With the regular season behind us, it’s time to start taking a look back at some of the aspects of the 2018 season. One of the hallmarks of this team was their ability to pull a game out in their last at bat. The Cardinals registered 11 wins in the walk-off fashion but even though each of them were dramatic and exciting and wonderful, not all of them were created the same. (Of course, they also won some games in their last at bat on the road, but we’re not going to be looking at those.) So let’s take a look back at these games and give them a bit of a rating scale. While I think you could make the argument that Luke Skywalker’s final actions were an epic walk-off moment, I don’t want to deal with Kyle Reis’s complaints about his characterization in The Last Jedi and so we’ll go with a more widely accepted walk-off moment and honor Luke blowing up the Death Star by rating each moment from one to five of these:
Let’s get to the games, then. We’ll set up the situation, talk about how they won, and then discuss the impact.
Date: April 10
Opponent: Milwaukee Brewers
Set up: In this early matchup against the team that would be NL Central king, the Cardinals allowed a first inning home run to Eric Thames but came back to tie it up in the sixth on a bases-loaded walk to Yairo Munoz. Then things got wild. The Brewers got an RBI single from Domingo Santana off of Bud Norris to take the lead in the ninth, only to see the Cards tie it again in the bottom of the frame when Tommy Pham walked, advanced on a Greg Garcia bunt, and scored on two wild pitches. The 10th saw Milwaukee go ahead again, this time on a two-out single by Orlando Arcia off of Matthew Bowman, but the never-say-die Cards rallied with two outs and tied it on a Garcia single.
Walk off: In the bottom of the 11th, J.J. Hoover, who had allowed the rally in the 10th, stayed in the game and gave up a single to Paul DeJong. Matt Carpenter then, in a moment that was really out of character for the first part of the season, slammed a 1-1 pitch into the right field bleachers to win the game 5-3.
Luke rating: With the back-and-forth nature of this game, being able to win it was an early pick-me-up, a seeming sign that this team had something. It was against a division rival, though early in the season. I’ll give it three Lukes, especially since there were no outs and that lessens the drama a tad.
Date: April 26
Opponent: New York Mets
Set up: The Mets got on the board in the first on a Yoenis Cespedes double and, with Noah Syndergaard on the mound, that seemed like all they might need. Carlos Martinez kept them in check after that, but Dominic Leone allowed a sacrifice fly to Cespedes in the seventh to put the Mets up 2-0. St. Louis answered in the bottom of that inning with a Marcell Ozuna RBI single and tied it in the eighth when Tommy Pham singled in Greg Garcia. This one also went to extras, where New York plated one in the 10th when Luke Gregerson walked Jose Lobaton with the bases loaded, but his teammates got him off the hook when Jose Martinez doubled in Pham off of Jeurys Familia.
Walk off: This one went even deeper than the last, still tied up in the bottom of the 13th. (Thankfully, it was a day game.) Pham struck out to start the inning, but Jose Martinez walked and Ozuna singled against Paul Sewald. On an 0-1 pitch, Dexter Fowler stroked a single to right, sending Martinez home.
Luke rating: Look, every walkoff is at least somewhat dramatic. That said, getting that deep into extras and winning by a walk and two singles isn’t the flashiest way to walk one off. It was a game that helped the Cards look like a team that had something going for it but that was tempered soon after as the Mets continued to freefall. If the one above was three, I think this is a two-Luker.
Date: May 1
Opponent: Chicago White Sox
Set up: In an early interleague game, the Cardinals got on the board first when Tommy Pham went deep in the first. Then, as they tended to do, the bats went quiet and the Sox got that run and one more when Yoan Moncada drove in Trayce Thompson and Adam Engel, both of whom had reached via Michael Wacha walks. Moncada’s double stood up until the ninth, when Matt Carpenter led off the bottom of the frame against Joakim Soria with a shot that tied it all up.
