After their long break from action, the St. Louis Cardinals burst back on the scene with two gritty games against the Chicago White Sox.
There were many fans that thought the St. Louis Cardinals should have pulled the plug on their season. Even if the team could get back on the field, we heard “they’re toast!” or “two weeks off? Good luck, end the season.” Now don’t you feel a little silly? Is this why patience is important? Is this why baseball is amazing? I think so.
After two rounds of quarantining and 17 total days off, the Cardinals got back on the field Saturday against the White Sox. Coming in, the only hope was that the team got back on the field without any more delays. Without practicing or facing live pitching for 17 days, I don’t think any of us had much of an expectation for winning. Boy, were we wrong.
Lucas Giolito came into Saturday’s game second in the MLB in walks issued, and the Cardinals proved to have a gameplan to exploit that. It all started when Kolten Wong stepped into the batter’s box to start the first game of the doubleheader.
Wong stepped up and put together an eight-pitch walk, setting the tone early. After that, the Cardinals strung together four singles and two HBP to bring in four runs in the first inning. More importantly, Giolito threw 34 pitches in the first. Through grit and through patience, the Cardinals started on the best foot they could.
Before the team went on their two-week vacation, fans were in shambles because of the way the team’s last three games went. In one game against the Pirates and two against the Twins, the Cards put up a combined four runs. All of a sudden, we were transported back to the 2019 NLCS and everyone looked lost.
Coming out of quarantine, fans had no expectations for any improvement, but maybe 17 days off was all the offense needed to simplify their approach.
In an article from Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Kolten Wong said, “That was exactly the tone I wanted to set. Our team is bunch of grinders, and what better way to get the boys going than to grind out a walk.” Wong is proving to be much more of a leader than fans may have realized. Finally getting a chance to be the everyday leadoff man, Wong’s leadership at the top of the order matters just as much as his leadership off of it.
Adam Wainwright steadied the boat on the other side of the ball, throwing five innings and allowing just one run. A short seven innings after Wong’s first at-bat, the Cardinals had their first win in August.
The fun didn’t stop there.
In the second game of the day, the Cardinals continued to show just how happy they were to return. After Jake Woodford gave up a solo shot in an otherwise stellar three innings, Genesis Cabrera got into some trouble with the Sox’ young superstar, Eloy Jimenez. After walking Yasmani Grandal, Cabrera tried to sneak a 94 mph fastball past Jimenez on the first pitch of the at-bat. With a swift flick of the bat on an inside-out swing, the ball landed in the Cards’ bullpen in right field.
Sitting down 3-1, the Cardinals seemed poised to fall asleep at the plate for the game’s final three innings. However, in the top of the fifth, the Cardinals got all the small things to bounce their way.
First, Max Schrock singled, then Harrison Bader grounded into a double play that was then overturned as he narrowly beat the throw. After Tommy Edman was grazed on the elbow by a Zack Burdi pitch, a wild pitch brought Matt Carpenter up with runners on second and third.
Hitting a grounder that should’ve been a double play, Carpenter drove in Bader, leading the way for Paul Goldschmidt to hit an infield single up the middle off Danny Mendick‘s glove. Just like that, the game was tied.
Freshly minted cleanup hitter Tyler O’Neill then stepped up with two outs and got a changeup he could handle.
You can hear it in Danny Mac’s voice, this type of offense isn’t what we have been trained to see from the Cardinals.
Either way, O’Neill put the icing on top of a four-run inning, securing the runs the Cards would need to finish their Saturday on a winning streak.
It would’ve been very easy for everyone on the Cardinals to slack off and play poorly. We would not have been able to blame them. Instead, they came in with a gameplan against an extremely talented White Sox team and executed it.
If there is one skill in baseball that is slump-proof, it’s hustle. Yesterday, the Cardinals were at a bigger disadvantage than we have seen them ever be at. In spite of that, they were grinding at the plate, the pitchers kept their concentration, and the dice rolled their way yesterday.
It didn’t matter that three rookies debuted, it didn’t matter that almost half the lineup was playing at AAA last year. The ‘next man up’ mentality the Cards showed yesterday is reminiscent of the 2013-2015 Cardinals that had so much success.
It may have only been 14 innings, but the Cardinals were playing like they had something to prove. To be honest, they do. Many people have slandered them, written them off, and doomed them after they ultimately didn’t do anything wrong.
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Games like yesterday’s are the reason we are all baseball fans. The odds that those games happened as they did were minuscule, but the Cardinals made their own luck. It could all come crashing back to Earth very quickly, maybe even today, but for a team that was counted out, the Cardinals sure looked hungry yesterday to prove everyone wrong. Lucky for them, they have just a few games coming up to keep showing what they’ve got.