Tuesday’s Game Report: Braves 6, Cardinals 1
By Rob Rains
About the last thing the Cardinals expected in Jon Lester’s first start on Tuesday night was that T.J. McFarland would be warming up in the bullpen seven batters into the game.
It was that kind of night for Lester and the Cardinals.
He gave up four runs before he could record an out, five runs before he could complete the first inning and six runs in the game as the Cardinals lost the opener of the series to the Braves at Busch Stadium.
“You want to be able to make a good first impression and I wasn’t able to do that,” Lester said. “Seven pitches in, down 2-0. It’s like 30 seconds into a fight and you get hit in the chin and you don’t know where you’re at.”
Lester walked the first batter on a 3-2 pitch, then gave up a home run, three consecutive singles, another walk and another single before pitching coach Mike Maddux made the walk to the mound and the bullpen sprung into action.
“Went from 0-2 to 3-2 to a walk and then a homer,” Lester said. “Maybe a little bit jitterish, trying to do too much early on, nibbling a little bit, put myself in some bad counts. … Anytime you put your team down five in the first it’s obviously never good for us.”
A double play brought in the fifth run before Lester finally was able to get out of the inning.
“Balls out over the plate and they made him pay for it,” said manager Mike Shildt. “That was the game. Everything was good except for the first.”
The loss dropped the Cardinals back to .500 for the season (53-53). They failed for the sixth time since June 16 to reach two games over .500.
Here is how Tuesday night’s game broke down:
At the plate: The Cardinals were shut out until the ninth, when Yadier Molina drove in Tyler O’Neill with a two-out single. The Cardinals have only been shut out once at home this season, by the Nationals on April 14 … O’Neill’s single in the ninth was his third hit of the game, including a double. He also reached on a walk after being moved from fourth to fifth in the batting order … Tommy Edman moved into the leadoff spot but was hitless in four at-bats while Dylan Carlson dropped to second. He an infield hit in his four at-bats … Harrison Bader struck out three times.
On the mound: Lester was able to steady himself after the first inning, allowing only one more run, on a home run to Freddie Freeman in the second, as he pitched through the fifth. He gave up nine hits, walked two and struck out four while throwing 88 pitches … McFarland did get into the game in the sixth and worked two scoreless innings … Luis Garcia pitched the eighth and Justin Miller the ninth, meaning all of the pitchers the Cardinals used in the game were added to the team since July 2.
Key stat: The five runs in the first inning were the most runs scored by the Braves in the first inning of a game in St. Louis since they also scored five on July 20, 1982. In that game, the Cardinals responded by scoring six runs in the bottom of the first. The Braves had played 162 games, a complete season’s worth, in St. Louis between that game and the game on Tuesday night.
Worth noting: In his third rehab start, this time for Double A Springfield, Miles Mikolas threw 67 pitches in 4 2/3 innings on Tuesday night. He allowed one run on four hits and a walk while striking out three … Daniel Ponce de Leon, also on a rehab assignment, relieved Mikolas. He gave up only two hits in 1 2/3 innings but one of them was a three-run homer … Meanwhile for Memphis, top pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore needed 92 pitches to get through 4 1/3 innings at Durham. He allowed four runs (only two earned) and gave up two home runs … Nolan Gorman hit his fifth Triple A homer and 16th of the year combined with the 11 he hit at Springfield before he was promoted.
Looking ahead: The Cardinals’ other starter acquired before the trade deadline, J.A. Happ, will make his debut on Wednesday night in the second game of the series.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains