Cards rally, can't offset issuing 12 walks

May 15th, 2021

The Cardinals were riding high into California, off a statement series victory over the second-place Brewers. All of that positive momentum hit a head by the time the first pitch from starter -- a 94.5 mph fastball -- was called a ball.

An omen.

St. Louis pitchers issued a season-high 12 free passes Friday night in a 5-4 loss to the Padres at Petco Park -- their highest total in a nine-inning game in 17 years -- while losing a contest in which they conceded just four hits, out-homered the opposition and had the tying run at the plate come the last out, despite it all.

“Somehow,” said manager Mike Shildt, “we figured out a way, with 12 walks, to send the tying run to the plate in the ninth.”

drew the Cards close with a two-run home run in the eighth-inning, and drew them closer with a solo drive in the ninth.

No matter. Numerous chances to build on momentum from Milwaukee went by the wayside. By the time most of those in the St. Louis city limits had gone to bed amid a game that spanned 4 hours, 8 minutes, the Cards found themselves in a series hole in the rematch of the 2020 National League Wild Card Series.

The numbers from an inauspicious first night in San Diego:

• 12 walks issu
• Three batters hit
• 19 baserunners allowed -- only four via hits
• 85/184 pitches for strikes – 46%
• 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position
• 10 Cardinals stranded
• Two double plays grounded into

“The frustrating part is the high majority [of walks] were, really, pretty much unforced,” Shildt said. “I mean, there were just too many noncompetitive pitches.”

Friday night was not an aberration but a microcosm. Cardinals pitchers lead the Majors in walks issued (170) and are second to the Cubs in plunks (28), including several of noteworthy fallout. Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos, anyone?

Remarkably, Friday was not the first time St. Louis hit double digits free passes in a nine-inning game this season; that also occurred just over a week ago, with 11 walks in a 4-1 loss to the Mets. The last time walking a dozen? That’d be a 11-10 win over the Reds in 2004.

Only three other teams have walked at least 11 batters in a nine-inning game this season; only the Tigers join the Cardinals in doing so twice.

Oviedo was chief among those culprits on Friday, allowing five walks. That comes after Oviedo, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Cardinals’ No. 9 prospect, yielded five runs across 2 2/3 frames on Sunday with Triple-A Memphis.

“Just started walking [batters]; didn't want any hanging pitches or anything like that,” Oviedo said. “I was trying to execute those little pitches, and that's when the walks start. Pretty much, I didn't have any control over my four pitches.”

Added Shildt: “He just couldn't find any rhythm and couldn't get anything that allowed him to get in a rhythm.”

There were improvements behind the Cards’ starter, but also continuations of poor trends. Jake Woodford, pitching for the first time since May 6, tossed two scoreless innings before Tyler Webb, Seth Elledge -- also pitching for the first time since May 6 -- and Kodi Whitley added two walks each.

Only Woodford threw at least half of his pitches for strikes.