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Cards Hit Just Enough Homers and Bullpen Hangs On to Beat D’Backs 9-7

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

With the Cardinals clinching a playoff spot yesterday in a dramatic 4-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, Cards manager Mike Shildt put his foot on the gas pedal, and employed his starters tonight once again, resting none of his regulars. Although the Cards scored 9 runs, the club was actually fortunate to win this game. The Diamondbacks actually outhit the Cards 11-9. Adam Wainwright cruised through a few innings, but gave up 8 hits in just 5 IP, and was fortunate that Shildt left him in the game long enough to pick up the win. The bullpen was outstanding until the bottom of the 9th, and it was unfortunate that with a 4-run lead going into the bottom of the 9th, the Cards could not avoid bringing Carlos Martinez in the game. If the Cards had not picked up 2 insurance runs in the top of the 9th, we could be talking about a different outcome.

After Dexter Fowler struck out swinging at a changeup in the dirt to lead off the game, Tommy Edman crushed a hanging cutter for a 421-foot blast over the left-center field wall to give the Cards a 1-0 lead.

Paul Goldschmidt got a standing ovation in his first appearance back in Arizona since the trade and worked a 3-2 walk. Marcell Ozuna ripped an inside cutter down the left field line and into the corner for a double to move Goldschmidt to 3rd base. Yadier Molina sharply grounded a cutter towards the hole to short. Nick Ahmed made a great play to come up with it falling down, and spun around to his right to throw Molina out at 1st. Goldschmidt scored on the play to extend the Cards’ lead to 2-0. Paul DeJong smoked an outside cutter towards the hole, but 3B Jake Lamb made a diving catch to end the inning. Wainwright retired the side in order in the bottom of the 1st, including strikeouts of the first 2 batters in the Diamondbacks’ order.

Matt Carpenter and Harrison Bader chopped grounders for outs on tough plays to start the top of the 2nd, with Jake Lamb making a great barehanded play on Bader’s grounder.

With 2 out, Adam Wainwright tapped a curveball to the left of the mound. Pitcher Alex Young retrieved the ball and threw to 1st base, but 1B Christian Walker dropped the ball. It was not a reviewable play, but Diamondbacks’ manager Torey Lovullo came out to talk to the umpires, presumably to argue that Wainwright was not running in his proper lane, but nothing happened. The announcers talked about it, but did not explain the rule. Rule 5.09(a)(11) and the Comment to that rule make it clear that a batter is supposed to stay inside the “three-foot-lane” which is marked. He is liable to being called out if he runs to the right of the three-foot lane or to the left of the foul line. But if the batter-runner does so, he is not automatically out. The batter is out and the ball is dead only if the umpire concludes that he interfered with the fielder taking the throw at 1st base. Wainwright ran to the left of the foul line, but the throw was well to the right of that, and Walker just dropped the ball. The umpire concluded there was no interference. Fowler grounded out to 3rd to end the inning. Walker lined a low 2-2 fastball for a base hit to right to lead off the bottom of the 2nd. Lamb lined a hanging 2-1 cutter to right for a base hit to move Walker to 3rd. Adam Jones softly lined a hanging curveball to left for a base hit to score Walker, move Lamb to 2nd and cut the Cards’ lead to 2-1. Ahmed grounded a low fastball into a 6-4-3 double play to move Lamb to 3rd base. Carson Kelly struck out looking at a fastball on the outside corner to strand Lamb at 3rd and end the inning.

After Young grazed Edman’s left knee with a 1-0 slider to start the top of the 3rd, Goldschmidt lined a low 2-1 changeup just over the right-center field wall for a 2-run HR to give the Cards a 4-1 lead. That was Goldschmidt’s 100th career HR at Chase Field.

After Ozuna grounded to 3rd for the 1st out, Molina blooped a fastball to left for a base hit. DeJong struck out swinging at a changeup. Carpenter worked a 3-2 walk, but Bader stranded the runners and ended the inning by flying out to center field. After retiring the first 2 Diamondbacks hitters on grounders, Josh Rojas worked a 3-2 walk, the first 3-ball count Wainwright has had all night. Eduardo Esobar grounded a hanging curveball to 2nd base to end the inning. After both Wainwright and Fowler struck out to start the top of the 4th, Edman sharply grounded a fastball deep into the hole. Ahmed fielded it on the outfield grass, but his throw was off-line and a perfect throw would not have retired Edman anyway. But after the infield hit, Goldschmidt flied out to center to end the inning. To lead off the bottom of the 4th, Walker drove a low cutter deep over the center field fence for a solo HR to cut the Cards’ lead to 4-2.

