Game 9 recap---Cards avoid the sweep with a 4-1 win over the Padres behind a much-needed performance from Wainwright

Adam Wainwright provided us with the start that we all were hoping for, but likely that many of in our hearts didn't expect, going 6 innings with no walks and 9 strikeouts. The Padres went with their bullpen opener Matt Strahm, who tied his career high in just his 10th career start with 5 IP. Last night after the game, the Cards optioned RHP Alex Reyes and UT Yairo Munoz to AAA Memphis, and recalled relievers Tyler Webb and Giovanny Gallegos from the same club to give us an 8-man bullpen. Check the fanpost below for details.

Wainwright looked good to start. He was getting all of his pitches over, and struck out Hosmer on a fastball up with 1 out. Machado hit a double off the top of the center field wall with 2 out. Bader made an incredibly strong throw from near the track towards 2nd base. DeJong was not covering the bag, likely expecting the throw to go to 3rd. If he had been covering the bag, it might have been a close play to nab Machado at 2nd. Nonetheless, Wainwright struck Renfroe out on 3 pitches to end the inning. Wainwright had 4 strikeouts through 2 innings. Margot lined a 2-2 curveball to right center for a double to lead off the 3rd. Bader bobbled the ball and fell down, and it’s unclear if Margot would have made it to 2nd without that, but he was credited with a double nonetheless. The pitcher Strahm tried to square up a bunt and whiffed on the opening pitch, but Yadi tried to pick Margot off of 2nd base. He threw the ball off the top of the glove of the jumping DeJong and over his head into centerfield for a throwing error to move Margot to 3rd. Strahm struck out and Kinsler popped to first, and it looked like we might strand the runner. Wainwright spun a 2-2 curve to Hosmer in the dirt. He flicked the bat at it, but the 3rd base umpire ruled on appeal that he was able to hold up. It was very close, and he wouldn’t have been wrong if he had rung Hosmer up. Unfortunately, Wainwright hung a cutter on the 3-2 pitch, which Hosmer lined into right-center for a base hit to score Margot and give the Padres a 1-0 lead. Curiously, we were not in the shift for the lefty Hosmer on the play. Wainwright struck Machado out on a good 3-2 curveball for his 6th strikeout to end the inning.

Meanwhile, the Padres went with a bullpen opener game like they had done last year for a while and opened with the lefty Matt Strahm. Bader finally got us our first hit of the afternoon with a smoked double down the left field line into the corner to lead off the bottom of the 3rd. After Wong grounded back to the pitcher, Bader tried to steal 3rd on the opening pitch to Wainwright. Catcher Hedges’ throw beat Bader to the bag, but he was initially ruled safe. The Padres challenged the play, and the replay showed Machado nicking the tag on Bader’s leg before he got in there, which left Wainwright up at the plate with 2 out. He struck out to end the inning.

Renfroe led off the 4th with the Padres’ 3rd double of the day by lining an inside 88 mph sinker down the left field line. After Reyes flied to center, Tatis did the same. Only this time, Renfroe decided to test Bader’s arm in center, and Bader threw a strike on one bounce to 3rd to nail Renfroe by a step for a double play to end the inning. Carpenter led off the bottom of the 4th with a walk, then on the 3-2 pitch, Goldschmidt hit a high fly to left close to the line that Renfroe should have caught. But he slipped, whiffed, and the ball bounced over the sidewall for a 2-base error to move Carpenter to 3rd. DeJong then lined an 0-2 center cut fastball to the left field gap. Renfroe took a poor route, but it was hit hard and went all the way to the wall for a double to score both runs for a 2-1 Cards lead. Both runs would have likely scored regardless, but DeJong might have been held to a single if Renfroe had played it properly. Ozuna popped to 2nd, but Molina smoked a hard grounder right back at the pitcher Strahm that hit him in the back of the leg for an infield hit to move DeJong to 3rd. Next was an interesting play. Fowler struck out on an outside pitch, but the ball went off the outside of the catcher’s glove for a wild pitch that went to the backstop. Fowler couldn’t advance under the rules because 1st base was occupied at the time. Molina knew the rules and advanced to 2nd, but DeJong just stayed put. It’s not clear whether DeJong knew he could advance or whether he thought he couldn’t make it. Either way, he could have scored easily, especially since the catcher threw the ball past the pitcher when he threw it in. Bader then walked to load the bases for Wong, but he lined it up the middle into the shift and right to the shortstop, and we could do no further damage.

