In a Spring Training 2016 matchup, the visiting St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves played to an 8-8 tie on Wednesday afternoon after pinch hitter Carlos Peguero tied the game in the top of the ninth before 7,967 fans at the ESPN/Disney complex in Florida.
Unlike the regular season, spring training games ordinarily don’t go beyond 10 innings even if deadlocked.
The Braves (for now) play their Spring Training home games at Champion Stadium, located at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Florida, near Lake Buena Vista and Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Cards starter Jaime Garcia was dominating Atlanta for three innings with his team in command by a score of 3-0 over Braves starter Jhoulys Chacin, who gave up eight hits in his time on the mound. Things unraveled in the fourth when Garcia gave up four runs on five hits. Garcia also recorded six strikeouts before he left the game.
Former Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway put the Braves up 4-3 with a two-run double in that inning. The Cards then scored one run in the fifth and three in the six to go up 7-4. In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Braves put another four runs up on the board, capped by a two-run double by Jace Peterson off of reliever Matt Bowman.
Coming off thumb surgery, Cards star catcher Yadier Molina had at two at-bats, one in which he bunted and the other where he struck out looking, apparently all part of gamesmanship. “He has not yet been cleared to swing a bat, though the Cardinals are intentionally being coy about that before games so that opponents aren’t sure whether he will be taking three straight pitches or swing. There is a competitive element to that decision, and manager Mike Matheny said after the game that at some point there’s going to be a time where Molina does swing,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Cards lights-out closer Trevor Rosenthal pitched a scoreless inning in the sixth, striking two and giving up one hit. In Spring Training games, closers generally pitch in the middle innings, before the manager typically removes most of the front-line and MLB-ready players from the game.
The Cardinals are 7-5 (3-2 in away games) so far in Spring Training 2016, while the Braves are 4-11 (2-4 at home).
In 2015, the Cardinals finished first in the National League Central, with a stellar record of 100-62. They lost, however, to the Chicago Cubs in the Division Series.
The Braves, who have fallen on hard times, finished in fourth place in the National League East with a record of 67-95, well out of the playoff hunt.
Beginning in the 2017 season, Atlanta will move from Turner Field in downtown Atlanta, their home field for the past 20 years, to SunTrust Park in suburban Cobb County.
As alluded to above, the Braves may also be on the move insofar as the Florida Grapefruit League is concerned, given that their Disney lease expires in 2017. The Braves relocated to their current Spring Training home in 1988 after three-plus decades in West Palm Beach. Unlike the Cactus League in Arizona, in which all the MLB teams train in roughly the same geographical area and which thereby minimizes travel time, teams that train in Florida are spread out all over the state.
As it is, given the travel issue, only some of the starters show up and play away games in the Grapefruit League, to some degree shortchanging the fans.
Moreover, the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals are exiting central Florida for new facilities in Palm Beach County. “Once the Astros and Nats leave, the Braves and [the Detroit] Tigers would be the only teams left in Central Florida,” the Orlando Business Journal observed.
“Eight of the 15 teams that train in Florida are based along the state’s west coast,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution added about the situation the Atlanta Braves find themselves in.
After Spring Training is over with, how do you think the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves will fare in the National League during the 2016 MLB season?
[Photos by Robert Jonathan]