We’ve talked a lot about how this team might have some similarities with the 2011 team, what with the come-from-behind nature of trying to get a wild card spot. However, last night Mets fans could be forgiven if they thought they’d been transported back to 2006.
After all, there was Adam Wainwright on the mound in his first inning of work striking out a key batter to get out of the jam. Of course, in 2006 it was Carlos Beltran in the ninth, last night it was Jeff McNeil in the first. There was also Yadier Molina getting a big hit in the ninth, though a single to add on rather than a home run that broke a tie. And there were the Cardinals again putting daggers into their postseason chances, though in this case putting New York 3 1/2 out with 19 to play rather than sending them home for the winter.
All credit to Wainwright, who continues to show that, in a different year, he’d be in serious contention to be the Cy Young winner. (Tough to do that this year with guys like Corbin Burnes, Max Scherzer, and Walker Buehler.) I got a little concerned when the first batter of the game hit a chopper that, so often, would have been an out yet went as a single. With two outs, it looked like Wainwright lost command by walking Pete Alonzo and Javy Baez (and it’s tough to walk Baez, as we know) but after striking out McNeil so effortlessly it seemed like Waino knew the guy he wanted, knew the extra bases he had, and if Alonzo and Baez weren’t going to chase, so be it Jedi. After that, it was pretty much vintage Wainwright, allowing three hits and a walk over the next five scoreless frames.
There are a lot of options for the Hero tag. You could easily go with Wainwright, who pitched with a lead most of the night and never relinquished it or really had it threatened. You could go with the hometown boy Harrison Bader showing out for family and friends by going three for four with an RBI. There’s even Paul Goldschmidt, who had two hits including a home run that pushed the lead to 3-0 and looked very key during a tumultuous eighth. However, I’m going to go with Yadier Molina, who had three hits of his own, scored two runs, and drove in one. He did have a passed ball late, allowing Baez to reach in the sixth after striking out, but nothing really came of that.
If it wasn’t for the fact that what he got out of was of his own making, you could also add Alex Reyes into that discussion. With some of the regular arms unavailable, Reyes came into the eighth of a 3-0 game with the idea, I believe, of getting a two inning save. It looked like we might see more of the unreliable Reyes that has been prevalent over the last month or so after he walked Francisco Lindor and gave up a base hit to Michael Conforto, putting runners on the corners. However, then he struck out the next three batters on 14 pitches and looked like the Reyes we were used to for much of the season instead. To be able to come back and go through the heart of the Mets lineup like that with the game on the line was a remarkable thing for the young man, especially after his high profile failures of late. The Cardinals batted around in the ninth, tacking on four runs, and so Reyes gave way to Kodi Whitley, who also struck out the side.
The Goat will go to Tommy Edman, who did have one hit in his six at bats and scored the second run of the game, but he also struck out four times and left six men on, three of them in the ninth when he struck out for the second time that inning, bookending the frame.
Striking out before him for the second out of the ninth was Matt Carpenter, pinch-hitting for Reyes. As you know, I’ve posited we might not see another Carpenter hit and, while I expect I’m wrong, I keep really focusing in on his at bats. With the bases loaded and just one out, I thought maybe Carpenter would get something to hit. Instead, he took a called 90 mph sinker at the bottom of the zone, then swung through two 92/93 mph fastballs. Again, I’m sure he’ll get something in the next three weeks, but he’s 0-29 in his last 35 plate appearances with 13 strikeouts. That’s a rough way to go out.
With the Reds not playing last night and the Padres getting thumped by the Giants, the Cardinals are now just 1/2 a game out of the second wild card. The right combination could have them in that spot by themselves tonight, though that will take some help from the Giants and Pirates as well as a win in their own game. Still, the postseason is tantalizingly within reach and the Cardinals are probably playing their best overall baseball of the season. We’ll see how far it takes them!