Cardinals capture tone-setting extra innings victory as they search for redemption

In a situation all too reminiscent of 2023, the St. Louis Cardinals turned the page and secured victory over the juggernaut Dodgers.

St. Louis Cardinals v Los Angeles Dodgers
St. Louis Cardinals v Los Angeles Dodgers / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

After two lopsided losses to open 2024, the Cardinals' offense looked stagnant, the starting pitching depleted, and the team had done little to show that it had turned the corner from a dreadful 2023 season. Coming into game three of the four-game set, Lance Lynn shoved through the first four innings, but his start was cut short by a rare rain delay at Dodger Stadium. Once Matthew Liberatore entered the game in relief, it looked like the wheels were once again falling off.

But, after a bizarre 5-run 7th inning, the Cardinals were inches from victory. However, in an appearance all too reminiscent of early 2023, Ryan Helsley allowed a solo home run to the red-hot Mookie Betts and quickly relinquished the lead in the bottom of the 9th after a series of 2-strike, 2-out base hits before narrowly escaping the jam. After barely avoiding a soul-crushing loss, the Cardinals would need to score in the 10th.

A few productive outs in the 10th inning allowed rookie speedster Victor Scott II to score easily from second base, but that's all the Cardinals would get. Enter Giovanny Gallegos to face the bottom of the Dodgers' lineup with a man on second to open the frame. There was little margin for error, as any base hit could allow the ghost runner to score, tying the game at least. Gallegos was strong to start, striking out both Outman and Heyward with his signature slider.

Next was Gavin Lux, the Dodgers' last hope, and in classic 2023 Cardinals fashion, he was allowed to reach on an infield single. After a tough battle with Betts, Gallegos walked the Dodgers' leadoff man to load the bases. Enter Shohei Ohtani, the Dodgers' $700-million man for the most significant moment of his young career in LA. In a moment made for Hollywood, it's only fitting for Ohtani to be the one to walk it off for Dodger faithful, who braved the rain delay to stay and watch their newest superstar save the day.

Gallegos had been here before, in the semifinal match of the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Up five runs to four, Gio was sent in to close out Samurai Japan to send Mexico to the WBC championship match against the United States. While Ohtani didn't win it for Japan, he set the tone with a leadoff double, setting the table for a dramatic walk-off as Gallegos failed to record an out.

He'd already let his country down against Ohtani. This time, he could not let down his club. Too often last year, he was on the wrong end of the box score. Too often, he had disappointed the fans in St. Louis. He had to bounce back. This year had to be different. Staring down the two-way superstar, Gallegos dealt. On a 2-1 count, Gio released a fastball as Ohtani swung for the fences. Popped into the air, the ball fell softly into the pocket of Brandon Crawford's glove. And all of Cardinal Nation collectively exhales. Maybe this year will be different. It just has to be.