This was crucial for the St. Louis Cardinals, and they proved up to the task of maintaining their slim margin for the second Wild Card spot in the National League. Though the 2 games they lost could have been wins, the Redbirds at least got a split of the series.
Behind the Box Scores: On Saturday it looked as though Jaime Garcia pitched well enough to get his 5th win of the season. Let’s take a look at why that wasn’t the case.
Allen Craig hit his 21st homerun of the season off Joe Blanton, scoring both him and Matt Holliday, his 78th and 79th RBI of the season. In the bottom of the inning, Adrian Gonzalez cut the lead in half on a single that brought Shane Victorino around to score. A Mark Ellis homerun in the bottom of the 3rd inning evened the game at 2. That was all the scoring until Allen Craig provided yet another clutch RBI in the 6th, a single that scored Jaime Garcia. That should have been the winning RBI, but the 3-2 score didn’t quite hold on Saturday.
After 2 innings of scoreless relief by Edward Mujica and Mitchell Boggs, in stepped the normally reliable Jason Motte. Uncharacteristically, Motte blew a very important save. It was his 7th blown save of the season, and what’s worse; he took the loss too. Luis Cruz doubled home Dee Gordon, and a Juan Rivera infield single brought home pinch runner Elian Herrera for the 4-2 walk-off win. It was an especially tough loss, because it pulled the Dodgers and Cardinals even, with identical 76-70 records.
Sunday’s game was to be the make-or-break game for the St. Louis Cardinals, as the Los Angeles Dodgers had the chance to pull ahead of the Redbirds to take sole possession of the 2nd Wild Card spot. However, the Cardinals showed that determination and will to win in a game that Daniel Descalso called a “must-win” just moments after Saturday’s loss.
Adam Wainwright took on Stephen Fife, who pitched in place of Clayton Kershaw. In the 1st inning, an Allen Craig double drove in Carlos Beltran, and sent Matt Holliday to 3rd. Fife then uncorked a wild pitch, scoring Matt Holliday. Yadier Molina then walked, but David Freese and Skip Schumaker struck out, and the Redbirds couldn’t add to their 2-0 score.
An Andre Ethier homerun in the bottom of the 3rd tied the game at 2, 3 batters after a Matt Treanor walk. Adam Wainwright settled down after that, going 3 more innings, with a final line of 6 innings, 5 hits allowed, 2 runs, 2 walks, and 4 strikeouts. Trevor Rosenthal followed with 2 innings of scoreless relief with just 1 walk and 4 strikeouts. Fernando Salas also pitched 2 innings, and allowed just 3 base runners, none of whom did any damage. Shelby Miller pitched the 11th inning, allowing 1 hit, and striking out 1, lowering his season ERA to 3.00.
The Los Angeles Dodgers relief was just as good, that is, until the 12th inning. John Ely, now the not-so-proud owner of a 20.25 ERA after allowing 3 earned runs in each of his 2 appearances, stepped in to try and hold the St. Louis Cardinals. Matt Carpenter led off the inning with a walk, and Pete Kozma bunted him to 2nd. After a Daniel Descalso strikeout, Jon Jay stepped in. An 0-5 night was his fate prior to this appearance, and he quickly made everyone forget his ’0-fer’ after his 15th double of the season drove home Matt Carpenter from 2nd base. After John Ely intentionally walked Carlos Beltran, he hit Matt Holliday; Holliday’s second HBP of the game. That loaded the bases for Allen Craig, who has had a number of clutch hits of late. Craig again obliged, singling home Jon Jay on an infield single. Yadier Molina then walked, which scored Carlos Beltran, giving the Redbirds a 3-run inning, and making the score 5-2.
John Ely’s appearance was mercifully over, after a final line of 2/3 of an inning, 2 hits, 3 runs, and 3 walks. Josh Wall came in to get the pinch hitting Steven Hill to fly out, but not before the damage was done. Jason Motte came in to seal the deal looking to give Shelby Miller his first big league win, and himself take home his 35th save after trying to do so and failing miserably the night prior. Other than allowing a walk to Nick Punto, he did his work very well. Though it took 23 pitches, Motte shut the door on the Dodgers, and sent the St. Louis Cardinals home to face the Houston Astros with the identical lead that they came into the weekend with.
Things of Note: Allen Craig was clutch in both games, even though his potential game-winner on Saturday was spoiled. Jaime Garcia had a solid start finally on the road. Shelby Miller received a shower after his first MLB win. Trevor Rosenthal returned to form with an excellent outing. Daniel Descalso saved a run in the bottom of the 10th inning Sunday with a phenomenally executed fielder’s choice. Pete Kozma got his first MLB steal. David Freese showed that he can be a Gold Glove caliber 3rd baseman with a phenomenal bare-handed play to get Luis Cruz at 1st in the 6th inning. Let’s not forget Yadier Molina’s throw to nab Matt Treanor at 2nd base in the bottom of the 5th inning on Sunday. When will they ever learn?
Quick Look at the Wild-Card Standings:
Ahead This Week: Kyle Lohse and the St. Louis Cardinals return home to face the Houston Astros on Tuesday for a 3 game series followed by a 3 game trip to Wrigley Field at which the Redbirds have all day games. The Pittsburgh Pirates take on the Milwaukee Brewers to begin the week, while the Los Angeles Dodgers have a very tough test with the Washington Nationals. Let’s hope the Redbirds can put more games between themselves and both the Dodgers and Pirates, as they look to at least secure a National League Wild Card berth.