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Cards Clinch Playoff Spot and #5 Seed With 5-2 Victory over Brewers

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Milwaukee Brewers v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

It took me a little while to digest today and to think about how I would open the recap. I still don’t think it has hit me what the Cardinal club has had to endure this year, and I don’t think I will ever be truly able to appreciate it as a mere fan that didn’t have to experience it. But manager Mike Shildt was absolutely correct in his postgame press conference that what happened to the Cardinals was unprecedented in MLB history and even in the history of sports. I know we all exercise our rights as fans to criticize front office signings, roster moves and managerial decisions. And we gripe when bad plays happen and when the offense looks anemic. Even if it hadn’t worked out for the Cards this year, I am very appreciative that I had Major League Baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals to watch this year. This pandemic has shaken the foundation of the entire world and forced us as human beings to alter our lives and behave in a completely different fashion than is our custom. Having Cardinal baseball and this site to write for helped me keep my mind active, allowed me to more fully engage with others and gave me an outlet. I don’t know how I would have handled the past several months without it. Regardless of what happens with the Cards going forward, I’m grateful that I was able to experience this journey with you.

That the Cardinals made the playoffs in light of their circumstances is remarkable to me. I was surprised there even was a season, but when I saw the gauntlet of the schedule the Cards had to navigate, I didn’t see how it would be possible, especially with all the pauses in the schedule and losing so many players to the COVID-19 virus and other ailments for varying periods of time. That the Cardinals would have been in the mix for a postseason spot even in a traditional playoff format is a testament to the hard work, leadership skills and organizational skills of the players, medical staff, coaching staff and the entire front office. Let’s enjoy the ride for as long as we can. Here’s your recap for the final regular season game of the 2020 season.

Austin Gomber took the mound for the Cards. Avisail Garcia flied a high-and-outside fastball to the track near the right field corner for Fowler to lead off the game. Christian Yelich lined a 2-2 low-and-away looping curve up the middle for a base hit. On the 9th pitch of the plate appearance, Ryan Braun smoked a 2-2 low-and-away change for a grounder down the 3rd base line past the bag. Edman was in position, backhanded the ball on one knee, hopped up and made a strong throw to 2nd to start an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play. Lefty Brett Anderson took the hill for the Brewers. Kolten Wong chopped a low-and-away 2-2 sinker to short to lead off the bottom of the 1st. Tommy Edman flied a high-and-outside 1-1 cutter to right. Paul Goldschmidt lined a 1-1 high-and-outside change to right for a 2-out base hit. Dylan Carlson lined a 1-0 low sinker to Braun in right to end the inning.

Jedd Gyorko flied a high 3-2 fastball to shallow right to lead off the top of the 2nd. Gomber hit Daniel Vogelbach on the right hand with an 0-1 fastball. Keston Hiura softly lined a 1-1 up-and-in curve right to Wong at 2nd base. Orlando Arcia popped an up-and-in 2-2 fastball to Yadier Molina in foul territory to end the inning. Yadier Molina drove an inside 1-0 cutter to the gap in left-center, but Yelich made a running catch from left field to stop an extra-base hit. Paul DeJong smoked a 2-2 outside change to deep center field. Garcia raced back and caught the ball on the track, slamming his face into the wall in the process.

Dexter Fowler struck out swinging at a low-and-away 3-2 slider to end the inning.

Luis Urias grounded a low 0-1 fastball to 2nd to lead off the top of the 3rd. Jacob Nottingham grounded a low 2-2 fastball to short. Garcia struck out swinging at a 1-2 change in the dirt to end the inning. To lead off the bottom of the 3rd, Harrison Bader drove a first-pitch low-and-away sinker to deep right-center that one-hopped the wall, and Bader slid in safely with a triple. It appeared that Garcia, who raced over for the ball from centerfield, was a tad gun-shy about getting that close to the wall again, holding up while the ball bounced.

