almost indescribable but it’s definitely baffling.” … Lane Thomas, recalled from the alternate site camp, got the start in center field and had one hit and reached on a walk in four plate appearances.
On the mound: Ponce de Leon gave up six hits, including two homers, and walked four (one intentionally) among the 14 hitters he faced. One of the walks was issued to the opposing pitcher with the bases loaded … Johan Oviedo, recalled on Sunday from the alternate site camp, shut down the Brewers after he took over, working 4 2/3 scoreless innings and allowing only two hits … Jordan Hicks worked a 1-2-3 seventh but trying to extend to a second inning, walked two of the three hitters he faced in the eighth before coming out of the game … The final two Milwaukee runs scored on a home run off Genesis Cabrera in the ninth … In the nine games so far this season the bullpen has thrown more innings (40 2/3) than the starters (38 1/3).
Key stat: This is the first time in Brewers history that they scored nine or more runs in two consecutive games in St. Louis in the same season. They have now played 193 games in St. Louis in franchise history. It’s the first time the Cardinals allowed nine or more runs in consecutive home games since 2016, against the Cubs.
Worth noting: Tyler O’Neill was placed on the 10-day injured list with a groin strain which forced him to leave Saturday’s game. Shildt said the medical expectation was that O’Neill would only miss three or four days but the team did not want to play short for that length of time … Sunday’s other roster move was swapping Jake Woodford for Oviedo, who had been scheduled to oppose Kim in the simulated game … Yadier Molina started as the cleanup hitter for the 30th time in his career and first time since June 2, 2017. The last 38-year-old player to hit cleanup for the Cardinals was Larry Walker, who did it for 20 games in 2005.
Up next: The Cardinals will open a three-game series against the Nationals on Monday night at Busch Stadium. John Gant will make his second start of the year. St. Louis native Max Scherzer is not scheduled to pitch in the series for the Nationals.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains