ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- For four of the 6.2 innings Astros starter Collin McHugh tossed against the Cardinals Wednesday, St. Louis looked absolutely lost. After a leadoff single in the first by Matt Carpenter was erased by a double play, McHugh set down the subsequent 10 hitters in a row without much trouble.
But the Cardinals awoke in the fifth, when Stephen Piscotty belted a double to begin the inning. Jhonny Peralta looped a one-out fly ball just inside the line in right field, giving it just enough hang time for two Houston fielders to close in around it before it dropped.
Piscotty read the flight path, and decided to round third and head for home.
He made the choice with the knowledge that right fielder George Springer has a great arm, but would have to make a Sportscenter-worthy play to catch him at the plate.
“You never know,” Piscotty said. “When I could definitively tell he wasn’t going to catch it, I made a break for it.”
The Cardinals had managed nothing more than a deep count against McHugh since the first hitter of the game, and Piscotty was willing to risk forfeiting a runner on third with one out for a chance at a lead.
It wasn’t a bad gamble, save for the fact he made it a step late against an All-Star-caliber arm.
Springer slid to pick up the ball, eventually turning his back to the field. Piscotty rounded third without fear, challenging the young outfielder to make a perfect throw.
“He had to make a perfect play. He came up and threw it right on the money when his back had been turned to the field,” Mike Matheny said. “When you’re having trouble getting a run across the board you just have to use your instincts. When you see that ball down and you’re almost at the base, you gotta take a chance.”
Piscotty was out at the plate, and Cardinal fans robustly groaned when Yadier Molina hit a double in the next at bat that would have scored him had he stayed at third. Still, the decision was a continuation of the Cardinals’ strategy in the last few seasons. Forcing confrontation has proved advantageous for a lot of teams, especially given the reduction in precision throws from the outfield in recent years. The Cardinals have bought into making fielders prove their worth, and in this instance, Springer did.
His prowess ended up giving the Cardinals a migraine, as they subsequently loaded the bases, but ended up coming away empty.
St. Louis produced three hits- two of them doubles- and a walk, but ended up scoring no runs in the fifth. They would eventually lose 4-1.