Tyler O’Neill worked a 3-2 walk after being behind in the count 0-2. The Brewers’ training staff came out to check on Anderson after that walk. During the O’Neill plate appearance, he threw a couple of pitches very high-and-outside. During the conference on the mound, Anderson looked at his outstretched hand and shook his head, leaving the impression that he had some type of blister. In any case, he was removed from the game and righty Freddy Peralta was brought in to pitch to Wong. O’Neill stole 2nd base on the 0-1 pitch to Wong. Peralta hit Wong on the left quad with the 1-1 pitch, but the umpires ruled that Wong swung at the pitch, so it was called a strike instead of a hit-by-pitch and the bases loaded. Wong then sharply grounded a high 1-2 fastball back to the mound. Peralta reached back and tried to make the stab, but it deflected off of his glove and went to his right. When Peralta recovered and fired a sidearm throw to 1st base, his throw was wide of Gyorko for an error. This allowed not only Bader to score, but O’Neill to score as well. This was ruled a single (Wong would have beat a good throw anyway), one RBI, plus an E1. The Cards had a 2-0 lead, with Wong also advancing to 2nd base on the same error.

Edman struck out swinging at an 0-2 curve in the dirt. Goldschmidt lined an outside 0-1 fastball to left-center for a base hit to score Wong and extend the Cards’ lead to 3-0. Carlson struck out swinging at a high 3-2 fastball. After Molina worked a 3-2 walk, DeJong flared an up-and-in 1-1 fastball to left for a base hit to score Goldschmidt, move Molina to 2nd and extend the Cards’ lead to 4-0. Fowler blooped an outside curve to shallow center. The shortstop Arcia raced back from his position in the shift to make the play and end the inning.

After Yelich walked on 5 pitches to lead off the top of the 4th, Braun walked on 4 pitches. The umpire called the 2-0 pitch at the bottom of the zone a ball, even though it looked like a strike. Gomber’s 0-1 pitch to Gyorko was a pitch low-and-in and in the dirt that got away from Molina for a wild pitch to move the runners to 2nd and 3rd. Gyorko struck out swinging at a low-and-in 3-2 change. Vogelbach grounded a high-and-outside 1-2 fastball opposite the shift deep into the hole. Edman, who was basically playing in the shortstop spot, fielded the ball and made a strong throw for the out. Yelich scored to cut the Cards’ lead to 4-1.

Braun advanced to 3rd on the play because the positioning left no one to cover 3rd base. Hiura struck out swinging at a 2-2 inside slider to end the inning. To lead off the bottom of the 4th, Bader crushed a high 2-0 fastball and launched it over the left field wall half-way up the aisle in Big Mac Land for a solo HR to extend the Cards’ lead to 5-1. The ball hit a painting that Fredbird was messing with out there.

O’Neill popped a high 2-2 fastball to Gyorko on the outfield grass. Wong flied a center-cut 2-2 fastball to Yelich in left-center. Edman struck out looking at a 3-2 fastball that looked like it was clearly too high and the inning was over.

Gomber’s day was over at 75 pitches, and Giovanny Gallegos came out to pitch the top of the 5th for the Cards. Arcia struck out swinging at an 0-2 slider in the dirt to lead off the inning. Eric Sogard pinch hit for Urias and slowly rolled a low 2-2 slider down the 1st base line for Goldschmidt, who stepped on the bag. Nottingham struck out chasing an 0-2 slider low-and-away and out of the zone to end the inning. Righty Justin Topa came out to pitch the top of the 5th for the Brewers. Sogard stayed in the game at 3B. Goldschmidt struck out swinging at a low-and-away 1-2 99 mph sinker. Carlson struck out swinging at a 1-2 low-and-in slider. Molina grounded a low-and-in 2-1 sinker to short to end the inning.

Garcia grounded a high 2-1 fastball to short to lead off the top of the 6th. Yelich drove a first-pitch low-and-in fastball to deep left-center, but Bader raced over and caught it on the track. Braun struck out looking at an 0-2 low fastball to end the inning. DeJong grounded a low-and-away 1-1 sinker to 3rd to lead off the bottom of the 6th. Fowler drove a low 2-1 sinker deep to right-center, but Braun raced back and made a running play on the track. Bader struck out swinging at a low-and-in 3-2 sinker to end the inning.

