The Phillies lost. The Reds lost. The Padres lost. With the Cardinals playing the Tigers, this would have been an excellent time to tighten up the race.
Instead, the only tightening was in Jack Flaherty‘s shoulder and the Cards lost yet another opportunity to gain significant ground in the playoff race, something that we’ve been able to say way too many times this season.
Flaherty left the game after giving up back-to-back home runs in the third with nobody out. In his two official innings of work, he’d given up four hits and four runs, including walking Casey Mize, his opposite number who had never batted in the big leagues, with the bases loaded. (That’s 27, folks. The record of 28 is right there!) It was clear from the results and the readings on the radar gun that something was wrong with the Cardinal ace. The official word after the game was shoulder tightness, which leaves some questions that hopefully will be resolved today.
Folks, I know nothing about anatomy but I know that anytime something gets off in the shoulder area for a pitcher, it’s not good and it’s not likely something that just gets better overnight. It would seem that Flaherty will probably go back on the IL today, with Junior Fernandez probably returning to the big leagues and Kwang Hyun Kim, who actually pitched 2.2 scoreless innings last night, sliding back into the rotation. It’s less than ideal, especially given the tougher schedule coming up, but it’s pretty much par for the course for the 2021 team.
I’d give Flaherty the Goat for last night’s game but I have problems doing so when it was clear he was trying to fight through the injury. Thankfully, his pitching teammates picked him up. Daniel Ponce de Leon, Andrew Miller, KK, T.J. McFarland, and Luis Garcia combined for seven scoreless innings. They allowed seven baserunners, but they also struck out six and got out of the few jams they had. Of course, that may mean a few folks are out of commission for today’s game and Jon Lester isn’t known for going deep. Another reason they’ll probably bring up Fernandez.
If it were part of the rules, I’d give the Hero to the bullpen as a unit, but since it’s not, I’m going to go with Nolan Arenado. It’s been a tough homestand for Arenado and up to his last at bat of the night it was getting worse. However, with two outs and two on Arenado doubled, bringing them both in and pulling the Cards within one. It was a big hit at a time when a big hit was needed. Also, there wasn’t anyone else that really stood out.
We’ll give the Goat to Paul Goldschmidt, who went 0-4 and left three men on base.
All of that was preceded by the official announcement that Yadier Molina will be back for another year, playing year 19 for $10 million. There’d been talk about this for some time but some of the phrasing was very interesting, as John Mozeliak called it “his final season” and other reports indicated that this will be a farewell tour. Derrick Goold also has written that Molina understands that his backup will have to play more, though I imagine Yadi’s still out there for 120 games or more.
Honestly, if that’s the case, if Yadi’s at peace with one more go-around, I’m all for it. I would love to see Adam Wainwright do the same, especially since Waino has said that either this year or next would be it in an interview. There’s almost no chance, as good as Waino’s been this year, that he doesn’t come back to be with his brother one more time. I know that the club should be focused on getting better next season but it’s clear that these two still have something to offer. If you ease Yadi’s time back, you might see him have a resurgence in his final season much like Ozzie Smith had without the chip on his shoulder toward the manager.
I am sure that Allen and I will talk about this on Musial Friday, but with (apparently) the DH coming to the National League, there would seem to be a path for Albert Pujols to play another year as a part time DH with a few games at first and be a bat off the bench. Given that he’s hit .266/.312/.475 with the Dodgers, I think he still has something to offer and he’s 23 homers away from 700. He’s not getting there this year, but can you imagine him reaching that milestone in Cardinal red? Imagine the last game of 2022, when all three of those guys walk off the field for the last time. That’s a movie script. Which means it’s probably not going to happen, but it’s a fun thing to think about!