The Houston Astros played their only split-squad game of the Spring Training season. Half in the West Palm Beaches against the St. Louis Cardinals, and the other half in Jupiter going up against the Miami Marlins. This is the first time since March 12, 2020, that the Astros have played a split-squad game during Spring Training, two days before the COVID-19 shutdown.
With a split squad and thirteen players participating in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, this was the time for players from the minor league camp to prove themselves, especially infielder Shay Whitcomb.
FINAL (2:39): Cardinals tied Astros 3-3
Time of Possession
Cardinals: 8 minutes, 37 seconds (54.1%)
Astros: 7 minutes, 18 seconds (45.9%)
Longest half inning
Cardinals ⬆️3: 2 minutes, 17 seconds
Nolan Gorman ⬆️3: 1 minute, 1 second
— MLB Time Of Possession (@MLBPossession) March 14, 2023
The defending World Series Champions had a massive comeback during the stellar bottom of the sixth inning against the Cardinals but could not break the 3-3 tie.
A Pitching Competition
The game had a relatively frustrating start. The Astros and Cardinals struggled to get anyone on base for the first two innings. However, all eyes were on the pitchers and their defensive line to see who would be the first to let a runner slip right through.
The Astros’ right-handed pitcher Brandon Bielak struggled to find his footing in the first inning, letting Dylan Carlson walk and hit Willson Contreras right from the start. Fortunately, the team’s defensive lineup was on top of the ball whenever it made contact with the bat.
The Cardinals took a different approach when it came to pitching. Throughout the entire game, they had six pitchers take the mound, right-handed pitcher Jake Woodford being the only consistent one from the fifth to the eighth inning.
In the first four innings, they rotated through four left-handed pitchers: Zack Thompson, Packy Naughton, Andrew Suarez, and Anthony Misiewic. It was almost like manager Oliver Marmol wanted to see how these non-starters reacted under pressure.
Thompson took the mound first. At first, he rushed his throws, resulting in Justin Dirden walking. However, after a visit from catcher Willson Contreras, he composed himself and struck all-star Jose Abreu out swinging. All four pitchers demonstrated skill and potential. And in turn, showed improvement.
In the battle among #STLCards lefty relievers, Zack Thompson & Packy Naughton have opened eyes with their secondary pitches.
In addition to having a fastball at 96-97 mph, Thompson has landed his curve for strikes.
Naughton is throwing his slider at 89 mph — up from 83 mph.
— John Denton (@JohnDenton555) March 14, 2023
Both teams kept runs and hits at zero for two consecutive innings, but that all changed when St. Louis’ very own Nolan Gorrman entered the batter’s box in the top of the third with two outs on the board.
Gorman Drives all Three Runs for the Cardinals
The bases are loaded for the first time in the game, and Bielak had let three players slip by. He had already gotten Dylan Carlson and Jordan out swinging; he needed to get the next player out to close the top of the third.
As Gorman prepared for his first pitch, infielders and pitching coach Joshua Miller go up on the mound. The Cardinals are in a scoring position; if the Astros didn’t feel the pressure before, they did then.
With the first pitch alone, Gorman hit a two-run single, allowing Andrew Kinzner and Brendan Donovan to score. Although Contreras got out on third base, the Cardinals got what they wanted.
As the game continued, the Houston lineup struggled to respond. The ball continuously is popped up or goes straight toward a player. They are unable to find anyone sort of rhythm and give any threat to St. Louis.
Although their fans tried encouraging them through cheers and chants, nothing seemed to prevent them from getting three outs for the next three innings. However, things only seem to get worse when the sixth inning approaches.
Ryne Stanek is now on the mound for the Astros, and Gorman enters the batter’s box for the third time. Contreras is already on second, reaching it on a throwing error made right before. Gorman delivered, yet again, another single, allowing Contreras to race toward home base and give the Cardinals a three-to-nothing lead.
Fortunately, the Astros seemed to wake up when they let another run cruise by. They are quick to perform a double play, getting Alec Burleson and Juan Yepez out, and getting Masyn Winn out swinging.
Astros Pull Through in the Bottom of the Sixth
The Astros were slowly getting backed into a corner. But something seemed to click as soon as Whitcomb was on first base. The Cardinals started to feel the pressure. Jake Woodford, who was now on the mound, made multiple unsuccessful attempts to get him out on first.
— Corpus Christi Hooks (@cchooks) March 13, 2023
Bligh Madris is quick to single, allowing Whitcomb to make it to third base. With one player in a threatening position, they only needed one solid hit from the upcoming batter.
All eyes land on Alex Bregman as he approaches home plate. This could be the moment that the Astros finally get a run and have a shot of catching up. Bregman sacrificed himself with a fly ball, but it gave Whitcomb the window to score, and he took it.
As Houston gained momentum and St. Louis lost their hold on the game. Abreu follows with a double, getting Madris on third. Yet again, putting even more pressure on Woodford to compose himself and start pitching some strikes, however, Corey Julks has other ideas; he goes on to hit the second sacrifice fly of the inning, letting Madris score and Luke Berryhill, who pinch-ran for Abreu, to get to third base.
Woodford continued to falter, causing Ryan Loutos to replace him on the mound. This serves the Cardinals no good as he goes on to walk McCormick. Cesar Salazar seals the deal for the Astros. With a single towards the right fielder, Berryhil scores, and the game is now tied 3-3 from one inning alone.
After five innings of barely getting anyone out of the batter’s box or even remotely close to third base, the Astros were able to pull it together and fight back. The rest of the matchup remained at 3-3. Both teams had valiant attempts on the plate and the mound but could not push past the barrier of 3.
The Houston Astros will make their way to North Port to take on the Atlanta Braves in CoolToday Park at 1:05 pm. The St. Louis Cardinals are traveling to Port St. Lucie to go up against the New York Mets at 1:10 pm.