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Cards Collapse in Ninth, Blow Two-Run Lead and Lose Game 1 to Phils 6-3

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

This is one of the toughest recaps I’ve ever had to write. My general feeling going into this series was that the Phillies were not a great matchup for us in a 3-game series. I thought that even though the Cards’ offense was ranked among the top few offenses overall, we might struggle against the Phillies’ duo of Wheeler and Nola. I thought there was a chance we could get skunked two games to none, but if the Cards could pull of a victory in either of the first two games, we had the edge in Game 3. I expected a relatively low scoring game, which we got until late. What I did not expect was a ninth inning meltdown, the likes of which I haven’t seen. Indeed, the Cards were 93-0 in postseason history when entering the ninth inning with at least a two run lead. Until today. Remember that the Cards only had a 1-0 lead in the 9th in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, otherwise known as the Denkinger game. I’ll lay out everything that happened, together with notes on the specific ninth inning issues that Oli Marmol addressed in the post-game presser.

Jose Quintana took the mound for the Cards to start the game. Kyle Schwarber popped an outside 1-2 fastball to Yadier Molina foul to the left of the foul line for the first out. Rhys Hoskins flied an up-and-in 3-2 fastball to shallow left, where Dylan Carlson cut Corey Dickerson off for the catch. J.T. Realmuto chopped a first-pitch low-and-in curve towards the third base line. Arenado fielded it on the short hop, then performed his patented “three-step across-the-body throw” to first to end the inning. Righty Zack Wheeler took the hill for the Phils. Lars Nootbaar got the Cards a base runner right away in the bottom half by grounding a low-and-in 98 mph fastball through the right side for a base hit. Albert Pujols flied a down-the-middle fastball deep to right-center, but the centerfielder Matt Vierling caught it at the track. After Paul Goldschmidt struck out looking at a 2-2 99 mph four-seamer that painted the corner high-and-outside, Nolan Arenado flied an outside 3-2 fastball to right to strand the runner.

To start the top of the 2nd, Bryce Harper blooped a low-and-away 0-1 curve to shallow center, where Dylan Carlson made a nice running catch for the out. Nick Castellanos chased a 1-1 outside change and flied out to short right field. Alec Bohm flied a first-pitch hanging curve to right, and Quintana got out of the inning in six pitches. In the bottom half, Brendan Donovan laced a low 2-1 fastball to center, but right at the centerfielder for the first out. Carlson chased a high-and-inside 1-2 fastball and fouled out to the 3rd baseman Bohm. Corey Dickerson chased a nasty 1-2 curve in the dirt to strike out and end the inning.

Jean Segura grounded a 2-2 high-and-outside sinker to second to lead off the top of the 3rd. Bryson Stott walked on five pitches to give the Phillies their first baserunner of the afternoon. After getting ahead in the count 2-0, Matt Vierling sharply grounded a down-the-middle sinker through the right side for a base hit to move Stott to 2nd. But the Phils could not capitalize on the opportunity. Schwarber struck out swinging at a low-and-away 2-2 curve. Hoskins was ahead in the count 3-1, but Quintana painted the outside corner with a curve for strike two. After a quick visit to the mound by Molina, Hoskins grounded another outside curve to short to end the threat. To lead off the bottom of the 3rd, Yadier Molina flied an inside first-pitch fastball to center. Tommy Edman lined a low 1-2 fastball towards the track in right. Castellanos settled under it, but was called off by Vierling, and the two narrowly avoided a collision. Nootbaar popped a 3-2 hanging curve foul towards the seats to the left of the third base line, where Bohm made a nice running catch against the netting to end the inning.

Realmuto skied an inside 1-2 curve to medium left for the first out of the top of the 4th. Harper struck out swinging late at an 0-2 outside fastball. Castellanos worked the count to 3-2 and 8 pitches, but sharply grounded a low sinker right to Arenado at 3rd to end the inning. After Pujols grounded a low-and-away 1-1 sinker to lead off the bottom half, Wheeler hit Goldschmidt on the right arm with a 2-2 inside sinker. Arenado then smoked a first-pitch low fastball to deep left-center. The ball looked like it had a chance to go out, but Vierling tracked it down at the track. Donovan then struck out looking at an outside 1-2 curve that looked like it was clearly off the edge a bit.

Bohm started the top of the 5th by driving a first-pitch inside 90 mph fastball down the left field line and into the corner for a double. Segura grounded a 2-2 down-the-middle fastball to second to move Bohm to 3rd base. The Cards put their infield in, right behind the grass for Stott, who grounded a 2-2 inside sinker hard, but right to Donovan at 2nd. Donnie looked Bohm back, then fired to first for the out. Vierling then flied a first-pitch low-and-in curve to shallow left for Dickerson, and the Phils stranded a runner at 3rd. In the bottom of the 5th, Carlson worked the count to 8 pitches, but tapped a 3-2 low-and-away curve to first for the 3-1 flip. Dickerson also worked the count to 3-2 but flied a down-the-middle fastball to medium left field. Molina must have been expecting something else, as he struck out looking at an outside 0-2 fastball to end the inning.

