Things were looking a bit grim for the Cardinals heading into Wednesday’s series finale with the Blue Jays. One day after getting hammered 10-3, St. Louis had to find a way to get it done against 2021 All-Star Kevin Gausman, or else head to Washington D.C. having just gone 1-4 against the Reds and Jays to open the second half.
Luckily, first baseman and cleanup man Albert Pujols was up to the challenge. Pujols ended the game a triple shy of the cycle, including a 439-foot three-run homer in the fifth inning that broke the game open. He also reached base twice on Tuesday, and saw his season batting average jump from .226 to .241 after the Toronto series, and his OPS jump from .694 to .741.
Adam Wainwright shook off a tough start against Cincinnati and went seven strong innings Wednesday night against a Toronto offense that had scored 50 runs over their previous four games heading into this one.
Here’s how Wednesday night’s win shook out:
Kevin Gausman was able to set down the Cardinals in order in the top of the first on 16 pitches. Tommy Edman struck out flailing at a splitter off the plate, Dylan Carlson flew out to Raimel Tapia in left field up against the wall, and Tyler O’Neill grounded out to the gold glover Matt Chapman at third base.
George Springer led off for Toronto and hit a ground ball to Brendan Donovan at third base — who is filling in for Nolan Arenado until Friday. Donovan dove to his right, popped up, and threw out Springer by a step for the first out. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a one-out double to left field, but he was subsequently thrown out by Lars Nootbaar trying to tag up on an Alejandro Kirk flyout to right field. The 9-5 double play ended the inning and got Wainwright off the hook.
After reaching base twice last night, Albert Pujols led off the second inning with a line drive single to left field. But was stranded there, as Donovan struck out, Corey Dickerson struck out, and Nootbaar flew out to deep center field.
Wainwright worked a perfect second inning on three pitches. Bo Bichette struck out swinging at a curveball in the dirt, Teoscar Hernandez lined out to Edman at short, and Cavan Biggio took a called three strike at the knees.
*Fun fact: Tonight was the second time Cavan Biggio has faced Adam Wainwright. His father Craig went 3-11 off Wainwright during his career*
Nolan Gorman led off the third inning with a line drive single to center field. Andrew Knizner flew out to Springer for the first out of the third inning. Edman struck out for the second straight at-bat, but Gorman swiped second base on the swing and miss. It was meant to be a hit-and-run, but wound up being Gorman’s first career stolen base.
Even if Gorman hadn’t swiped second he probably would’ve scored anyway, as Carlson sliced a double into the left-center field alley to score him easily and give the Cardinals an early 1-0 lead. It was Carlson’s 22nd double and 29th RBI of the season.
O’Neill struck out swinging to end the top of the third — Gausman’s fifth punchout.
Chapman struck out swinging, Danny Jansen flew out to deep center field, and Tapia grounded out to Edman at shortstop. Wainwright faced the minimum through three innings.
For the second straight at-bat, Pujols led off the inning and reached base. This time, it was a soft ground ball hit cued right down the first base line, with Guerrero and Teoscar Hernandez both shifted well over to the left. Pujols reached second with ease.
Donovan followed with a single to right, and Pujols was waived home by third base coach Pop Warner. The throw from Hernandez beat Pujols by a few feet, and he was cut down trying to score. The broadcast crew was shocked Pujols was sent, and Pujols himself looked shocked as well as he rounded third base before being thrown out for the first out of the inning.
Dickerson flew out to Hernandez in right field for the second out of the inning. Nootbaar then hammered a double down the right field line — scoring Donovan — but was thrown out at third base trying to stretch it into a triple. So to keep track, the Cardinals ran into two outs on the basepaths during the fourth inning, cost themselves one run, but took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth.
Springer led off in the bottom half of the inning and was robbed by Donovan again with a marvelous diving play — to his left this time. Guerrero Jr. gave the Cardinals the Rogers Centre special with a high, chopping single over Donovan’s head at third base. Vladdy stole second base on Kirk’s strikeout (the second out of the inning) — Guerrero’s first stolen base of the season.
With a runner in scoring position and two outs, Bichette hit a ground ball to the right of Edman, who was able to dive out and get a glove on it but not make a play. The ball squirted away, and Guerrero scored to get Toronto on the board. The pitch Bichette hit was a curveball that was way outisde the zone, and the base knock only left the bat at 75 mph.
Hernandez flew out to Carlson in center field to put a bow on the fourth inning.
