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Cardinals give ninth a curious twist as Norris closes 5-3 victory in Cincinnati

Cardinals give ninth a curious twist as Norris closes 5-3 victory in Cincinnati

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St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Luke Weaver. (AP Photo)

CINCINNATI • After an evening that saw Luke Weaver shine and Yadier Molina flummox the Reds fans (yet again), the Cardinals put a curious sheen on what should have been a neat, tidy win Friday night.

With a save situation, they didn't go to their closer.

With an opportunity to use $14-million man Greg Holland in his first save situation of the season, they didn't.

Bud Norris got the call.

The man who would be closer -- if not for the signing of Holland -- pitched a scoreless ninth inning to secure a 5-3 victory against Cincinnati at Great American Ball Park. The save was Norris' second of the season, but his first since Holland joined the team this past Monday as the advertised closer. Holland walked four batters in his first appearance, which came in the extra innings of a tie game.

He was used once since and Friday offered the first save opportunity the Cardinals have had in the ninth inning since Holland's arrival.

The Cardinals' bullpen did not stir as Norris pitched the ninth.

Not as he allowed a flare single.

Not as he walked a batter to bring the go-ahead run to the plate.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has described that as making his closer feel like "the king of the world" and that the team is going to side with him for the game. He did that with Trevor Rosenthal, and he did it later with Seung Hwan Oh in recent years. When Norris got his second out of the ninth inning, Holland could be seen in the bullpen stretching and swinging his arms.

He still had his jacket on.

Weaver piloted through four innings without allowing a hit, and when he did the Cardinals tried to preserve the no-hitter by challenging the call at first base.

Replay did not prove conclusively that Paul DeJong's throw beat Devin Mesoraco to first base. That was the first it Weaver allowed -- an infield single. The second one came in the sixth inning, and catcher Yadier Molina nearly turned it into an out, too. Through six innings at one of the hardest ballparks in the majors to tame, Weaver had allowed two hits -- and combined they would barely have reached the outfield grass.

Neither left the reach of an infielder.

Weaver would get two batters into the seventh inning before yielding the game to the bullpen. The last pitch Weaver threw was tagged by Mesoraco for a two-run homer that brought the Reds into the game.

Before that contact, the Cardinals had a 5-0 lead built out of hits by Yadier Molina and a few others. Molina hit a solo homer in the second inning for his 14th in 97 games at Great American Ball Park. He followed with a two-run single in the sixth inning. That was the same inning that Reds starter Tyler Mahle attempted to get a third time through the Cardinals' order. It did not go well.

Dexter Fowler opened with a solo homer.

Tommy Pham followed with a single, his second hit of the game. Matt Carpenter doubled to right field to put he and Pham in scoring position. Marcell Ozuna skipped a single to left that scored Pham, and then Molina hit his single that scored Carpenter and Ozuna, from second base. Molina's two-run hit pushed the Cardinals' lead to 5-0.

They had scored 14 unanswered runs to that point against the Reds, including the final nine runs of Thursday's 13-4 victory.

All six of the Cardinals' homers in the series have been solo shots.

***

Reds scratch right fielder Jesse Winker, reorder lineup 

What gave it away was the top of the first inning when Jesse Winker, the Reds' starting right fielder, did not go to right field to start.

Winker remained in the dugout, and Phillip Ervin manned right.

In a last-minute switch to the Reds' lineup, manager Bryan Price scratched Winker. The Reds later announced that Winker had a sore right shoulder, and that he was removed from the lineup before it was submitted. He's available, if needed, but not able to start as a result of the soreness.

The reordered Reds order is now:

  1. Hamilton, CF
  2. Peraza, SS
  3. Votto, 1B
  4. Gennett, 2B
  5. Mesoraco, C
  6. Duvall, LF
  7. Ervin, RF
  8. Pennington, 3B
  9. Mahle, P

The game is through a scoreless first. Luke Weaver did what Michael Wacha did the night before -- open his start by walking one of the fastest players in the game, Billy Hamilton. Weaver got a groundball to get Hamilton off base and the now the game goes into the second inning, and already Jose Martinez has a hit, because that's what he does against the Reds.

***

Cardinals stick with lineup that bruised Reds' bullpen

By the end of a game that reached its midway point tied, the Cincinnati Reds had been pressed to push a reliever into his major-league debut, use Saturday's scheduled starter, and turn to a position player for the final outs.

That was the mess their pitching was in.

Doesn't look to get much better for the second game of the Cardinals' four-game visit to Great American Ball Park. Already Friday, the Reds have added pitcher Dylan Floro, and to create room on the roster for him they designated Ariel Hernandez. That momentarily restocks the bullpen, but still leaves the Reds with some uncertainty -- because there is a difference between available relievers and reliable relievers.

After the 13-4 victory Thursday night, the Cardinals have returned to the same lineup.

Luke Weaver makes his second start at GABP. He won his only previous appearance there by keeping the Reds within the confines of their ballpark and not allowing free passes. In five innings, he struck out seven and did not allow a homer or a walk. The Reds got him for two runs. In three career appearances against the Reds -- including two starts -- Weaver is 2-0 with a 5.40 ERA in 11 2/3 innings. 

This will be his first career start with Angel Hernandez behind the plate, though Hernandez does call a lot of the Cardinals' spring training games.

Here's the lineup that will back him:

  1. Dexter Fowler, RF
  2. Tommy Pham, CF
  3. Matt Carpenter, 3B
  4. Marcell Ozuna, LF
  5. Jose Martinez, 1B
  6. Yadier Molina, C
  7. Paul DeJong, SS
  8. Kolten Wong, 2B
  9. Luke Weaver, P

And, then, on the other side, for the Reds:

  1. Billy Hamilton, Cf
  2. Jose Peraza, SS
  3. Joey Votto, 1B
  4. Scooter Gennett, 2B
  5. Devin Mesoraco, C
  6. Jess Winker, RF
  7. Adam Duvall, LF
  8. Cliff Pennington, 3B
  9. Tyler Mahle, P

Check back here for coverage of the game and any news or notes that should surface during the afternoon at Great American Ball Park. If you've got some lineup angst, then the Best Podcast in Baseball has your conversation. Columnist Ben Frederickson and I discuss hitting philosophy, hitting order, and hitting red herrings. You can find the BPIB here.

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