Marmol sent Quintana back out for the top of the 6th to face the order for a third time. After seeing a steady diet of curves, Schwarber struck out swinging at a 2-2 fastball over the heart of the plate.

It turned out that it was only the lefty Schwarber that Quintana would see for the third time, as Marmol brought Jordan Hicks in to pitch to the righty Hoskins. Hoskins popped a low 3-2 slider to Donovan in the outfield grass over the 2nd base bag. Realmuto worked the count to 3-2, but chased an outside 99 mph fastball that would have been ball four, grounding to Goldschmidt at 1st. Goldy took it himself, and raced over to the base to end the inning. Edman led off the bottom of the 6th by chopping a first-pitch low fastball to the right side that just made it through for a base hit. Nootbaar then worked a 3-2 walk, as Wheeler showed wildness to his glove side. With runners at 1st and 2nd and nobody out, Pujols sharply grounded an 0-1 inside sinker to Bohm at 3rd for a 5-4-3 double play. Nootbaar tried to take Segura out at 2nd, but he got out of the way and had plenty of time to throw Pujols out. Edman moved to 3rd on the play, but Goldy stranded him there when he chased an up-and-in 1-2 fastball and grounded out to 3rd.

Giovanny Gallegos came out for the top of the 7th. Harper grounded an outside 1-0 slider hard to the right side, but Donovan was in perfect position in the shift on the outfield grass for the out. After Castellanos struck out swinging at a low-and-away 1-2 slider, Bohm ended the inning when he flied an outside 1-2 slider to shallow right. After Arenado flied a middle-in 0-2 fastball to center, the Phils brought in lefty Jose Alvarado to pitch to Donovan. Donnie grounded an inside 1-1 100 mph sinker to 2nd. After Carlson worked a 3-2 walk, Marmol sent Juan Yepez in to pinch hit for Dickerson. Yepez skied a first-pitch hanging 92 mph cutter high and deep to left, which curled inside the foul pole and into the seats for a 2-run homer to give the Cards a 2-0 lead. That was the first go-ahead pinch hit homer in Cardinal postseason history.

And a little bat flip for good measure.

Molina grounded a down-the-middle 0-1 cutter to 3rd to end the inning.

The Cards made several changes for the top of the 8th. Ben DeLuzio came in to play CF in the #7 spot to replace Yepez, with Carlson moving from CF to RF, and Nootbaar shifting from RF to LF. Paul DeJong also came in to play short in the #5 spot, with Edman moving from short to second and Donovan exiting the game. To lead off the top of the 8th, Segura lined a low-and-away 2-1 fastball to left. After Stott walked on 4 straight pitches, Ryan Helsley came on in relief. Lefty-swinging Brandon Marsh pinch hit for Vierling. Marsh managed to hold up on a tough curve in the dirt on the 1-2 pitch, but struck out looking at an outside 99 mph fastball painted on the corner. Schwarber popped a high-and-outside 100 mph fastball to Arenado opposite the shift in the shortstop position to end the inning. Righty David Robertson came out for the Phils in the bottom of the 8th, and Marsh stayed in the game in center. Edman struck out looking at an outside 3-2 92 mph cutter to start, then Nootbaar struck out chasing a 1-2 curve in the dirt. Pujols tapped a low 2-2 slider back to the mound to end the inning.

Helsley came back out for the top of the 9th to try and finish the Phils off. Hoskins struck out chasing a low-and-away 3-2 slider. Realmuto blooped a low-and-away 1-1 slider to left-center for a base hit. Here is where things went off the rails for Helsley. Helsley was ahead of Harper in the count 1-2, but lost him to a 3-2 walk. Once Helsley got to 1-2 in the count on Harper, a couple of non-competitive pitches surfaced. Here’s the 1-2.

Now the 2-2.

This was the 3-2 curve, where it looked like Helsley was trying to get Harper to chase. Not a terrible pitch.

With runners at 1st and 2nd now, there is no one warming in the pen. Castellanos walked on 5 pitches to load the bases. The first two pitches weren’t terrible—a slider low-and-away in the dirt to perhaps induce a chase, then a slightly up-and-in fastball for a ball. Pitch number three was a nice low-and-away slider on the corner low-and-away that induced a swing and miss. Now it gets ugly. Here’s the 2-1.

And the 3-1 for the walk.

Nowhere near close for that slider. Now the activity starts in the bullpen, as both Jack Flaherty and Andre Pallante hurriedly get loose.

First comes a slider to Bohm that bounced in front of the plate.

The 1-0 pitch was fine, a 100 mph fastball on the corner high-and-outside that Bohm fouled back. But Helsley then hit Bohm on the left shoulder with a 1-1 inside 101 mph fastball. Realmuto scored to cut the Cardinal lead to 2-1.

Maddux and the training staff went out to check on Helsley, and that was after Maddux made an earlier trip. At this point, Helsley has thrown 23 pitches this inning and 33 pitches total. Marmol also came out, and had Helsley throw a couple of warmup pitches after the staff looked at his pitching hand. Helsley ended up coming out of the game. Edmundo Sosa pinch-ran for Bohm, and Andre Pallante came in to pitch to Segura. Segura missed badly on a 2-1 slider that was about a foot outside. With the count 2-2 and the infield in half-way, Segura chased a low-and-away slider and poked it to the right side on the ground. Edman delayed going to his left on contact, initially shifting his weight just a bit to his right. He then drifted to his left and dove for it, but the ball snuck under his glove and into right for a base hit. Harper and Castellanos both scored to give the Phils a 3-2 lead. Sosa went to 3rd on the play.