Wainwright would settle down and retire the rest of the side in order with a strikeout of Ahmed to end the inning.

To start the top of the 5th, Ozuna drove a low-and-away curveball deep to center and off the top of the high wall in center field that landed just a bit below the yellow line for a double. Molina then launched a center-cut fastball deep into the seats in left-center for a 2-run HR to extend the Cards’ lead to 6-2.

DeJong struck out swinging at a changeup, and both Carpenter and Bader flied out to center to end the inning.

After Wainwright struck Kelly out again on curveballs to start the bottom of the 5th, switch-hitter Domingo Leyba pinch hit for the pitcher Young and worked a 3-2 walk over 9 pitches. Jarrod Dyson sliced a hanging cutter for a fly ball to Ozuna in left, and he just looked flat out confused out there. Ozuna jogged in for the ball, but then took a couple of steps to his right side, and the ball dropped in front of him. He then bobbled the ball before spinning around and making a wild throw to 3rd base. Dyson was credited with a base hit, and the scorer charged Ozuna with a fielding error for bobbling the ball and allowing Dyson to reach 2nd base. Leyba slid in safely at 3rd base. There was no excuse for Ozuna not catching that ball, as he had time to settle under it. Rojas then lined a hanging curveball to center for a base hit to score Leyba and cut the Cards’ lead to 6-3. After Bader made a strong throw home, Molina made a snap throw to Carpenter at 3rd base, but the umpire ruled that Dyson made it back to the bag just in time. The Cardinals challenged the call, arguing that Carpenter made a swipe tag on Dyson’s elbow, but the call on the field was upheld. With the runners at the corners now and 1 out, Escobar lined an outside fastball to left for a base hit to score Dyson, move Rojas to 2nd and cut the Cards’ lead to 6-4. Walker barely stuck his bat out in a check swing of a 1-2 low curveball and squibbed it down the 3rd base line. Carpenter charged and made a barehanded throw, but Walker barely beat the throw for an infield single to load the bases. Shildt left Wainwright out there with the lefty Lamb at the plate. Lamb hammered a center-cut fastball for a liner to right, but the ball was hit right to Fowler. Fowler made a strong throw to the plate, but Rojas tagged up and scored on the Sac Fly to cut the Cards’ lead to 6-5. Jones struck out swinging at an 0-2 curveball in the dirt to end this monstrosity of an inning.

The game will now be left up to the bullpens. Righty Jimmie Sherfy came out to pitch the top of the 6th and Rangel Ravelo pinch hit for Wainwright. Ravelo flied out to center. Although Fowler was ahead in the count 3-0, he struck out looking at a 3-2 low-and-away slider. Edman softly lined a high fastball to 2nd to end the inning. Ryan Helsley came out for the bottom of the 6th. Ahmed grounded an outside fastball up the middle. Edman almost made a great sliding stop, but he couldn’t come up with the ball and it bounced off of his glove. Ahmed had an infield single. Kelly struck out for the 3rd time, this time looking at an 0-2 hanging back door cutter. Switch-hitter Abraham Almonte pinch hit for the pitcher Sherfy and grounded a first-pitch hanging cutter to 1st base for an inning-ending 3-6-3 double play.

Righty Kevin Ginkel came out to pitch the top of the 7th. After Goldschmidt struck out swinging at a slider in the dirt, Ozuna worked a 3-2 walk. Molina struck out swinging at an 0-2 slider in the dirt, and DeJong did the same thing to end the inning. Giovanny Gallegos came in to pitch the bottom of the 7th and retired the top of the Diamondbacks’ order in order with 2 infield popups and a fly ball. Righty Yoshihisa Hirano came out to pitch the top of the 8th. Carpenter took the 3-1 pitch, an outside fastball, that the umpire called a strike although it looked like it was off the plate a bit. He then struck out swinging at a 3-2 fastball. Bader lined an up-and-in fastball just over the wall in left field for a solo HR to extend the Cards’ lead to 7-5 for a key insurance run.