After Gyorko grounded a first-pitch high fastball up the middle for a base hit to lead off the top of the 7th, Shildt brought in Genesis Cabrera to pitch to Vogelbach. Vogelbach slowly rolled a 1-2 high-and-outside curve to Wong at 2nd, and the ball was hit slowly enough to allow Gyorko to advance to 2nd base. Hiura struck out swinging at a low-and-away 0-2 change. Cabrera’s 2-0 pitch to Arcia was a low-and-in change in the dirt that got away from Molina for a wild pitch to allow Gyorko to move to 3rd. After Arcia walked on 5 pitches to put runners at the corners, Tyrone Taylor pinch hit for Sogard and grounded a low-and-in 0-1 fastball to 3rd to end the inning. Righty submariner Eric Yardley came out to pitch the bottom of the 7th for the Brewers. Jace Peterson came in to play 3B in the #8 spot. To lead off the inning, O’Neill lined a low-and-in 0-1 sinker that was caught by Braun near the line. Wong tapped a low-and-away 3-2 change to 2nd. Hiura had to charge and hurry and threw across his body, with Gyorko picking the throw out of the dirt for the out. Edman struck out looking at a high-and-outside 1-2 curve that might have just clipped the edge of the zone.

To lead off the top of the 8th, Nottingham got jammed on an inside 1-2 fastball, but blooped it into center for a base hit. Garcia struck out swinging at an elevated 2-2 fastball. After Yelich worked a 3-2 walk, Shildt brought in Alex Reyes to pitch to Braun, who struck out looking at a 3-2 low-and-away 99 mph fastball. Gyorko struck out swinging at an elevated 2-2 99 mph fastball to strand a pair and end the inning. Righty Adrian Houser came out to pitch for the Brewers for the bottom of the 8th. To lead off the inning, Goldschmidt drove a 2-0 center-cut fastball off of the right field wall that Braun played to hold Goldy to a long single. Carlson squibbed a low 1-0 fastball opposite the shift. The 3rd baseman Peterson, who was playing basically at the shortstop position, went to his left to try to get it, but booted it for an error. Molina grounded a low-and-in 1-0 fastball right to Peterson and just fair by the 3rd base bag. Peterson stepped on the bag and fired to 2nd for a 5-4-3 triple play!

To lead off the top of the 9th, Vogelbach grounded a low-and-away 3-2 fastball deep in the hole on the left side. Edman, who was playing there in the shift, fielded the ball and made a strong throw for the out. Hiura grounded a center-cut 1-1 fastball to short. Arcia drove a first-pitch inside fastball deep to the gap in left-center. Carlson raced over to try and make the grab, but the ball went off of his glove and Arcia stood up safely with a double. After Peterson walked on 4 pitches, Nottingham grounded a 1-1 low-and-away slider through the hole to left for a base hit to score Arcia, move Peterson to 2nd and cut the Cards’ lead to 5-2. With the tying run at the plate, Garcia tapped a first-pitch 100 mph fastball up the middle for Wong, who threw across his body for the out to end the game and close out the regular season. Alex Reyes picked up the save, his 1st this season and only the 2nd save of his career. The Cards clinched a playoff spot and the #5 seed with this victory, and will travel to San Diego to the play the #4 seed Padres starting Wednesday, September 30th for a best-of-three Wild Card Series. Up to three games will be played without a day off.

Gomber (4 days rest) 4 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO; Gallegos (2 days rest, top 5, ahead 5-1) 2 IP (pitched to 1 batter in the 7th), 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO; Cabrera (2 days rest, top 7, nobody out, man on 1st, ahead 5-1) 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 SO; Reyes (2 days rest, top 8, 1 out, men on 1st and 2nd, ahead 5-1) 1.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO.

PLAYOFF FIELD

AMERICAN LEAGUE

1. Tampa Bay Rays (40-20); 2. Oakland Athletics (36-24); 3. Minnesota Twins (36-24); 4. Cleveland Indians (35-25); 5. New York Yankees (33-27); 6. Houston Astros (29-31); 7. Chicago White Sox (35-25); 8. Toronto Blue Jays (32-28)

*The Athletics got the #2 seed over the Twins based on the division record tiebreaker (26-14 to 23-17).

*The Indians got the #4 seed over the White Sox due to a better head-to-head record (8-2).

NATIONAL LEAGUE

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (43-17); 2. Atlanta Braves (35-25); 3. Chicago Cubs (34-26); 4. San Diego Padres (37-23); 5. Cardinals (30-28); 6. Miami Marlins (31-29); 7. Cincinnati Reds (31-29); 8. Milwaukee Brewers (29-31)

*The Cardinals got the #5 seed over the Marlins and Reds not due to a tiebreaker but because of a better winning percentage (.5172 to .5167), even though the Cards played two fewer games.

*The Brewers got the #8 seed over the Giants based on the division record tiebreaker (19-21 to 18-22)