Walk off: Unlike the other two games we’ve looked at so far, this one didn’t need any extra time. After Carpenter’s jack, Soria stayed in the game and struck out Jose Martinez but Marcell Ozuna doubled, putting the game-winning run in scoring position. That’s just where Yadier Molina likes them and he stroked a single down the left-field line that plated Ozuna and gave the Cards the come-from-behind win.
Luke factor: Some good drama in this one, what with the Cards trailing going into the bottom of the ninth. It also brought the Cards to within 1/2 game of the Cubs and Brewers who were tied for the NL Central lead. Put it all together and I think this is a four-Luke night.
Date: May 5
Opponent: Chicago Cubs
Set up: The Cards got behind early when the Cubs put up a four spot in the second inning, nicking and slicing at Luke Weaver with no extra-base hits but five singles, a ground out, and a sac bunt that turned into a fielder’s choice where nobody was out. St. Louis tied it up with a four-run inning of their own, this time in the fourth, capped by a Matt Carpenter two-run double. Javier Baez hit a home run off of Ryan Sherriff in the sixth and Anthony Rizzo clocked Matthew Bowman in the seventh. That 6-4 lead held until the ninth, when Harrison Bader walked and Jose Martinez singled in front of Marcell Ozuna, who doubled them both in off of Brandon Morrow.
Walk off: Bud Norris and Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons kept the Cubs at bay in the 10th. In the bottom of that inning, Paul DeJong walked, then Kolten Wong hit the second extra-inning walk off homer of the season for the club, smoking a Luke Farrell pitch down the left field line and firing up the Wong fan club.
Luke factor: Well, the home run comes off a Luke, which has to mean something. Then it was against the big division rivals and it also kept them in first place for another day. There were some big walk offs this year but this was one of the biggest.
Date: May 6
Opponent: Chicago Cubs
Set up: The Cardinals went for the early season sweep of the Cubs on Sunday Night Baseball, pitting Michael Wacha versus Jon Lester. Chicago got on the board first, with leadoff singles by Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber turning into a sacrifice fly by Anthony Rizzo. Jedd Gyorko tied it up in the bottom of the second with a solo blast, but Chicago went back up by one when Kris Bryant did the same leading off the fourth. St. Louis’s answer would come two innings later, when Gyorko walked and, with two outs, Kolten Wong tripled him home. Neither team could gain a foothold and the weather didn’t help matters, creating a rain delay and a very late night for the two teams. Finally, in the 14th, Javier Baez hit a two-out solo shot off of Mike Mayers, which seemed to finally put an end to the festivities.
Walk off: Obviously, if it had, it wouldn’t be on this list. Francisco Pena struck out looking against Luke Farrell, the goat of the game before (if you were a Cubs fan). Miles MIkolas pinch-hit and struck out as well, putting the Cubs one out away from a win. Farrell then gave up a single to Harrison Bader, bringing up Dexter Fowler. (I think it’s contractual that we say the much-maligned Fowler, given the way his season was going.) Farrell ran the count to 2-2, but Fowler fouled off a couple of pitches. Then Fowler laced his seventh pitch down the left-field line, like Wong before him, just getting over the outstretched glove of Jason Heyward for a game-winning smash.
Luke factor: That was a great series, wasn’t it? We’re going to have a category for Best Walkoff on the Cardinal Blogger Awards ballot coming next month. I’d be shocked if this one doesn’t win it.
Date: May 31
Opponent: Pittsburgh Pirates
Set up: After leading the NL Central, the Cards had cooled and came into this one just a game ahead of the Pirates for third place in the division. It looked like it was going to be a runaway when St. Louis put up four runs in the bottom of the first on a two-run single by Dexter Fowler and a two-run double by Yairo Munoz. As the bats tended to do, though, things got quiet and Pittsburgh chipped away against Jack Flaherty. A run in the second on a single by Jordy Mercer. A run in the fourth on a double by Gregory Polanco. Finally, they got them all back with a two-run homer in the fifth by Josh Bell. Greg Garcia stemmed the tide in the bottom of the inning by singling in Fowler and that held for a bit. Pittsburgh attacked the bullpen with a vengeance in the ninth, though. Jordan Hicks allowed a leadoff single by Colin Moran and Polanco immediately doubled him home. After getting an out, Hicks walked Adam Frazier. He got Josh Harrison to fly out, but then Mike Matheny went to the bullpen and brought in Bud Norris, who ran the count full to Francisco Cervelli before serving up a three-run homer to make it 8-5.
