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Cards silenced in G2, head home with NLDS tied

@anne__rogers
October 4, 2019

ATLANTA -- Just one day after putting up seven runs and taking Game 1 of the National League Division Series, the Cardinals found themselves silenced by Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz in Game 2. A legitimate postseason pitchers’ duel between Foltynewicz and Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty ended with the Cardinals on

ATLANTA -- Just one day after putting up seven runs and taking Game 1 of the National League Division Series, the Cardinals found themselves silenced by Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz in Game 2.

A legitimate postseason pitchers’ duel between Foltynewicz and Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty ended with the Cardinals on the wrong side of the 3-0 loss on Friday at SunTrust Park and heading back to St. Louis for Games 3 and 4 with the series tied at a game apiece.

Box score

That isn’t a bad situation to be in for a club that went 50-31 at Busch Stadium during the season. In Division Series with the current 2-2-1 format, when the first two games are split, the club going home for Games 3-4 has gone on to win the series 21 of 34 times (62 percent). Adam Wainwright, who had a 2.56 ERA at home this year, will start Sunday’s Game 3.

There’s no better place to try to close out the best-of-five NLDS than Busch Stadium in October.

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 3 STL 7, ATL 6 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 4 ATL 3, STL 0 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 6 ATL 3, STL 1 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 7 STL 5, ATL 4 (10) Watch
Gm 5 Oct. 9 STL 13, ATL 1 Watch

“This is big for us right now,” Kolten Wong said. “We’re going to need [the fans] to help us push through some tough innings and get two wins. We don’t want to come back here.”

The Cardinals had a chance to return home with a 2-0 series lead, but they couldn’t back up their ace. Flaherty held the Braves to one run until the seventh inning, when pinch-hitter Adam Duvall hit a two-out, two-strike, two-run homer to extend Atlanta’s lead.

Flaherty: 'It really came down to two pitches'

St. Louis managed just three hits against Foltynewicz in his seven innings. The right-hander -- who had a 1.73 ERA in his last seven starts of the season -- threw 36 sliders among his 81 pitches (44 percent) and fooled the Cardinals, who struck out seven times and didn’t walk once.

“When you come against a guy who’s on, a good pitcher is going to beat a good hitter nine out of 10 times,” Wong said. “It’s one of those things. [Foltynewicz] was on today. He wasn’t making any mistakes around the middle. Everything he was throwing was touching the box. When you’re touching the box like he is, man, you’re just battling out there from pitch one.”

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The offspeed deception continued a trend for the Cardinals. They hit just .197 on offspeed pitches this year (the worst in the Majors), while hitting 101 home runs off four-seam fastballs (tied for fourth in the NL).

Foltynewicz’s game plan reflected that -- he threw only eight four-seam fastballs and 19 two-seamers on Friday.

“That’s a different Folty,” Wong said. “I think that’s why he’s seen the success that’s coming with him. When he’s got the three-pitch command like that, he can pop that 97 [mph fastball] whenever he wants. It makes him dangerous. It takes you off the fastball a little bit, and you have to respect the other pitches. When he’s throwing all of them for strikes, it makes for a tough night.”

Once Foltynewicz established his slider early in the count, he kept the Cardinals guessing with a mix of his fastball and curveball, which he threw 13 times.

“Once you see guys taking big hacks at it on the first pitch, that was going to be the model for the whole team,” Foltynewicz said. “They were aggressive, just taking big hacks on the slider, swings and misses. To be able to throw my slider -- I didn't throw my fastball too much, but when I did, it would get early outs, just because I threw my curveball and changeup just enough to keep them off balance.”

The Cardinals’ problem with Foltynewicz’s plan wasn’t just the slider itself. It was the location. The Cardinals’ strikeouts and quick outs typically come when they chase pitches around the zone. This lineup produces better when it finds pitches that are up in the zone. Foltynewicz didn’t give them many.

“I won't say good pitching always beats good hitting,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “But I will say that if the guys are locating their pitches and they've got a good sharp breaking ball, and it's on or under, it's coming out as a strike, it's on the plate as a strike, or it's on the corner, it's late and sharp, that's a tough thing to navigate.

But we want to hit more of the rolling breaking balls, the balls that are up. We just didn't get a lot of them today. But I have full confidence we'll be able to handle spin just fine, just make sure we're elevating and getting a ball we can take a better pass at.”

So what adjustments do Cardinals hitters need to make against breaking balls as the series continues?

“Hit them. There’s not a magic solution," said slugger Paul Goldschmidt. "It doesn’t really matter what pitch it is. When a guy makes a mistake, hit it hard. [We've] done that at times, other times we haven’t. Have to do a little bit better job than today.”

Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.