Gorman led off the fifth inning with a towering, opposite field homer — his 10th of the season. It was Gorman’s first oppo taco of the season, and it traveled 412 feet.
Knizner followed with a double down the right field line, setting up the top of the order with a runner in scoring position and no outs. Carlson flew out to deep center field for out number two, with Knizner tagging to third base. O’Neill drew a four-pitch walk to bring up Pujols, and Toronto went to the bullpen.
Right-hander Trevor Richards took the mound in relief of Gausman, and boy oh boy did he make an mistake to Pujols. Albert dug down and pummeled a 1-0, center-cut fastball into left-center field, and it landed in the second deck of seats 439 feet from home plate. Albert’s 686th career homer (seventh this season) left the bat at 108 mph and gave St. Louis a 6-1 lead in the fifth.
Donovan reached base via infield single after Pujols — the Cardinals’ 10th hit over the first five innings. Dickerson’s groundout to shortstop finally ended the Cardinals’ half of the inning.
Gausman’s final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 6 K’s (86 pitches)
Wainwright struck out Biggio for the second time on a big, looping curveball. Chapman singled to left field with one out, and Jansen flew out. Tapia reached on an infield single with two outs to give George Springer a chance, but he struck out swinging at another slow breaking ball.
Against Richards, Nootbaar popped out on the infield and Gorman struck out swinging for the first two outs. Knizner reached with a two-out single, but Edman grounded out to shortstop for the third and final out.
Wainwright claimed his seventh victim leading off the sixth, striking out Vladdy Jr. on a 74 mph curveball. Kirk lined out to Donovan, who made a diving play to his left on the 101 mph line drive. Bichette flew out to Carlson in center field to end the sixth inning.
Right-hander Jeremy Beasley entered the game for Toronto, in relief of Richards. He hit Carlson in the foot with a backdoor slider leading off the inning. O’Neill flew out to shallow right field for the first out of the inning. Pujols flew out to Springer in center field for the second out. Carlson wandered too far off first base and was picked off by Beasley between first and second to end the top of the seventh.
Hernandez flew out to Nootbaar in right field. Biggio grounded out to shortstop. Chapman struck out, flailing at a cutter that dipped away at the last second.
Left-hander Anthony Banda made his 29th appearance of the season in the eighth inning for the Blue Jays, and the first batter he faced was Donovan — who walked. Dickerson singled into center field, moving Donovan to second. Nootbaar hit a ground ball up the middle that was a surefire 6-4-3 double play, but Banda attempted to make a play on it himself. He wasn’t able to snag it, however, and the ball rolled towards shortstop for an infield single to load the bases with nobody out.
Gorman hit a hard line drive to second base, and Dickerson did not freeze. He was moving towards third, so Biggio snagged the liner and beat Dickerson back to the base for an unassisted, 4-U double play. If you’re keeping track at home, that’s four outs the Cardinals ran themselves into on the bases during Wednesday night’s game. Knizner struck out looking to end the eighth, and the Cardinals got no runs from their bases loaded, no outs situation.
Giovanny Gallegos entered in the bottom of the eighth, making his 36th appearance of the season. Jansen flew out to center field on the second pitch he saw from Gallegos. Tapia flew out to left field. Springer struck out swinging for the second time in the game.
David Phelps — who pitched during Tuesday’s blowout — pitched the ninth for Toronto. Edman flew out to right field, and both Carlson and O’Neill were called out on strikes to give Phelps a scoreless frame.
Ryan Helsley entered the game in a non-save situation because he had not pitched in several days. Guerrero grounded out, Kirk struck out, and Bichette struck out. Ballgame.
FINAL: St. Louis 6, Toronto 1
The Cardinals (52-47) are off Thursday as they travel to Washington D.C. to take on the Nationals (34-66). After taking it on the chin in his start last against Cincinnati, Miles Mikolas (7-8, 2.87 ERA) will take the mound in the nation’s capital Friday night. He’ll be opposed by Anibal Sanchez (0-2, 6.30 ERA) who apparently is still in the league?
First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m.
Around the Central
Reds 5, Marlins 3 - Luis Castillo gave the Reds a quality start in what might’ve been his final start in a Cincinnati uniform.
Brewers 10, Twins 4 - Rowdy Tellez hit two homers and drove in six, and the Brewers are hot, hot, hot.
MLB Pickle #140 - 6/9
The only reason I nailed this is because I was a huge Giants’ doubter last year, and this was one of the guys who I questioned if he was actually good or not.