Walk off: Pittsburgh kept that lead until the bottom of the ninth. Felipe Vasquez came in to shut the Cardinals down and didn’t get a single out. Harrison Bader doubled, Tommy Pham reached on an error by Sean Rodriguez, and Marcell Ozuna walked to load the bases. Luke Voit came in to pinch-hit for Mike Mayers and singled in two runs, cutting the lead to 8-7 and putting runners on the corners. Not content with a single to tie things up, Munoz went big fly to center field and walked it off.
Luke factor: You gotta give the team kudos for taking advantage of the situation, but you also wonder if there was any lead that they couldn’t have come back from as long as Vasquez was pitching. Good stuff, but maybe not to the level of some of the others.
Date: June 2
Opponent: Pittsburgh Pirates
Set up: The Cardinals got out to an early lead when Marcell Ozuna led off the second inning with only his fourth home run of the year. Luke Weaver made that stand up for a couple of innings, but Colin Moran led off the fifth with a blast of his own, knotting the score at 1. St. Louis answered in the bottom of the frame when Tommy Pham, with two outs, singled Weaver (who had walked) home. That looked like it was going to be enough, but Bud Norris, in one of his rare missteps in the first half, came into the ninth and promptly gave up a home run to Austin Meadows. Norris was able to strike out the next three batters, but things were tied at two.
Walk off: It stayed that way for three pitches in the ninth. On a 1-1 count from Richard Rodriguez, Kolten Wong unleashed his second walk-off homer in a month.
Luke factor: When handing out the Lukes, I think you discount a bit for the fact that the game was tied and it was with no outs, but it still was an incredible moment.
Date: July 30
Opponent: Colorado Rockies
Set up: The manager had been changed. The bullpen had been revamped. Little did we know that the fire had been lit but games like this helped show that it had. Carlos Martinez kept the Rockies scoreless through four innings but in the fifth, he stumbled. Gerardo Parra singled to start the inning then, after two strikeouts, Charlie Blackmon singled to put two runners on. Martinez, who had just come off the disabled list, left with the trainers as Daniel Poncedeleon came in, walked Ian Desmond, then gave up his first hit in the big leagues–a grand slam to Nolan Arenado. The Cardinals didn’t give up, though. Jedd Gyorko hit a solo shot off of Tyler Anderson to put the Cards on the board in the fifth. In the seventh, Harrison Bader drew a bases-loaded walk against Scott Ohberg and Matt Carpenter singled in two to tie the game at 4. Jordan Hicks, Bud Norris, and Dakota Hudson kept the game that way until the bottom of the 10th.
Walk off: Paul DeJong started off the inning with a strikeout, but Marcell Ozuna took a 1-1 pitch from Jake McGee and ended things, his first career walk-off home run.
Luke factor: To rally like that after a slam by Arenado made it a great game. Given Ozuna’s season, not a lot was expected from him in the 10th, though he’d been robbed twice already in that game. The Force was strong with this one.
Date: August 2
Opponent: Colorado Rockies
Set up: Trying to win a four-game set with the Rox, the Cards got on the board first in the third when Miles Mikolas led off with a single and eventually scored on a Tyler O’Neill sacrifice fly. Perhaps the base running got to him, though, because in the top of the fourth Mikolas allowed four singles in the span of five batters, with Gerardo Parra and Ian Desmond both knocking in runs with theirs. Then Mikolas and Antonio Senzatela, plus their respective bullpens, threw up a lot of goose eggs.
