Good, Bad and Ugly: Cardinals split important series with Dodgers

ST LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 09: Tyler O'Neill #27 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits the game-winning home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth inning at Busch Stadium on September 9, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 09: Tyler O'Neill #27 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits the game-winning home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth inning at Busch Stadium on September 9, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals managed to split an important series this week with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

A split is better than the alternative.

The St. Louis Cardinals earned a series split with the Los Angeles Dodgers in preparation for an important three-game set at Busch against the Cincinnati Reds. The Cardinals lost Monday 5-1, they lost Tuesday 7-2, they won Wednesday 5-4, and  Thursday 2-1.

Against a good Dodgers squad, I will take it. Let’s discuss the good, bad and ugly.

The Good

On Monday, the Cardinals got their lone run in the sixth inning when a passed ball by catcher Austin Barnes allowed Tommy Edman to score. Thank goodness for his speed and attentiveness.

On Tuesday, Albert Pujols returned to Busch Stadium for the first time in Dodger blue. He received a warm standing ovation from the adoring crowd. And, of course, he did what Albert does and, in his first at-bat, took a J.A. Happ pitch to left-center field, 386 feet at 102.6 mph. Normally, this would land in the ugly section, but it was Albert Pujols. St. Louis still loves him.

Nolan Arenado provided the only offense for the Cardinals on Tuesday. In the first, he hit a sacrifice fly to left field, allowing Dylan Carlson to score. And in the third inning, Arenado singled to left, allowing Tyler O’Neill to score.

Wednesday was the start No. 301 together for Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina. Wainwright pitched an amazing eight innings and took the mound for the ninth inning. He pitched 8.1 innings, giving up seven hits and four runs, including a home run to Max Muncy. He also struck out four. He looked great through eight innings, making his pitches and mixing up speeds. It was vintage Waino. He induced 10 swings and misses.

When it became 5-4 in the ninth, manager Mike Shildt brought in Giovanny Gallegos to earn his fifth save of the year. He struck out one. He had good control of his pitches. He pitched how you want your closer to pitch.

In the first inning, Arenado grounded out too short, allowing Edman to score. Yadier Molina followed up with his 10th home run of the season on a fly to left, scoring Paul Goldschmidt. The blast traveled 380 feet at 98.1 mph.

In the fourth, Edmundo Sosa singled to center field, scoring Molina. And, in the eighth inning, they got their winning run when Tyler O’Neill launched his 24th home run of the season to left-center field. The blast traveled 376 feet at 96.9 mph.

One more good from this game? Take a look at this tag to get Mookie Betts out at the plate.

On Thursday, the Cardinals began their scoring in the second inning as Andrew Knizner hit a double to center field, allowing Dylan Carlson to score. In the fifth, Tyler O’Neill hit his 25th home run of the season to center field. The homer traveled 362 feet at 99.8 mph.

Jake Woodford had a good start for the Cardinals going 4 innings giving up three hits, two walks, and one run. He did strike out three. Alex Reyes earned the win, moving him to 6-8 on the season. He gave up one hit and struck out two. This had to be a good morale booster performance for a young man who has had some recent struggles that took him out of the closer role.

T. J. McFarland pitched 1.1 innings only giving up a walk. Luis Garcia pitched a quiet two-thirds of an inning. Manager Mike Shildt brought him out of the game at the end of the eighth much to the dismay of Twitter.

Giovanny Gallegos earned his sixth save pitching the ninth. He struck out two and again looked effective.

The Bad

The opportunities that could have been, were bad, again.

On Monday, the Cardinals were zero for five with runners in scoring position and left five on base.

On Tuesday, they were one for 10 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base. When you remember the Cardinals lost 7-2, that one hurts.

On Wednesday, the Cardinals were three for seven with runners in scoring position and left five runners on base. Tyler O’Neill’s home run was very important in this game. However, the amount left on base proves they could have had more support for Wainwright.

On Thursday, the Cardinals were one for eighth with runners in scoring position and left six on base. Thankfully, the bullpen was very effective and this wasn’t a major concern for the Cards. Nonetheless, it is frustrating to see the team that has struggled to get runs, leave so many on base.

The Ugly

On Monday, Miles Mikolas never really allowed the Cardinals a chance. He pitched five innings, giving up five hits, four earned runs, two walks, and one home run to Chris Taylor in the first inning. Andrew Knizner earned his third error of the season on a pickoff.

In conclusion

It was good to see Pujols return to Busch Stadium. It’s great to see that he is still received so warmly by the fans. He and Yadier Molina have a brotherly love that is wholesome to see. I hope we do see Albert a little more in 2022 with a Cardinals jersey on again. Let’s be real, he looks better in a Cardinals 5 jersey than a Dodger 55.

A string of bad luck losses haven’t helped the Cardinals in their hopes to make the playoffs, but somehow their record still leaves them with a chance.

After this split, the Cardinals are 71-68 on the season. With a three-game set against the pesky Cincinnati Reds starting Friday, the Cardinals could make up some ground in the standings as well as for the second Wild Card position. The San Diego Padres, at 74-65, are in the second Wild Card spot with the Reds one game back. The Cards are now two games back of the Reds, who are 74-67. The Cardinals are a half-game ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies at 71-69.

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This should be an interesting series this weekend. Here’s hoping the Cardinals make up some ground and make things interesting as we get deeper into September.