Fresh off two of their most frustrating losses of the year, the St. Louis Cardinals needed to get back on track tonight in game two of their series with the Washington Nationals. It took a little longer than this blogger would’ve liked, but tonight went a lot better than the last few games, as the Cardinals rode the home run ball to an 11-8 victory.
The Cardinals took an early 1-0 lead in the second inning when Marcell Ozuna hit a solo home run to left. Later on in the inning, with the bases loaded, a full count and two outs, Matt Carpenter drove in two additional runs after a lengthy at-bat. Harrison Bader used his unfair speed to take advantage of a fielding error on the same play from Adam Eaton, and scored all the way from first. 4-0 Cardinals.
John Gant took the mound for St. Louis tonight and got off to another fine start. He ran into trouble in the fourth, but a 6-4-3 double play and a strikeout of Juan Soto bailed him out. Through Gant’s first four innings of work, Washington’s only hit came on an infield single.
Then, the bottom of the fifth happened. An error by Yairo Munoz at second quickly snowballed into a bases loaded situation with one out, which was enough for Mike Shildt to take Gant out of the game at 87 pitches. Enter Tyler Webb, who issued a bases loaded walk to Trea Turner with two outs to put the Nationals on the board. (Serves him right for not taking the bullpen cart)
Things only got worse from there. Bryce Harper doubled in two runs, and Webb (who had control issues all night) intentionally walked the next batter to load the bases for Juan Soto. Webb then walked the bases loaded again to tie the game at 4 before being mercifully pulled.
The last few games have been really bad for Mike Shildt from a tactical standpoint. Granted, it doesn’t help matters if the bullpen can’t throw strikes, but his decisions to leave certain pitchers in when they’re clearly struggling have been very Matheny-esque.
The offense, meanwhile, wasn’t having any of this. Marcell Ozuna, Paul DeJong, and Patrick Wisdom all homered in the sixth to give the Cardinals the lead back at 7-4. They had a chance to score even more runs in the inning, but Jose Martinez grounded out to short with the bases loaded and two outs. He absolutely melts right now when faced with runners in scoring position.
With 12 outs to get back in the win column, it was up to the Cardinals’ bullpen to get its act together and preserve the victory. Washington got back within two in the bottom of the sixth, but Tyson Ross, Dakota Hudson and Dominic Leone kept the Redbirds in front heading into the dreaded ninth inning that’s given them so much grief over the past two days.
Tonight, however, would be a different story. Yadier Molina got into a hanging breaking ball for his sixth career grand slam, and the Cards had all of the breathing room they needed to survive a hectic 3-run inning from the Nats in the ninth. Cards win 11-8.
The Cardinals are now 77-62 on the year, remain in the second NL Wild Card spot, and are 4.5 games out of first place in the NL Central. They’ll turn to Miles Mikolas as they go for the series win tomorrow night.