Walk off: Down to their last shot, the Cardinals foreshadowed the exciting August to come. Wade Davis came in and retired Yairo Munoz on a ground ball, but Greg Garcia singled and Harrison Bader sent him to third with his own base hit. With Jose Martinez pinch-hitting, Bader stole second, which proved pretty big when Martinez singled to right, plating both players and starting a joyous celebration.
Luke factor: It was a win that really seemed to come out of nowhere. It helped build upon the excitement of winning the series against the Cubs just before. It also was on my birthday, so that helped up the score a bit as well.
Date: August 13
Opponent: Washington Nationals
Set up: In the midst of their August run, the Cardinals got up early in this one when Marcell Ozuna drove in Matt Carpenter in the bottom of the first. Miles Mikolas handed that back in the next frame when Ryan Zimmerman doubled in Anthony Rendon and they took the lead in the top of the fourth when Bryce Harper led off the inning with a bomb. Turnabout is fair play, however, and the Cards regained the tie in the bottom of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Mikolas. At 2-2 in the seventh, Juan Soto got to the Cardinal starter for a two-run homer, putting the Nationals back on top.
The last couple of innings were wild. In the bottom of the eighth, Jedd Gyorko led off with a homer off of Justin Miller, cutting the lead to 4-3. After Harrison Bader struck out, Kolten Wong singled and the Nationals went to Sammy Solis. Patrick Wisdom then singled and, after a wild pitch moved everyone up, Matt Carpenter connected for his 33rd home run, giving the Cardinals a 6-4 lead. That was a lead Bud Norris couldn’t hold, though. Daniel Murphy singled in one run and Matt Wieters another, forcing Dakota Hudson to come in and get the next two batters out while runners were on second and third.
Walk off: Koda Glover came in to try to send the game to extra innings and failed spectacularly. Running the count to 3-1, Glover had to give Paul DeJong something to hit and DeJong hit it a long, long way.
Luke factor: The back and forth, the giving and taking of punches, to wriggle out of a situation in the top of the ninth only to immediately win it in the bottom–that’s some good stuff there.
Date: September 22
Opponent: San Francisco Giants
Set up: In what could be Adam Wainwright‘s last start at Busch Stadium, the Cards and Giants swapped runs early. St. Louis scored in the bottom of the second when Wainwright singled in Jedd Gyorko, but then San Francisco responded with an RBI single by Joe Panik. Back came the Cards in the bottom of the third when Paul DeJong drove in Matt Carpenter. Wainwright kept it right there until the seventh, when three of the first four batters against him singled, with Aramis Garcia‘s knock putting the Giants up 3-2. Dakota Hudson came in and got a groundout from Gregor Blanco, but that brought in another run. Yadier Molina homered off of Dereck Rodriguez after a Gyorko walk in the bottom of the inning, making the score 4-4.
Walk off: The bullpens threw up zeros until the bottom of the 10th. Mark Melancon got Harris Bader and Yairo Munoz to fly out, trying to extend this to another frame. However, when Tyler O’Neill hits a fly ball, it tends to go into orbit.
Luke factor: Every win was vital for the Cardinals at this stage as they looked to stay in the playoff picture. Late September walk-offs are always going to get a boost and, if things had gone differently in the last week, this one might be remembered more than it will be.
It’s interesting to see how many of the walk-off wins were clustered around each other. Four of them (including two back-to-back) were within about a week as April turned to May. Two more came in a four game series against the Rockies. I have no idea what it means–if anything but luck–that seven of them came against Mike Matheny and only four in the revitalized group that Mike Shildt led. For all those that talk about how if Greg Holland wouldn’t have blown games or if this game or that game could have gone the Cards way they might have made the playoffs, it’s fair to note that a number of these games should have been lost. It’s not always that easy.
I hope to look at the walk-off losses sometime soon but I make no promises. Until then, though, spend your day revisiting these great Cardinal moments!