With runners at the corners now, Stott sharply grounded a low-and-in 1-2 curve down the first base line. Goldy dove for it, snagged it, and decided to fire to the plate, instead of securing the out. But the speedy Sosa slid under Yadi’s tag to score and extend the Phils’ lead to 4-2. Segura went to 2nd on the fielder’s choice.

Marsh chopped an outside 2-2 fastball opposite the shift towards Arenado at the shortstop position. Arenado went to his left, but instead of getting in front of the ball, he waved his glove at it, and the ball went in to left for a base hit. I’m not sure how the scorer called this a base hit, but it was so called. Segura scored to give the Phillies a 5-2 lead, and Stott went to 3rd on the play.

Schwarber flied a first-pitch low-and-in fastball to deep center for a Sac Fly to score Stott and give the Phils a 6-2 lead.

Hoskins struck out looking at a 2-2 inside fastball to end the inning. It looked like a ball, but it was called a strike, and the Phils sent 10 men to the plate in the half-inning.

Sosa stayed in the game at third, and righty Zach Eflin came in to pitch the bottom of the 9th for the Phils. Goldschmidt flied a low-and-in 0-1 curve to left for the first out. Arenado blooped an outside 1-2 fastball to right that dropped inside the line for a base hit. DeJong flied a low-and-in 0-2 fastball to center. After Carlson worked another 3-2 walk to move Arenado to 2nd, Nolan Gorman pinch hit for DeLuzio. Gorman grounded a low-and-in 1-1 fastball towards the middle, past the glove of the diving Segura for a base hit to score Arenado, move Carlson to 2nd and cut the Phils’ lead to 6-3.

But Molina struck out swinging at a nasty 1-2 low-and-away cutter to end the game.

Quintana (3 days rest) 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO; Hicks (1 day rest, top 6, 1 out, bases empty, tied 0-0) .2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 SO; Gallegos (3 days rest, top 7, tied 0-0) 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO; Helsley (2 days rest, top 8, 1 out, man on 1st, ahead 2-0) 1 IP, 1 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO, HBP; Pallante (2 days rest, top 9, 1 out, bases loaded, ahead 2-1) .2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO, allowed 3 out of 3 inherited runners to score.

Wheeler 6.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, HBP; Alvarado (bottom 7, 1 out, bases empty, tied 0-0) .2 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 SO, 1 HR; Robertson (bottom 8, down 2-0) 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO; Eflin (bottom 9, ahead 6-2) 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO


*Although Helsley apparently felt fine in the 8th, at some point during his 9th inning stint, he started to lose feeling in his fingers. They’re running tests now to determine if Helsley will be able to continue. The Rules would allow the Cards to make an injury replacement in the middle of this series. The replacement would have to be another pitcher. Check out this article I wrote back during the 2019 NLDS when the Braves needed to replace a pitcher. The article goes into great detail on the within-series injury replacement rules and their history.

*Marmol said he had a tough choice between Flaherty and Pallante. He said that if there were two out, he would have gone to Flaherty for the attempted strikeout. But Segura hitting a good amount of groundballs, and Pallante being an outstanding groundball pitcher, he decided on Pallante.

*On the Segura single that gave the Phils the lead, the infield was not being played all the way in. They were playing half-way, and were employing what Oli Marmol called the “X-play” in the post-game presser. They wanted Segura to hit a groundball, and were trying to prepare for two possibilities at the same time. If Segura hit it softly, he wanted to give his infield the chance to make a play at the plate. If he hit it hard enough, he wanted to be able to get the double play. He knew Segura ran well, and didn’t want to lose out on the chance to get the runner at the plate if the ball wasn’t hit in a way that allowed the double play.

*There were 19 balls in play hit with an exit velocity of 95 mph or more. The Cards hit 12 of those, 7 of which were 100 mph or more.

*The Cards (Mikolas) and the Phils (Nola) play tomorrow night at 7:37 p.m. on ESPN2 for Game 2 of the series.

*A Eugenio Suarez RBI double and Cal Raleigh 2-run homer off of Blue Jays starter Alex Manoah in the first inning was all the Mariners would need, as they beat the Jays 4-0. This was the first Mariners playoff victory since October 20th, 2001, a span of 7,657 days. Luis Castillo, traded over from the Reds gave up no runs and no walks over 7.1 IP.

*The Rays and Guardians remained scoreless until the 6th inning. Jose Siri hit a solo shot for the Rays, but was one-upped by Jose Ramirez in the bottom half with a 2-run shot, and the Guardians would hang on to win 2-1

*The Padres are already ahead of the Mets 3-0 in the top of the 3rd. All the scoring has been by homers off of Max Scherzer. Josh Bell hit a 2-run shot in the first, and Trent Grisham added a solo shot in the 2nd.