Ok folks, so I feel a little bad. Recaps have been a thing that regular readers have relied on over the years, especially those that are overseas and don’t get to watch on a regular basis or in a timely manner. My last recap was on May 24th, which just so happened to be the day that I took a new job with a well-known local criminal defense firm. In addition to feeling out the new responsibilities of the office, I’ve been traveling around both this state and Illinois to a degree that I haven’t in many years. It has been a bit of an adjustment period, and in addition to spinning my wheels thinking about what I have to do the next day, many nights I’ve been too exhausted to write a recap. Some nights, I’ve crashed before the game has been over, and for others, I’ve watched the game but didn’t necessarily have it in me to deliver a recap that I’ve customarily put together.
But tonight, in honor of the club’s first nine-game winning streak in over 17 years, I had to summon the energy for not only the loyal fans that have followed the club all year, but for those who’ve come out of the woodwork to join the party. On to the game...
Before the game, the Cards designated RHP Daniel Ponce de Leon for assignment and recalled LHP Brandon Waddell from AAA Memphis, a move which gave the club five lefties and five righties out of the pen. I’ll have more to say about this in a transaction post, but it was a move I didn’t expect today, especially with Waddell as the corresponding transaction. I didn’t expect Ponce to last much longer with the club, but I thought at least he would be kept on the regular season roster until the club decided to bring Dakota Hudson back. Ponce hasn’t been good this year, and may never have been completely healthy. I definitely thought Ponce would be left off of the postseason roster if the Cards made it that far, but for him to go out like this in the middle of the club’s hot streak is a bummer ending for a pitcher for whom it is easy to cheer, given his traumatic brain injury a few years back.
Meanwhile, the Brewers optioned utility man Tim Lopes to AAA Nashville and activated SS Willy Adames from the 10-day IL. That move allowed the Brewers to slide Luis Urias back to 3rd base, push Pablo Reyes back to a full-time bench role and leave first base to a Daniel Vogelbach/Eduardo Escobar platoon. Avisail Garcia, who is having a stellar year, and leading all Brewers regulars with a 117 DRC+, was back in the lineup in right field after a five-game absence. Jackie Bradley, Jr. manned center in place of Lorenzo Cain, who injured himself last Saturday making a catch against the wall. Bradley is having an historically awful season offensively, while also dealing with plantar fasciitis.
After Brewers starter Freddy Peralta mowed down both Tommy Edman and Paul Goldschmidt to start the contest, Tyler O’Neill showed his legendary plate discipline by working the count to 3-2 and ripping a good low-and-away fastball through the middle for a base hit. Nolan Arenado then torched a first-pitch down-the-middle fastball over the wall in left-center for a 2-run homer to get the Cards on the board. While no one cares about RBIs anymore, that dinger put Arenado over the 100-mark, the first Cardinal to have at least that many since Matt Holliday in 2012. He’s also the first 30-homer, 100-RBI man since Albert Pujols in 2010.
1️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ RBI and counting for Nolan Arenado! pic.twitter.com/5MmZq3PxCZ— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 20, 2021
Bader would double down the line in left in the top of the 2nd, but was stranded at 3rd base when Edman struck out for the 2nd time in a row. The Brewers would tie the game up in the bottom of the frame off of Cards’ starter Jon Lester, who had retired the side in order in the bottom of the 1st. Avisail Garcia destroyed an outside, 2-1, 87-mph sinker that was left up, and put it deep over the center field wall for a solo homer to lead off the inning.
After Yelich flied out, Luis Urias lined a first-pitch outside sinker just over the left-center field wall to tie the game 2-2.
From here, the game would remain scoreless until the 6th inning, with each club logging just one single until that point. In the top of the 6th, O’Neill gave us a scare by fouling an 86 mph changeup from Peralta right into his own shin, but he recovered to lay off some tempting sliders and work a 3-2 leadoff walk. Arenado blooped a first-pitch change just over Kolten Wong at 2nd base for a base hit to move O’Neill to 2nd. After Dylan Carlson flied out, Yadier Molina slowly grounded an inside change through the hole to left for a base hit to score O’Neill and give the Cards a 3-2 lead.
Yadier Molina has that clutch gene! pic.twitter.com/zOPigRi16L— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 21, 2021
Peralta would limit the damage by striking out both Edmundo Sosa and Harrison Bader to end the inning, but his night would be done after 96 pitches. Lester ended his night in the bottom of the 6th after only 77 pitches by retiring the Brewers in order.
