No Paul Goldschmidt in the lineup meant the Cardinals would need to win without the NL MVP, but at least they still had Nolan Arenado, right? Right?
Unfortunately, Nolan was tossed in the third inning on a close check-swing call. It seemed as though Arenado was more upset that home plate umpire John Libka didn’t check down at first base than he was about the strikeout itself — strikeouts happen. But with Libka grinning at him immediately after the ejection, Arenado lost his mind and Oli Marmol had to separate the two.
With Nolan and Goldy both absent, the Cardinals offense was silenced aside from a Lars Nootbaar homer. St. Louis can still win the series tomorrow afternoon, but four out of five seemed to be the successful scenario everyone was hoping for.
Here’s how Wednesday’s stinker went down:
Lars Nootbaar and Brendan Donovan both hit the ball hard off Cubs’ righty Luke Farrell, but the former flew out to the warning track in right field and the latter flew out to the warning track in left. Nolan Arenado — hitting third with Paul Goldschmidt getting a rare night off — grounded out softly back to Farrell.
Second baseman Nick Madrigal grounded out to his keystone counterpart Nolan Gorman for the first out in the bottom of the first. Ian Happ popped out to Arenado in foul territory for out number two, and relief pitcher Franmil Reyes (DH’ing on Wednesday) struck out swinging to end the inning.
Gorman struck out swinging to start the second inning. Tyler O’Neill popped out to Madrigal at second for the second out of the inning. Corey Dickerson — who was 13 for his last 31 (.419) entering today’s game — doubled into the right field corner with two outs. Albert Pujols grounded out to shortstop to end the top of the second.
Nico Hoerner singled to center and Patrick Wisdom walked to give the Cubs two runners on with no outs. Cubs’ center fielder Rafael Ortega dropped down a beautiful bunt down the third base line for a hit, loading the bases with no outs. Yan Gomes hit a soft ground ball to Tommy Edman at shortstop, who was able to flip over to second base for the force out and nothing more. Hoerner scored to make it 1-0 Cubs in the second.
Rookie right fielder Nelson Velazquez jumped on a full count, center-cut slider and ripped it off the ivy in left field for an RBI double, scoring Wisdom and making it 2-0 Chicago.
Zach McKinstry grounded out to Gorman at second base, scoring Gomes from third and making it 3-0 Chicago. Madrigal grounded out to Edman at shortstop to end the inning, with Chicago up three.
Yadier Molina led off the third inning and hit a deep fly ball to right field, but Velazquez ran it down on the warning track for the first out in the third inning. Edman singled to center with one out. Nootbaar jumped on a first pitch fastball and flew out to right field in basically the same spot he did in the first inning, with Velazquez settling under it for the out. Donovan followed by slicing a single down the left field line, moving Edman into scoring position with two outs.
Arenado came up to bat and worked the count full, including missing a home run by about 10 feet. Then on a 3-2 count, he check-swung at ball four and dropped the bat to run to first base, but home plate umpire John Libka rung him up without even appealing to first base. Arenado, clearly not in agreement, turned around, ran to home plate, and began screaming in Libka’s face. Libka ejected Arenado, and then listened to his protest while grinning directly at him.
Here is a video of the ejection:
This ticked off Oli Marmol, who ran out and got between Libka and his third baseman. He was clearly pointing down to first, letting him know that if he isn’t sure, he needs to at least check with his first base umpire. Marmol was not ejected.
A 12-pitch, 1-2-3 inning for Mikolas in the bottom of the third. Happ grounded out to new shortstop Paul DeJong, who entered the game following Arenado’s ejection. Reyes struck out swinging for the second straight at bat. Hoerner popped out to first baseman Brendan Donovan in foul territory to end the third inning.
Gorman struck out swinging leading off the fourth, his second strikeout of the evening. O’Neill flew out to Happ in left field for out number two. Dickerson kept his heater going with two outs, slapping another base hit to right field. Pujols followed with a double down the left field line, but Happ was able to get to it before it hit the wall — likely saving a run in the process. Dickerson was held at third, so Molina got to bat with runners on second and third, and two outs. Molina swung at the first pitch he saw and pulled a ground ball down the line to Hoerner, who bounced the throw to Wisdom but it was scooped for the third out.
Wisdom grounded out to DeJong at short for the first out in the bottom of the fourth. Ortega hit a ground ball to Gorman’s left, and despite a great diving effort he was not able to make a play on it — Ortega reached with his second infield single of the game. Gomes hit a ground ball directly up the middle, and Gorman was able to catch it while already standing on second base and then fire to first for an inning-ending, 4-3 double play.