After Wainwright struck out Hedges for his 7th strikeout to start the 5th and Margot popped to 1st, the lefty pitcher Strahm—who bats righthanded—lined a high fastball down the right field line into the corner for a double. But Kinsler grounded to Wong at 2nd to strand the runner and end the inning. Wainwright came out to bat in the bottom of the 5th and flied out, but Carpenter laced a double down the 1st base line off the sidewall for a double. We could not grab an insurance run, however, as Goldschmidt flew out to center and DeJong softly lined to left that Renfroe had to run to grab towards the left field line. Wainwright retired the side in order in the top of the 6th with his 8th and 9th strikeouts on sharp curveballs.

With 1 out in the 6th, Molina skied a double to the left-center field gap all the way to the wall off of the righty reliever Adam Warren. But again, we stranded a runner as Fowler struck out and Bader flied out to the track in center. With Wainwright done after 100 pitches and his spot up 2nd in the order coming up, Shildt made a double switch to bring in Brebbia to pitch the 7th and Jose Martinez to play right field and replace Fowler. Brebbia issued a leadoff walk to Reyes. Tatis hit a fly to no-man’s land to right between Wong and Martinez, and Wong made a phenomenal basket catch with his back to the infield, while at the same time avoiding Martinez in right. Brebbia retired the rest of the side in order.

Wong lined a base hit to right to beat the shift to start the bottom of the 7th. With Wong running on the 3-2 pitch, Martinez lined a base hit up the middle to put runners at the corners. The Pads brought in lefty Aaron Loup to pitch to Carpenter, who hit a Sac Fly to left to score Wong and get us an insurance run to extend our lead to 3-1. Goldschmidt walked on 4 pitches. DeJong softly grounded to short to move the runners to 2nd and 3rd. But Ozuna struck out on a 3-2 fastball to strand our 6th and 7th runners of the afternoon. With 1 out in the 8th, Kinsler softly grounded base hit up the middle, and everyone groaned when Shildt brought in Miller to pitch to the lefty Hosmer who represented the tying run at the plate. Hosmer lined it to the track to Bader in center, who got turned around, but made the grab. Shildt made another double switch to bring in Hicks to pitch to Machado (slotted in the #4 spot in the order) and Tyler O’Neill to play left field and hit in the #6 spot. The pitcher’s spot was due up 2nd in the bottom of the 8th, and Shildt wanted Hicks for the 4-out save. Although Miller grooved a couple of fastballs to Hosmer, all the bullpen moves worked that inning as Hicks struck Machado out on an outside 3-2 slider to end the inning.

Molina led off the bottom of the 8th by sticking his bat out there on a low pitch from lefty reliever Robbie Erlin for an excuse-me base hit to center for his third hit of the day. After O’Neill struck out, Bader looped a bloop single to center to move Yadi to 3rd, but got caught between 1st and 2nd in a bad baserunning mistake by not anticipating the throw to the cutoff man. With 2 out, Wong laid down a nice safety-squeeze drag bunt that surprised the Pads for an infield hit to score Molina and extend the Cards’ lead to 4-1. Hicks came out for the 9th and it looked at first like he had lost his command with a 4-pitch walk to Renfroe, and being behind in the count 2-0 to Reyes. But Molina came to the mound to calm him down, and he settled down to strike Reyes and Tatis out and retired Hedges on a grounder to short to save the 4-1 victory for Hicks's first save of the year.

Odds and ends: With Yadier Molina's 3-hit today, he secured 8th place on the Cardinals' all-time hits list with 1857 to pass Curt Flood. He needs 87 more hits to catch Ozzie Smith...Courtesy Fox hat-tip stat--Wainwright became the 4th Cardinals pitcher to have all of the following happen: 6 or more IP, allowed 1 ER or less, have 9 or more SO, and be age 37 or older at the time. He joined Dazzy Vance, Bob Gibson and Chuck Finley...Ryan Helsley pitched 4 innings and allowed no hits in a planned piggy-back game with Genesis Cabrera last night for Memphis...Drew Robinson has started 2 straight games in CF for Memphis, moving 40-man prospect Lane Thomas to LF...Christian Yelich went 2-3 with a 2-run HR and a Sac Fly for 3 RBIs to help the Brewers knock off the Cubs 4-2...Despite 2 HRs from Derek Dietrich and another from Scott Schebler, the Reds managed to lose their 7th ballgame in a row. Dietrich watched his first home run off of the Pirates' Chris Archer way too long in the 2nd inning. When he came up again, Archer threw a pitch behind him, and a bench-clearing brawl ensued, resulting in 5 ejections.