Tyler O’Neill pinch hit for Gallegos and flied out to center. Fowler struck out for the 4th time tonight, this time swinging at a split-finger in the dirt. John Brebbia came out for the bottom of the 8th and retired the Diamondbacks in order with 2 strikeouts. The 2nd strikeout victim was Lamb and the 1-2 inside fastball was called a strike on the corner even thought it could easily have been called a ball.

Righty Jon Duplantier pitched the top of the 9th, and Edman walked to lead off the inning. Goldschmidt could and probably should have been punched out on a 1-2 outside fastball that the umpire called a ball. On the next pitch, he chopped a slider off of home plate to the hole. Lamb fielded it, hesitated just a bit in getting the ball out of his glove and Goldschmidt beat his throw to 1st for an infield single. Ozuna walked, taking a very close 3-1 up-and-in fastball to load the bases. Molina drove a low-and-away curveball to the gap in left-center. Rojas actually tripped in left field but was able to catch Molina’s fly ball from his knees. Edman scored on the Sac Fly to extend the Cards’ lead to 8-5, and Goldschmidt tagged up and went to 3rd on the play. Lefty Robby Scott came in to pitch to DeJong with runners at the corners and 1 out. Scott’s 2-0 pitch to DeJong was a low-and-in slider that Kelly just missed, with the ball bouncing off of his shin guard and getting away to his right. Goldschmidt scored on the passed ball to extend the Cards’ lead to 9-5, with Ozuna moving to 2nd. DeJong walked on 4 pitches. Carpenter drove a low-and-in sinker deep to the track in left-center, deep enough to allow the Cardinal runners to tag up and advance to 2nd and 3rd. But the Cards would do no more damage, as Bader grounded out to 3rd to end the inning.

Brebbia stayed out for the bottom of the 9th. Ahmed lined the first pitch, a middle-away 91 mph fastball, just over the right-center field wall for a solo HR to cut the Cards’ lead to 9-6.

Kelly worked a 3-2 walk. This is a bummer, because now Shildt felt the need to bring in Carlos Martinez, who only had 1 day off yesterday after pitching 4 days in a row, making this appearance the 6th out of the last 8 days. Switch-hitter Ildemaro Vargas pinch hit for Scott and flied out to center. Dyson hit a hard grounder to 2nd, but the Cards could only get the 4-6 force, as Dyson was too fast to double up. With Rojas at the plate, Dyson took 2nd base on fielder’s indifference on the first pitch. Rojas crushed a low changeup to the track in right-center that one-hopped the wall in the deepest part of the outfield. Dyson scored to cut the Cards’ lead to 9-7 and Rojas stood up safely with a double. But Escobar struck out looking at a high-and-outside backdoor slider that hung in the strike zone to end the game and give Martinez his 24th save of the year.

Odds and Ends

The Brewers and Cubs both had the day off. The Brewers close out the season with 3 games at Cincinnati and 3 games at Colorado. The Cubs travel to Pittsburgh tomorrow for a 3-game series against the Pirates before finishing the season off with 3 games in St. Louis...The Cards’ magic number for clinching the NL Central division is now 3...The Cardinals officially eliminated the Diamondbacks from postseason competition tonight when they beat them...With the Phillies 7-2 loss to the Nationals tonight, they are hanging on by a thread. They have to win all their remaining 7 games and hope either the Brewers or Nationals lose all their remaining games to stay alive...The Mets also had a crushing 8-4 loss at home to the Marlins today that put them on the brink of elimination. Any combination of 2 Brewers wins or Mets losses will knock them out of the playoffs...The Cubs are still alive, but any combination of 3 Brewers wins or 3 Cubs losses will having them watching postseason baseball in October instead of playing it for the first time since 2014. If the Tampa Bay Rays hold on for a wild card spot, Kolten Wong’s brother Kean will not participate in the postseason. The Rays designated him for assignment on September 22nd, when they activated 2B Brandon Lowe from the 60-day IL.