The Cardinals entered play Saturday looking to make up ground in the Central, as Milwaukee and Pittsburgh lost earlier in the day. To do so, they’d have to top Cleveland in game two of a three-game series in which Jack Flaherty faced off against Guardians rookie Tanner Bibee. Flaherty wasn’t at his sharpest, but he managed to scatter seven hits while putting together seven strong innings and giving up just one run.
Credit is due to Andre Pallante and Ryan Helsley, who held a 1-1 tie despite an eighth-inning error and wild pitch that set the Guardians up with a runner on third and no outs. The Cardinals lineup (outside of Brendan Donovan) had no answer for Bibee or the Cleveland bullpen, as the Cards’ top four hitters went 0-20 with one walk and seven strikeouts. This was highlighted by a seventh inning where the Cardinals loaded the bases on walks with no outs and still could not manage a run. Donovan, though, managed a solo shot in the second that got the Cardinals into extras, where he stole third as the ghost runner and scored on a passed ball. Giovanny Gallegos then put together a 1-2-3 tenth, limping the Cardinals to an ugly 2-1 win that will still show up in the W column.
Lars Nootbaar struck out swinging at a 1-2 changeup. Paul Goldschmidt got under another change and skied it to Steven Kwan in left for the second out. Nolan Gorman then popped up a high fastball, putting the Cards down quickly in the first.
Kwan opened the bottom of the frame with a soft groundout to Tommy Edman at second. Amed Rosario hung in for seven pitches and pulled a fastball down the left field line for a double. Jose Ramirez chased a fastball way up and away, striking out for out number two. Josh Naylor tomahawked a fastball to Nolan Arenado, who had to go back on the grounder to make a play. His jump throw was off, however, putting runners on the corners for Cleveland. Josh Bell tried to ambush a first-pitch fastball but popped out to short to strand both runners on base.
Arenado popped a 2-1 slider to short for the first out of the second. Willson Contreras struck out chasing an 0-2 fastball way above the zone. Brendan Donovan turned on a slider breaking down and in, putting it into the second row of right field seats to give the Redbirds a 1-0 lead. Paul DeJong then hit a high popup on the infield which was caught by Naylor to end the top of the frame.
Andres Gimenez rolled a routine groundout to second. Myles Straw followed with a strikeout, swinging behind a high fastball. Will Brennan chopped a grounder to Goldschmidt, who fed a covering Flaherty to put the Guardians down in order.
Alec Burleson beat the shifted infield, taking an outside fastball down the third baseline for a leadoff single. Edman swung over the top of a 1-2 slider for the first out of the inning. Bibee worked Nootbaar low and away with six pitches before coming inside and getting a called strike for the K. Goldschmidt then hit a bullet of a grounder to third, where Ramirez fielded it and threw to second for the fielder’s choice.
Ken Gallagher drilled a fastball straight to Arenado who got the out at first. Kwan walked on five pitches as Flaherty got squeezed a bit zone-wise by the home plate ump, whose zone was typically wide otherwise. Rosario tried to get his bat to a fastball up and in and flew out to center. The 1-1 breaking ball to Ramirez got away from Contreras, allowing Kwan to advance to second. Ramirez capitalized on the miscue, knocking Kwan in to tie the game at 1-1. Goldschmidt then knocked down a grounder from Naylor and stuck with the play to get the final out of the inning.
Gorman led off the fourth with a strikeout, swinging over another changeup low and away. Arenado grounded out to Gimenez, who made a good sliding stop to get the out. Contreras chopped a curveball to third and was the sixth Cardinal in a row retired by Bibee.
Bell skied a 2-1 changeup off the end of his bat for a flyout to center. Gimenez did the same for the second out. Straw read a front-door curveball and got his bat to it, hitting it to the left field wall for a double. Brennan got a cutter in on the hands and muscled it into right, but Donovan caught it to leave Straw standing on second.
Donovan worked the count full and drew an eight-pitch walk. DeJong struck out chasing a breaking ball low and away. Burleson hit a high fastball hard into right, but it was knocked down by the wind blowing in from right to make it a routine flyout. Edman got called back into the box thinking twice that he had a walk, and struck out looking under protest to send the game to the bottom of the fifth.
