Cardinals Steven Matz’s quest for win continues after Reds bedevil lefty for 11 hits

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CINCINNATI — At the stadium his teammate Adam Wainwright called “The Devil’s Lair” because of the horrors it’s inflicted on his ERA in Cincinnati, Steven Matz continued a downward trend that began with a tumble right there at Great American Ball Park.

From the start — as he allowed four runs and four hits before he could find a third out — Matz remained winless on the season and could not maintain any momentum from recent starts.

Building from the six runs they scored on Matz, the Cincinnati Reds did what GABP demands to tame its devilish dimensions and kept adding on. The Reds tagged at least two runs on every Cardinal pitcher they faced on the way to a 10-3 victory Wednesday night at their ballpark by the Ohio River. The four-run deficit the Cardinals had at the end of the first inning was also the smallest deficit they had all night once the Reds started scoring.

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The right-hander allowed two runs on five hits through six innings to earn his second win of the season, the first time he’s had at least two since he won four as a rookie with Philadelphia in 2017. It only seems as long since the Reds got a quality start. Wandering through those some pitching issues the Cardinals had in April, the Reds had gone 22 days and 18 games without a quality start. In that stretch the rotation went 1-8 with a 7.06 ERA.

Matz slipped to 0-6 this season, and his outing was dotted with a few flukes. There was a fielding error in right field, and a fly ball bounced out of a teammate’s glove and into the right-field seats for a homer. But the hits against him kept piling up, the innings keep stacking up for the bullpen, and with them so do the questions about how the Cardinals will reorder their rotation with the addition of rookie Matthew Liberatore this weekend in Cleveland.

Matz search for a win plods on

When Matz last visited the mound in Cincinnati, he was comfy and cruising through one of his best starts as a Cardinal.

And then he had to field a grounder.

In the sixth inning of a game last July that he would win and during which he had seven strikeouts, Matz buckled his knee leaving the mound and chasing after an out. The lefty tore a ligament in his left knee and missed several months, returning late in the season as a reliever. That game, on July 23 at Great American Ball Park, was Matz’s last win as a starter, and the ongoing search for the performance that will earn him one could yet take a detour into the bullpen.

Note: The planned Best Podcast in Baseball episode with author Will Leitch, of New York Magazine and, begins at 18:20. While recording a conversation with Leitch about his new novel, the cameo in it by the Cardinals, and his beginnings as a sportswriter, Best Podcast in Baseball host Derrick Goold had to step aside to write a tribute and obituary for Hall of Fame journalist and longtime St. Louis Post-Dispatch baseball writer Rick Hummel. This episode begins with a memorial of Hummel from two people have shared a page in the newspaper with him — one for a brief wonderful time as a Cardinals fan and forever reader of the Post-Dispatch and the other for 20 years as a colleague and sidekick at the ballpark. The previously recorded episode about Leitch’s new novel, how sports writing influences his storytelling, and his view of the 2023 Cardinals, Willson Contreras, and if the recent upswing in their success is real — or, like any novel, a red herring. The Best Podcast in Baseball, sponsored by Closets by Design of St. Louis, is a production of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,, and Derrick Goold.

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Matz committed so many of the Cardinals sins in the first inning to put him and his teammates behind early, but also by a lot.

Matz walked the leadoff hitter. He allowed a series of two-strike hits. And he also wasn’t efficient, needing 32 pitches to navigate through eight batters before getting a third out. The Reds took a 4-0 lead in the first inning by launching from that leadoff walk to four more hits, including a double. An error in right field allowed the Reds to take an extra base so that cleanup hitter Tyler Stephenson’s single scored two runs.

The game Wednesday was Matz’s 10th of the season, 10th since injuring his knee, and 10th without a win since that previous game in Cincinnati.

He spent the entire evening ducking around bases hits. In four innings, Matz allowed a season-high 11, and he matched a season-high for runs allowed with six. Only the second inning of the game did not feature a run against Matz, and even when he appeared to have an out, he gave up a run.

In the fourth inning, a difficult night for right fielder Oscar Mercado nadired when a ball went in and out of his glove and over the wall for a home run. Had he missed the ball entirely it likely would have caromed off the wall for a double.

Instead he tipped it, like a quality set at the net in volleyball.

Matt McLain’s homer was just the spike on Matz’s start.

Cardinals power up, don’t catch up

The Cardinals were down by five runs before they got their first run.

And even then they came marching in single file.

Brendan Donovan hit a solo homer to lead off the fourth inning, and Lars Nootbaar followed with a leadoff homer to start the fifth inning.

The Cardinals left runners scattered all over the opening frames of the game. In the first, two Cardinals reached base only to be stranded there. And in the second, the first two batters of the inning reached before Lively retired the next three consecutive without a ball getting past the dirt of the infield.

A streak continues; so does a slump

In the third inning, Nolan Gorman singled and extended his hitting streak to 14 games, the longest of his career and longest by a Cardinal so far this season. Gorman did not get past first base, however, when Lively zipped through two strikeouts.

The one to end the inning prolonged a skid.

Willson Contreras entered the game on a zero-for-18 slump, and by the end of the sixth inning that had reached zero-for-21. It would stay there when, in the eighth inning, the Cardinals pinch-hit Tres Barrera for Contreras.

Contreras has one hit since his two-homer game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and that game only masks a far longer funk for the catcher. One of the unstated reasons for the Cardinals decision to remove Contreras from catcher — however briefly — was to alleviate the stress behind the plate so that he might get some relief at the plate. It worked, for a day. Contreras, at designated hitter, had a blast in that first game back at Wrigley Field, egging on the crowd and drawing his teammates into the fray with two hits and two RBIs to help the Cardinals win, 3-1. But since, he’s struggled — batting .143 (eight-for-56) with 16 strikeouts.

Gorman, the National League Player of the Week, traces his hitting streak back to that same game at Wrigley Field, the pivot of the month of the Cardinals. In his 14 games since, Gorman is 19-for-49 (.388) with 10 extra-base hits and more RBIs (16) than strikeouts (12).

In today’s 10 a.m. “Ten Hochman” video — brought to you by Siteman Cancer Center and Window Nation — Ben Hochman discusses the Cardinals’ Paul DeJong, who is homering at an astounding pace in 2023. Also, a happy birthday shoutout to Tommy John (the human, not the surgery)! And as always, Hochman picks a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat!

Benjamin Hochman

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2023-05-25 01:20:00