Revisiting the Cardinals' loss in Game 1 of the 2022 National League Wild Card Series

The St. Louis Cardinals took on the Philadelphia Phillies in the Wild Card series in 2022 and suffered a heartbreaking loss.
Wild Card Series - Philadelphia Phillies v St. Louis Cardinals - Game One
Wild Card Series - Philadelphia Phillies v St. Louis Cardinals - Game One / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

Many pundits and fans have tried to pinpoint the demise of the St. Louis Cardinals. Some have stated bad trades in the last decade have brought down the once-mighty organization. Others have tried to dissect "The Cardinal Way" and blame that methodology. Some have done a combination of both.

Katie Woo of The Athletic, in an interview on 101 ESPN, instead gave one specific moment that spelled disaster for the once-proud organization: the 2022 National League Wild Card game 1 against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Cardinals lost the game 6-3 at home against the upstart Phils, and the wheels fell off after that.

The 2022 National League Wild Card game 1 deflated the players, coaches, and front office of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The 2022 season for the St. Louis Cardinals was filled with magical moments. From the return of Albert Pujols to a redemptive pitching staff, to having two players in the top 3 of NL MVP voting, the season was filled with joy and memorable moments.

After winning the division for the first time in 3 years and making their fourth consecutive postseason trip, the Cardinals faced off against the Philadelphia Phillies, recipients of a Wild Card slot.

Recently acquired Jose Quintana faced off against veteran Zack Wheeler. Quintana worked around some traffic in the top of the third inning and a leadoff double in the top of the fifth. He ended up going 5.1 innings while allowing 2 hits, 1 walk, and striking out three, a sterling opening to the playoffs.

On the opposite side of the ball, Zack Wheeler shut down the Cardinals for 6.1 innings; he allowed just 2 hits, 1 walk, and struck out 4 batters. Both starters gave their teams a chance to win.

The game flipped in the Cardinals' favor in the bottom of the seventh when Juan Yepez homered to the corner in left field to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead heading into the 8th. Relievers Jordan Hicks and Giovanny Gallegos held the game in check, but the wheels fell off for the team in the ninth inning.

Ryan Helsley came back out in the ninth inning after getting the final out in the eighth. Helsley struck out Rhys Hoskins, then allowed the next 4 batters to reach base. Just like that, the lead was down to 1 run, and the Phillies had bases loaded with just 1 out. Andre Pallante came in to relieve Helsley. Keep in mind, Pallante had thrown 108 innings that year across 47 appearances.

Pallante gave up a single to Jean Segura, scoring Nick Castellanos and Bryce Harper, and the game felt out of reach at that point. The Phillies would tack on a total of 6 runs in the ninth, all but eliminating the hopes for the Cardinals that year.

Poor defense by Nolan Arenado, overuse in the bullpen, and an offense that struggled to get on base highlighted one of the most frustrating losses of the season for the Cardinals in 2022. Looking back, this was the beginning of the end for the Cardinals. They haven't sniffed the playoffs since then, and according to Katie Woo, this was the turning point for the organization.

"If I could pinpoint one thing, just because they haven't looked the same since this happened, it's the 2022 game 1 Wild Card game. They had that game in the bag, and then in the ninth inning, everyone just fell apart. I have yet to see the team look anything like they did in 2022. But the overall brand identity of the Cardinals has not been the same since that happened."

Katie Woo

Soon after the Cardinals' quick exit from the playoffs, most of the coaching staff including pitching coach Mike Maddux and hitting coach Jeff Albert fled for greener pastures. Oliver Marmol, now in his second year in 2023, was left with a skeleton coaching staff.