MIAMI — Miles Mikolas, who grew up 90 minutes to the north in Jupiter, Fla., had beaten the Miami Marlins twice in his first two starts against them for the Cardinals last year, holding them to two earned runs in 14 innings. As Mikolas took the mound Wednesday night, the Cardinals had beaten the Marlins 62 times in 97 meetings in Miami, the most dominant of any Miami opponent.
And what Miami offered up against the Cardinals was a 23-year-old Class AA call-up named Jordan Yamamoto, a Hawaii native who was replacing scheduled starter Jose Urena, who had a bad back.
So, the final score was 9-0. The Marlins had nine. As former ace reliever Bruce Sutter of the Cardinals once said, “The other side has scholarship players, too.”
Mikolas had 20 or so family members and friends who made the trek down I-95 Wednesday night, but they had to turn their heads in the second inning.
After Miami’s Garrett Cooper had tripled out of the reach of diving right fielder Dexter Fowler and ultimately scored the Marlins’ first run in the first inning, Cooper came to bat again with the bases loaded and two out in the second.
One 94 mph two-seam fastball later, it was 5-0, Miami, after Cooper’s monstrous, 429-foot grand slam to left center.
The Marlins coasted from there, giving them one game in the three-set. Yamamoto, whose fastball ranged from 86 mph to 94, blanked the Cardinals three hits for seven innings in his major league debut although the Cardinals hit several more balls hard off the righthander.
“I feel like that guy was living in a tree,” said Fowler, who scalded one ball to first baseman Cooper that turned into a double play.
A double play the Cardinals didn’t turn, a rarity in that they’ve led the league in this department all season, — prolonged the second inning. Second baseman Kolten Wong threw wide of first trying to get Bryan Holaday, who had grounded into a forceout.
“A good throw gets him,” said manager Mike Shildt. “Even if it’s off the bag (first baseman Paul Goldschmidt) can tag him.”
Wong said, “It just happens. It’s not something I’m thinking about. Or even care about. Obviously, I want to turn double plays but sometimes you get put into a situation where you try to make a play and it just wasn’t there.
“It was a tough throw (from shortstop Paul DeJong) to the backside of me. I knew I had to get around and try to pull it but I didn’t pull the ball enough. It just kind of sailed.”
Then, just before the grand slam, Mikolas had walked .181-hitting Curtis Granderson, a lefthanded batter, to load the bases. “You’ve got a righty on deck. I didn’t really mind it too much," Mikolas said.
"I wasn’t trying to walk him or really pitch around him. A couple of pitches didn’t go where they needed to.”
The home run was the 14th given up by Mikolas this season compared to 16 all last season when he was 18-4. He is 4-7 this year with a 4.85 ERA, which is a full two runs a game higher than his 2.83 of last year.
“I’m not doing as well,” said Mikolas, perhaps stating the obvious. “I’m not getting away with as many mistakes as I did last year, maybe. I got a little lucky last year. I don’t think I’m getting lucky at all this year.”
To the fact that Mikolas’ home-run total has skyrocketed, he replied, simply, “I’ve got to make better pitches.”
Shildt said “He didn’t look crisp. The walk to Granderson obviously hurt. (Cooper) is a little more dangerous hitter. You say that, and Granderson hit a three-run homer (in the eighth inning off John Brebbia)."
Mikolas said he wasn't bothered by the bruised forearm he suffered last Friday when Chicago’s David Bote rocketed a liner off him. “I absorbed the impact successfully and there are no lingering effects,” Mikolas said.
The Cardinals didn’t have a hit through three innings but that changed quickly in the fourth when DeJong got his first double since May 19 and 18th of the season when he skimmed a drive past first base. DeJong stopped at third on Goldschmidt’s lined single to right. And that is where he stayed.
Marcell Ozuna, the club leader in runs batted in at 55, flied to short left and Yadier Molina grounded hard into a double play.
“That was the big inning, obviously,” said Shildt. “We had a chance to punch back and get back in the game.”
Yamamoto didn’t let that happen, though. Wong had worked out with Yamamoto in Hawaii although he said, “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen him pitch.
“Congratulations to Jordan. He’s part of a good lineage of guys right now from Hawaii. I’m proud of him. He pitched really well. He kept his composure and he did his thing.”
Perhaps Wong would have been more proud on another day.
“You think I’m going to be happy we lost?” he said. “No. I wanted the sweep. It’s not easy to accept this one, but to see him do his thing, a tip of the cap, for sure.”
Mikolas left after five innings and 78 pitches but reliever Ryan Helsley didn’t make it through one. He gave up a leadoff double to Miguel Rojas in the sixth, committed a balk and then left the game with a shoulder impingement, replaced by lefthander Tyler Webb.
With Yamamoto at the plate, Marlins manager Don Mattingly called for a suicide squeeze and the pitcher cooperated by dropping a bunt in front of the plate as Rojas scored the sixth run.
Helsley, who said he "really couldn’t get loose," will be placed on the 10-day injured list and seen by Dr. George Paletta of the Cardinals’ medical department who will be in New York.
Shildt saw some silver lining in the trip here.
“I don’t want to get too dramatic,” he said.“It was a game that we’re not particularly thrilled about, but we won two out of three.
"You win a series in major league baseball, you’ve got to feel good about it.”