Tonight was a good night for the Cards. With the possible exception of the San Francisco Giants, whose game is still in progress, and perhaps the Milwaukee Brewers, every club in close contention with the Cards for a playoff spot lost tonight. Dylan Carlson had 3 hits, just missing a homer for the cycle. But the story tonight was Austin Gomber. Austin Gomber’s preferred role for the Cards has always been as a starter. He helped the Cards in both the rotation and the bullpen in 2018, starting 11 games and pitching 18 games in relief. He was set to be the #1 starter for AAA Memphis last season, and certainly would have been given a spin in the rotation had he not lost basically the whole season with arm fatigue. This year, he was set to help the most in the bullpen, and was even discussed in terms of a high-leverage left-handed relief option in the late innings. He started two prior games this season, but only in games of a doubleheader, and maxed out at 3 innings pitched. The Cards asked Gomber to start tonight’s game basically because they had to. Johan Oviedo had not spent enough days on option to be recalled without making a phantom injured list move, and the club didn’t feel comfortable asking Daniel Ponce de Leon to make his 2nd straight start on 3 days of rest. Gomber was essentially all they had, and although we hadn’t seen evidence of it, we were told that Gomber was stretched out to the point that he could throw 80 pitches or so. It’s fair to say that the Cards simultaneously trusted Gomber to do the job while realizing that he was the club’s real option. And Gomber rewarded their faith tonight, by pitching the deepest he’s pitched in a professional game since September 7th, 2018, while allowing no runs or walks. His breaking stuff wasn’t the sharpest, but he spotted his fastball and relied on a good changeup as he went through the order a 2nd time to get some tough outs. The Cards needed someone to step up to claim Dakota Hudson’s vacated spot in the rotation, and Gomber has staked as good a claim as anyone to take it and run with it.
To honor the Negro Leagues tonight, both clubs are wearing old uniforms from that league. The Royals are appearing in the red and white with pinstripes of the 1945 home uniform of the Kansas City Monarchs. The Cards are wearing the grey and navy with red trim of the 1930 St. Louis Stars road uniforms.
Kolten Wong grounded the first pitch from Royals’ starter Brady Singer, a high-and-outside sinker, to short to lead off the game. Tommy Edman grounded a low 0-1 slider to 2nd, with Nicky Lopez drifting to his left and making a throw across his body. Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Carpenter both worked back-to-back 3-2 walks, but the Cards couldn’t capitalize, as Yadier Molina struck out waving late at an outside 1-2 fastball to end the inning. Austin Gomber took the hill for the Cards. Whit Merrifield flied a low-and-in 2-1 fastball to right to lead off the bottom of the 1st. Adalberto Mondesi drove a high-and-outside 1-2 curve to deep right-center. Fowler drifted back towards the wall, but the ball eluded Fowler’s outstretched glove and bounced on the track and off the wall. Mondesi raced to 3rd base for a 1-out triple. On the 9th pitch of the plate appearance, Salvador Perez struck out chasing a high-and-outside 3-2 curve. Jorge Soler then grounded a low-and-in 1-0 fastball to Edman at short to end the inning and strand a runner at 3rd.
After Brad Miller walked on 5 pitches to lead off the top of the 2nd, Dexter Fowler worked a 3-2 walk, taking a very close 2-2 slider near the inside corner. Dylan Carlson then drove a 2-0 inside slider to the gap in right-center that rolled to the wall for a double to score both Miller and Fowler to give the Cards a 2-0 lead.
Harrison Bader struck out swinging at an elevated 93 mph 1-2 fastball. Wong lined an outside 2-2 backdoor slider to right-center for a base hit to score Carlson and extend the Cards’ lead to 3-0. With the count 1-1 on Edman, Wong tried to steal 2nd base, but the catcher Perez threw him out.
After Edman walked on 5 pitches, Goldschmidt struck out looking at a low 3-2 sinker to end the inning. Maikel Franco grounded a low 0-2 fastball to 2nd to lead off the bottom of the 2nd. Hunter Dozier grounded a low-and-in 2-2 curve to 3rd. Edward Olivares slowly chopped an inside 1-2 inside fastball to the left side. Carpenter charged and tried to make the throw, but he had no chance and Goldschmidt dove to stop the throw from getting away. After Olivares’ base hit, Bubba Starling blooped a first-pitch high fastball to shallow center. Bader raced in and made a sensational diving catch to end the inning.
