We all know what happened over the weekend.
Hope for the postseason became distraught confusion as the tides changed from longing for the NL Central’s crown, to reluctantly accepting that playoff aspirations were still somehow in grasp. Sitting four games back of the Rockies - who are on the brink of losing 3-2 as I write this - the Cardinals sit four back of the second National League Wild Card slot. To call upon and overused adage that seems to be an every-other-day tag for games involving the Redbirds, this was a must-win bout.
Thankfully, Dexter Fowler slotted into the three-hole for the first time since July 23rd and managed to swing the momentum of this game back to St. Louis twice. First in the eighth inning when his 17th home run of the season tied the game at six, and second in the 10th inning with a sharp double down the first-base line scoring Kolten Wong.
The non-Dexter Fowler offensive production in this win all came in one inning, as a flurry of hits off Reds’ starter Jackson Stephens erased a four-run deficit and gave the Cardinals a lead for the first time in the game. Stephens was actually perfect through three innings, but the second time through the order for the 23-year-old was a much different story.
A trio of singles by Tommy Pham, Fowler, and Jose Martinez, resulted in one run, which was quickly followed by Yadier Molina’s 18th home run of the season. To add insult to injury, Paul DeJong followed three pitches later with his 23rd homer. The five consecutive hits in the inning all had one underlying theme - middle to upper third of the zone. It may not have been the Cardinals offense figuring out the righty as much as it was the Reds’ starter having severe trouble finding the bottom third of the zone.
Understandably, Dejong was happy...
Yet the most breathtaking image from the night might not be a gif of DeJong’s high-five, or Fowler’s multi-hit effort at. Look at where the pitch was that Molina hit into the left field seats...
Wow is the proper exclamation.
On the pitching side of things, let’s just say optimism wasn’t as rampant on arms as it was on bats in this game - hence the use of eight pitchers per side. Jack Flaherty lasted only two innings, followed by John Gant, who was then replaced after the third inning by southpaw Brett Cecil. Each allowed a pair of earned runs in what seemed like a piggy-backing of relievers rather than faith in one true starter. Cecil’s three innings are the duplication of an equally lengthy outing he had on the 6th of August against... the Cincinnati Reds. Matheny only used Cecil in a multi-inning set once in the first four months of the season, yet has used the lefty in the very same avoided scenario role four times since August 3rd.
Even more perplexing was Juan Nicasio’s 29 pitches to get four outs, the last of which as the Cardinals clinged to a one-run lead in the 10th inning. Nicasio relinquished a home run to Cardinal-killer Scooter Gennett and stayed in to get Adam Duvall for his lone out. Tyler Lyons then came in for the save, nabbing two outs on one strikeout for his third save of the season. Do I question the high pitch count this early in a series where a sweep seems necessary? Yes, but with the result just enough to solidify a win, and the early advantage in the series, it’s tough to complain.
Luke Weaver and Rookie Davis face off tomorrow in Cincinnati.
- News prior to the game circled around Adam Wainwright’s activation from the DL and Jedd Gyorko assuming a roster spot, but with a lack of clarity on playing time with Jose Martinez and Kolten Wong steadfast in their production during Gyorko’s absence. Manager Mike Matheny had a beautifully insightful quote regarding Waino’s role, which ESPN mentions in their blurb linked here (mentioned below). Let the profound use of the english language wash over you like an ice-cold Budweiser.
The Cardinals will put Waino “in there when it works and see what we’ve got.”