Gallagher went down looking at a fastball on the outside corner. Kwan followed the backward K with a groundout to first. Rosario was all over a hanging slider, ripping it into the left field corner for a two-out double. Ramirez got to a full count, eventually striking out chasing a fastball off the outside corner for the final out of the inning.
Nootbaar struck out looking at a changeup that cruised down the middle of the plate. Goldschmidt tipped a 2-2 fastball into Gallagher’s mitt for another K. Gorman tattooed a 2-2 fastball into right but right at Brennan, who caught it for the last out.
Naylor softly floated a leadoff single into shallow right to open play in the bottom of the frame. Bell tried to jump on a first-pitch curveball but popped out to short. Gimenez followed with a lazy flyout to left. Straw flew out to Donovan, who was playing shallow in right and awkwardly gave ground to make the catch.
Arenado kicked off the seventh with a walk after James Karinchak replaced Bibee on the mound. Contreras followed suit, obviously looking to take pitches as Karinchak struggled to find the zone. Donovan worked the count full from 1-2 and walked on a fastball way up and away, prompting Terry Francona to pull Karinchak after throwing 12 balls on just 16 pitches. Sam Hentges replaced Karinchak and retired DeJong on a lineout to short right, holding all the runners in place. Juan Yepez pinch-hit for Burleson and struck out looking at a borderline strike on the outside corner. Edman then grounded out to short, stranding all runners after a bases-loaded, no-out setup.
Flaherty returned to start the seventh as Oscar Mercado entered the game in right field. Brennan opened play in the inning with a groundout to second. Tyler Freeman pinch-hit for Gallagher and flew out to the right field warning track. Kwan followed and hit a tough grounder that hit off the heel of DeJong’s glove for an infield single. Rosario then squared up on a first-pitch fastball, lining it directly to Mercado to finish the seventh.
David Fry entered the game behind the plate for Cleveland at the start of the eighth. Nootbaar led off with a groundout to short. Goldschmidt followed with a strikeout swinging through a fastball up and Gorman hit a quick groundout as the Cleveland staff continued to confound the Cardinals lineup.
Andre Pallante relieved Flaherty in the eighth and surrendered a single to Ramirez. Mercado booted the play in right, allowing Ramirez to take second on the error. He then advanced to third on a wild pitch to Naylor, who walked on an inside fastball to put runners on first and third. Gabriel Arias pinch-ran for Naylor at first and took second as Bell grounded out to third. With runners at second and third with one out, Gimenez struck out swinging at a fastball low and in. Ryan Helsley then took the mound to face Straw, who struck out swinging behind a 100 mph fastball up in the zone, getting the Cardinals out of the self-induced jam.
Enyel De Los Santos entered the game in relief for Cleveland and retired Arenado on a flyout at the left field wall. Contreras got fed a steady diet of sliders and grounded out to short. Donovan put in work in his fourth plate appearance, seeing eleven pitches before hitting a broken-bat groundout to short.
Brennan led off the bottom of the ninth with a groundout to DeJong. Fry followed with a popout, also to DeJong. Kwan got under a curveball, skying it to center to send the game to extra innings.
Nick Sandlin came in to pitch the tenth with DeJong at the plate and Donovan at second. Donovan got a huge jump and stole third, after which DeJong grounded out with the infield playing in. Donovan then scored on a passed ball, giving the Cards a 2-1 lead. With the bases empty, Mercado walked on a 3-2 slider that was nowhere near the zone. Edman grounded into a fielder’s choice at second for the second out. Nootbaar struck out, bringing the heart of Cleveland’s order up in the bottom of the frame.
Giovanny Gallegos relieved Helsley with Kwan on second. Rosario skied a first-pitch slider to center, flying out for the first out. Ramirez followed with a flyout to left. Arias rolled a hanging slider to Goldschmidt, who stepped on first to secure the 2-1 win for St. Louis.
The Cardinals improve to 24-30 on the season with the win and are 6-4 in their last ten games They now sit just four games behind the division-leading Brewers. The Redbirds will look to win the three-game series against Cleveland on Sunday, with Jordan Montgomery looking to get back on track against Hunter Gaddis at 12:40 PM CT.