Another night, another #STLCards center fielder, another brilliant catch. Harrison Bader makes a stellar diving grab to rob Bubba Starling of a hit.— FOX Sports Midwest (@FSMidwest) September 23, 2020
Stream: FSGO - https://t.co/XPAI22AZyU pic.twitter.com/aWDIpB65wj
Singer hit Carpenter on the right arm by the elbow with a 2-2 fastball to start the top of the 3rd. Molina grounded a high-and-outside 2-1 sinker to 3rd. Franco tried to get the force at 2nd, but Carpenter beat the throw, and I’m not sure if he was running on the pitch. Lopez fired to 1st base for the unusual 5-4-3 single out. Brad Miller grounded an inside 1-2 slider to Dozier guarding the line at 1st. Carpenter moved to 3rd on the play. Fowler struck out looking at a low 1-2 fastball to end the inning. To lead off the bottom of the 3rd, Lopez tapped a low-and-away 3-2 fastball to the left side, with Carpenter charging and throwing him out. Merrifield hit a 1-2 high-and-outside fastball for a sinking liner to shallow right, with Fowler rushing in and making a sliding catch. Mondesi grounded an inside 1-0 fastball to 2nd to end the inning.
To lead off the top of the 4th, Carlson drove a low-and-in 1-2 slider down the right field line an into the corner for a leadoff triple.
Royals’ manager Mike Matheny came out to make a pitching change, got into it with the home plate umpire about something and was ejected on his 50th birthday.
Righty Jake Newberry came out to pitch to Bader, who struck out chasing an 0-2 slider about a foot outside. After Wong worked a 3-2 walk to put runners at the corners, Edman grounded a first-pitch low-and-away change to 2nd for a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play. At first, the umpires ruled Edman safe at first base, but the Royals challenged the play and on review, they determined that the throw from Lopez just barely beat Edman. To lead off the bottom of the 4th, Perez grounded a 1-2 low-and-away change off of Gomber’s glove to Edman into the shift for the 1-6-3 putout. Soler struck out swinging at a low-and-away 1-2 change. Franco grounded a low-and-away 1-1 change to 3rd to end the inning.
Righty Kyle Zimmer came out to pitch the top of the 5th for the Royals. Goldschmidt led off the inning by sharply grounding a high-and-outside 0-1 fastball just barely over the 1st base bag and off of the sidewall in right for a double. Carpenter struck out chasing a low 2-2 slider out of the zone. Molina struck out chasing a very elevated 3-2 fastball. Brad Miller then went down and golfed a low 1-2 curve off of the base of the right field wall for a double to score Goldschmidt and extend the Cards’ lead to 4-0.
Went down and got it! pic.twitter.com/ULXVBGFp5w— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 23, 2020
Fowler slowly rolled a first-pitch low-and-away slider down the first base line for Dozier to end the inning. Dozier flied a low-and-in 1-1 slider to center to lead off the bottom of the 5th. Olivares grounded a 1-0 outside change deep in the hole near short. Edman made a nice diving stop, but bounced his throw to Goldschmidt, and the ball went out of play into the Cards’ dugout. The play was ruled single, E6, and Olivares was awarded 2nd base. Starling struck out chasing a high-and-outside 0-2 fastball. Lopez lined an outside 2-1 fastball right to Carlson in left to end the inning.
Zimmer had to come out of the game after getting a 1-2 count on Carlson to start the top of the 6th. After that pitch, he kept shaking his right arm as if it was numb. Righty Tyler Zuber came out to pitch, and Carlson lined a high-and-outside 2-2 fastball to left for a base hit. After Bader walked on 4 pitches, Wong bunted a first-pitch fastball to sacrifice the runners to 2nd and 3rd, almost beating out the throw to 1st. Edman drove a first-pitch low-and-in slider deep to right-center, with Starling running it down at the track. Carlson scored on the Sac Fly to extend the Cards’ lead to 5-0, and Bader tagged up and went to 3rd. Goldschmidt struck out looking at a 1-2 outside fastball to end the inning. Merrifield softly lined a first-pitch hanging curve to left-center for a base hit to lead off the bottom of the 6th. Mondesi grounded a 1-1 inside slider to Carpenter at 3rd for a 5-4-3 double play. Perez sharply grounded a low 1-1 fastball towards the 3rd base line past the bag. Carpenter dove to stop the ball, got up and made a strong throw to 1st to retire Perez on a remarkable play to end the inning.