Hunter Strickland came on in relief of Peralta in the top of the 7th and promptly surrendered a leadoff double to Matt Carpenter, who pinch hit for Lester. Carpenter sliced a low-and-away 96 mph sinker to the gap in left-center. Christian Yelich cut the ball off to stop it from rolling to the wall, but couldn’t make a strong enough throw to get Carpenter, who slid safely into 2nd. After Edman grounded out slowly to 2nd to move Carp to 3rd, Goldschmidt chased an 0-2 high fastball and flied it to medium left-center. It was high enough to allow the center fielder Bradley to almost run in a semi-circle and take two steps forward while making the catch on a trot. It looked like he might have had the momentum to make the play at the plate close, but his throw was weak and off-line to the catcher’s left, allowing Carpenter to make it easily and extend the Cards’ lead to 4-2. Kodi Whitley came out for the bottom of the 7th flashing 97 mph heat and retired the Brewers in order on 9 pitches with a strikeout.
Lefty Brent Suter came out to pitch the top of the 8th for the Brewers and issued a 3-2 walk to Arenado. Carlson laid down a late bunt on the first pitch and pushed the ball to the right side. The first baseman Escobar had to shuffle to his right to get it. The pitcher Suter raced to the bag, caught Escobar’s flip and just barely stuck his right foot on the first base bag in time to nip Carlson at first. This was scored a sacrifice bunt that moved Arenado to 2nd. Molina softly lined a down-the-middle 89 mph fastball to left center to score Arenado and extend the Cards’ lead to 5-2. After Whitley walked Manny Pina to lead off the 8th, Shildt brought in T.J. McFarland to pitch to the lefty Bradley. Like clockwork, McFarland got Bradley to ground a sinker that caught too much plate into a double play. It was a nifty play by Arenado. The Cards were lined up in the shift, with Arenado basically playing the shortstop position and Sosa on the other side of the bag. Arenado got caught a bit in between on what to do with a ball, but quickly concluded that the best way to get the double play with his momentum was to run to the bag and fire to first.
Righty Miguel Sanchez hit Harrison Bader to start the top of the 9th, but Lars Nootbar tried to bunt him to 2nd. Sanchez made an athletic play to his right to field the ball and fired a bounced throw to 2nd to get Bader at 2nd. With Gallegos having pitched the 9th on back-to-back days, Shildt turned to Luis Garcia, who retired the Brewers in order on 8 pitches for his first save of the season.
ODDS AND ENDS
The Cardinals have not had a 9-game winning streak since the 2004 season, from August 27th through September 5th. You have to go back to 2001 for the franchise’s last double-digit win streak. That club had a 9-game, 10-game and 11-game streak...Who would have imagined that Jon Lester would pick up his 200th career win in a Cardinal uniform? Although no one cares much about win totals anymore, Lester is 3rd among active pitchers in that category...The Cards’ two DSL clubs have 9 games left (two of which are against each other), and their season ends on October 2nd...AAA Memphis has 10 games left, ending on October 3rd. Johan Oviedo was ejected from that club’s September 15th game after the top of the 4th inning for an apparent violation of the rules against foreign substances. September 21st would have been his regular turn in the Memphis rotation, but Derrick Goold has reported that Oviedo will have to serve a 10-game suspension. I’m not sure if the previous four games counted or not (the club has Mondays off). If they didn’t, Oviedo is done for the Memphis season...The season for the rest of the Cards’ minor league clubs is over. The results were not good, to say the least. All of the other clubs finished with the worst records their divisions. AA Springfield and High-A Peoria both finished with a 45-75 record, which amounted to a .375 winning percentage. Low-A Palm Beach went a preposterous 37-80, which was about 15 games worse than the Phillies’ farm team that finished in the basement in the other division. All three of these full-season clubs finished with the worst record in their entire respective leagues. The FCL Cardinals finished in the basement of their division, but at least league-wide, it finished with a record better than 7 other clubs...Six Springfield players will finish out the minor league season with AAA Memphis: 1B Luken Baker, C Ivan Herrera, RHP Freddy Pacheco, RHP Andre Pallante, RHP Johan Quezada and RHP Jake Walsh. Justin Williams is also activated from the 7-day Memphis IL. Memphis had a full 28-man roster after Brandon Waddell’s recall. LHP Evan Kruczynski and RHP Ramon Santos have been demoted. Assuming Johan Oviedo’s suspension, there’s still four more roster moves that Memphis will have to make to get to the 28-man limit...The 102-loss Baltimore Orioles skunked the Phillies, needing only 4 first-inning singles off of starter Ranger Suarez to eke out a 2-0 victory. The Pirates jumped out to a 5-0 lead off of starter (?) Victor Gutierrez, but gave four runs right back in the bottom of the 3rd on a 2-run double by Nick Castellanos and a two-run homer by Joey Votto. Then Cody Ponce gave up back-to-back homers to Votto and Eugenio Suarez in the bottom of the 5th to give the Reds a lead they would not relinquish....The reeling Padres were idle, leaving the Cards 3 games ahead of the Reds, 4 games ahead of the Padres, and 4.5 games ahead of the Phillies for the 2nd NL Wild Card spot.