Edman led off the fifth and hit a line drive directly at McKinstry down at third base, which he caught for the first out. After flying out to deep-ish right field in each of his first two at bats, Nootbaar tried one more time in the fifth inning but got all of it this time, sending it eight rows into the bleachers to get St. Louis on the board.
David Ross removed Farrell after the home run and brought in right-hander Rowan Wick. Donovan flew out to the warning track in left field for out number two, and DeJong struck out swinging.
Farrell’s final line: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 3 K’s (71 pitches)
Velazquez popped out to Gorman in shallow right field. McKinstry and Madrigal both grounded out to end the inning.
Gorman led off the sixth and hit a sharp grounder to Wisdom up the first base line. Wisdom dove to the ground to corral it and then flipped to Wick covering at first for the first out of the inning. O’Neill followed with a 107 mph line drive single to left field. Dickerson fell behind 0-2 and then was able to muscle a cut fastball that was about six inches above the zone into left field for his third hit of the game. With two runners on and one out, Wick struck out Pujols and got Molina to fly out to shallow left field to end the threat.
Happ grounded out to Gorman at second and Reyes grounded out to Edman at short, followed by a base hit by Hoerner. Wisdom struck out swinging to end the sixth inning.
Right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. relieved Wick in the seventh inning. Edman hit a soft ground ball back to Leiter for the first out, Nootbaar flew out to semi-deep left field for the second out, and Donovan struck out swinging.
Mikolas returned for the seventh inning at 87 pitches. After a 12-pitch battle with Ortega, Mikolas was able to get the Cubs’ outfielder to pop out to shallow left field. Gomes reached on an error from Donovan at first base. Velazquez grounded out softly to third base for the second out, with Gomes moving to second. McKinstry then turned on a slider on the inside part of the plate and yanked it into the bleachers below the right field scoreboard for a two-run homer, making it 5-1 Cubs in the 7th.
Marmol pulled Mikolas after the homer, and Genesis Cabrera trotted in. Cabrera got Madrigal to ground out to end the inning.
Mikolas’ final line: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K’s (106 pitches)
Left-hander Brandon Hughes took over on the mound in the eighth inning and struck out the side. DeJong, Gorman, and O’Neill all failed to put the ball in play.
Cabrera returned and immediately gave up back-to-back-to back singles to Happ, Reyes, and Hoerner, which resulted in a Chicago run to make it 6-1.
Wisdom hit a ground ball back to Cabrera, who turned and got Christopher Morel (who pinch-ran for Reyes) in a rundown between home and third. The Cardinals ran him down for the first out of the inning, but the other runners wound up at second and third with one out. Cabrera intentionally walked Seiya Suzuki to load the bases with one out, and Yan Gomes’ sac fly made it 7-1 Chicago. Velazquez flew out to center field to end the eighth inning with the Cubs leading by two field goals.
Right-hander Kervin Castro — the proud owner of an 11.57 ERA this season — was tasked with protecting the six-run lead. Dickerson led off and went the other way for a base hit, which meant back-to-back games with four hits for him. Pujols popped out to Madrigal at second base. Molina struck out. Tommy Edman grounded out to shortstop. Ballgame.
FINAL: Cubs 7, Cardinals 1
The Cardinals (71-53) will look to bounce back and win the five-game series over the Cubs (54-70) Thursday afternoon at Wrigley. Dakota Hudson (6-6, 4.33 ERA) will throw for the Cardinals in what could be his last chance at holding on to his spot in the rotation. He will be opposed by Marcus Stroman (3-5, 3.83 ERA), who pitched into the eighth inning in his last start — a 6-5 win over Milwaukee.
First pitch is set for 1:20 p.m.
Around the Central
Phillies 7, Reds 5 - Even without Bryce Harper, the Phillies continue to quietly float right around the cut line for the NL Wild Card. If the season ended today, they would be the Cardinals’ first round matchup in the playoffs.
Braves 14, Pirates 2 - The Braves scored a touchdown in the eighth inning, mostly powered by a Matt Olson grand slam. The Cardinals will need to be ready when Atlanta comes into town this weekend.
MLB Pickle #168 - 3/9
I unfortunately traded Luis Robert for this player in my dynasty baseball league two years ago. The worst trade deal in the history of trade deals.