Carpenter struck out chasing a high-and-outside 2-2 fastball to lead off the top of the 7th. Molina popped a high 3-2 fastball to Lopez at 2nd on the outfield grass. Brad Miller struck out chasing an elevated 0-2 fastball to end the inning. Gomber’s night was done after 76 pitches, and Shildt brought in Ryan Helsley to pitch the bottom of the 7th. Soler grounded a 2-2 center-cut fastball deep to 3rd over the bag. Carpenter raced over to field it and threw to 1st with Goldschmidt making the tag for the out. Franco grounded an inside 2-2 fastball to the left side towards the hole. Carpenter went over, cut the ball off, spun around, and threw the ball way over Goldschmidt’s head at 1st. The throwing error allowed Franco to reach 1st safely. Dozier struck out looking at a 2-2 low-and-in backdoor cutter that just clipped the edge of the zone. After Olivares walked on 5 pitches, Starling struck out swinging at a 2-2 low cutter to end the inning.
Righty Chance Adams came out to pitch the top of the 8th for the Royals. Fowler grounded a first-pitch low-and-outside fastball to the shortstop Mondesi into the shift on the right side of the 2nd base bag to lead off the inning. Carlson flied a high 2-1 curve to the track in left. Bader flied an outside 2-2 fastball to right in front of the track to end the inning. Genesis Cabrera came out to pitch the bottom of the 8th for the Cards. Lopez softly lined an up-and-in 2-1 fastball to the right-center field for a base hit, with Bader cutting it off. Merrifield struck out swinging at a 1-2 low-and-in change. Mondesi lined a low-and-in 0-1 fastball right to Carpenter at 3rd. Perez tapped a low 1-0 change to 3rd to end the inning.
Wong ripped a 2-0 center-cut first-pitch fastball to center for a base hit to lead off the top of the 9th. Edman squibbed an inside 0-2 fastball to short for the 6-4 force and beat out the throw to 1st. Goldschmidt flied a low-and-away curve to Starling in right-center. Carpenter grounded a 1-0 center-cut fastball to the 2nd baseman Lopez into the shift on the outfield grass to end the inning. Jake Woodford came out to pitch the bottom of the 9th for the Cards. Soler struck out looking at a 2-2 slider that looked like it was a few inches outside. Franco chased a very high 2-2 fastball, but grounded it through the right side for a base hit. After Dozier walked on 5 pitches, Olivares struck out looking at an outside 0-2 fastball. Lefty Ryan O’Hearn pinch hit for Starling and struck out looking at an outside 3-2 fastball to end the game that that might have clipped the corner. This loss for the Royals officially eliminated them from the playoffs.
Gomber (4 days rest since last relief appearance) 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO; Helsley (2 days rest, bottom 7, ahead 5-0) 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO; Cabrera (2 days rest, bottom 8, ahead 5-0) 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO; Woodford (2 days rest, bottom 9, ahead 5-0) 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO.
ODDS AND ENDS
While it was thought that the Cards would have to play the September 28th doubleheader in Detroit if the games would affect the seedings in any way, we have since learned that is not the case. The Cardinals will only play the games if doing so would affect (1) whether the Cards get home field advantage in the wild card round, (2) whether the Cards make the playoffs at all, or (3) whether another contender makes the playoffs at all. If the playoff contestants are set, and the only question is which club is the 6th, 7th or 8th seed, the games will not be played. If any club in contention plays less than 60 games, winning percentage and not record will be used to determine not only who makes the playoffs, but playoff seeding...The Cubs lost to the Pirates 3-2. Anthony Rizzo hit a 2-out, 2-run homer to tie the game 2-2 in the top of the 8th, but Jacob Stallings hit a walkoff solo HR off of lefty reliever Andrew Chafin in the bottom of the 9th to win the game for the Pirates. Steven Brault followed up on his complete game performance against the Cards last week with another strong 7-inning performance. Despite the loss, the Cubs still clinched a playoff spot because the Nationals swept the Phillies in their doubleheader earlier in the day...The Reds lost to the Brewers 3-2. Reds’ starter Sonny Gray was activated from the injured list to make today’s start, and he did a fine job with 5 innings pitched, only 1 walk and 8 strikeouts. But Tejay Antone allowed 2 doubles, a single and a Sac Fly to let the Brewers score 2 runs in the top of the 6th, which proved to be the margin of victory.