I don’t think it was terribly surprising that the Cardinals split yesterday’s doubleheader. The way they lost Game 2 might be a little off-putting, but the idea that this flawed team would go into Cincinnati, sweep the Reds, and wind up just a fraction behind them for the wild card didn’t really seem like something the 2021 Cardinals would do.
Game 1 was fun, though. Paul Goldschmidt hit .350/.402/.602 in August with five home runs and he didn’t let a little thing like a calendar flipping over stop his roll. In the first inning, he smoked a solo shot to give the Cardinals an early lead, then in the fourth he hit a two-run shot that gave the Cardinals the lead and proved to be the end of the scoring. The other two times he walked, meaning for September he had a 1.000/1.000/4.000 line after this game. You capture those lines when you can!
While Goldy did most of the heavy lifting, he didn’t do it all. Harrison Bader did seem to recognize the change in the months and had his best day in a long time. He homered to lead off the second, giving the Cardinals a 2-0 lead, then singled in two of this next three at bats. Bader’s last three hit game was July 27 and came as his hot streak was starting to tail off. Since then he’s hit .155/.223/.191, so seeing his bat wake up, even for just one game, was a nice change of pace.
The offense really figured out Wade Miley, with all but two of the 14 hits coming off of him in his four innings. Miley was fortunate that, save the home runs and a double by Tyler O’Neill, they were just singles. Enough of those can be a problem but Miley worked around most of them. O’Neill had two hits, Dylan Carlson had two hits, and the rest were spread out through the lineup.
Given the production, the Goat for the first game is going to Miles Mikolas. While both he and the manager put a positive spin on things, Mikolas only went three innings, giving up four runs including two on a double from his opposite number. I wasn’t able to watch the game, being at work and just tracking via GameDay, but reports were that he didn’t look good overall and 55 pitches in three innings proves he was less than efficient. Even in a seven-inning game, it was a little surprising to see Mike Shildt pinch-hit for him to start the top of the third, though with a fairly rested bullpen you could take that chance.
Give a cap tip to Genesis Cabrera as well. Making his first appearance since that Pittsburgh debacle, he either fixed his tell, Cincinnati hadn’t figured it out, or he never had one and it was just a bad outing. Not only did he breeze through one inning, he came back for a second and as much as I worry when a reliever does that, he had no problem. Three hits in two innings isn’t ideal, but they were all singles and he struck out two, so it was a very good outing for him.
Luis Garcia threw a scoreless frame and for as much as the manager said that matchups might determine the ninth, the two chances he’s had for a save that were Alex Reyes went to Giovanny Gallegos. As we all expected.
Game 2 started similarly to Game 1, with Tommy Edman hitting the first inning homer instead of Goldschmidt and the Reds coming back to take a lead. That’s where the similarities ended, though, as the Reds just. kept. hitting. The Cardinals had been able to contain Nick Castellanos for much of the series but you knew it wasn’t going to hold for long. If it’d just been the two-run homer in the bottom of the first, maybe they work around that. The grand slam in the second, though, was too much.
Of course, it wasn’t just Castellanos. You’d say the Cardinals were hapless but the problem was they had J.A. Happ last night. He threw one inning, got nobody out in the second, and got charged with eight runs. One of those came when Junior Fernandez, the second of three pitchers that inning, gave up a home run to Kyle Farmer with one of Happ’s runners aboard. Fernandez then left with an injury, making Daniel Ponce de Leon the third pitcher not only of the evening, but of the inning.
Ponce couldn’t stop the damage, being charged with two runs in the third. One was his issue, one scored when Kodi Whitley allowed a hit to the young Delino DeShields. Ponce threw 46 pitches in what turned out to be 1.1 innings of work because he walked four batters in that span, a return to the less-than-in-command Ponce we saw earlier in the year.
Brandon Dickson got to be the good story, returning to the majors after nine-plus years away, but he served up a home run in his inning of work and was struggling at AAA before the callup. My personal theory was they called up Dickson first so they could have this moment, then he could be returned to the minors or let go when there were other arms needed if the race got close enough. Otherwise, I’m not really sure why he got the call rather than Seth Elledge (who, granted, is also struggling at AAA but is on the 40-man) or Austin Warner (who isn’t on the 40-man but neither was Dickson).
Alex Reyes made his first appearance since Sunday and did so in the final frame, but a frame worlds apart from his normal save situation. He had no issues, striking out the side on 13 pitches, so maybe that’s a first step toward a return to form.
After getting 14 hits in the first game, the Cardinals got three in the nightcap. We’ll give the Hero tag to Tommy Edman for his leadoff homer, but Nolan Arenado also homered late and the other hit was an Ali Sanchez double. So a ton of singles in the early game, no singles in the late one.
Cardinals now have a day off (I think I’d have rather had one game yesterday and one game today) before facing the Brewers this weekend. While 2 1/2 doesn’t sound bad but there are only 30 games left. Going to take a lot of wins to make up that gap!