photo: Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols (USA TODAY Sports)
As the offense sputtered, the St. Louis Cardinals scratched their way to four wins in seven games against two last-place teams, but held their eight-game lead. Two future Hall of Famers in their final season, Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, led the way.
The St. Louis Cardinals were blanked by the Nationals in the first of a four-game series at Busch Stadium on Monday. Jack Flaherty started, his first since coming back from a rehab assignment. The right hander pitched five innings, gave up one run on six hits, fanned six and walked one. Flaherty took the loss.
Andre Pallante relieved Flaherty and surrendered four runs in 1/3 innings. Chris Stratton secured the final two outs of the inning without further damage. Zack Thompson threw a scoreless seventh. James Naile allowed one run in the final two innings of relief.
The Nationals took a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Washington added to their lead with four runs in the sixth, and one run in the eighth.
The Cardinals offense limped through nine scoreless innings, scattering only three hits. All hits were singles, from Yadier Molina, Tommy Edman, and Tyler O’Neill. The offense was stymied through five innings against Anibal Sanchez and his 4.00+ ERA and fared no better against a better bullpen for the final four innings. They were 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position and left five men on base.
The Cardinals bounced back from the rough start to the series by defeating the Nationals in Game 2, 4-1. Starter Jose Quintana pitched five innings, gave up one run on five hits and struck out five to earn his fifth win of the season.
Jordan Hicks relieved Quintana and threw two scoreless innings. Giovanny Gallegos and Ryan Helsley combined for the final two scoreless innings. Helsley earned his 14th save.
Again, the Nationals took the first lead, scoring one run in the second to go up 1-0. This time the Cardinals battled back and scored three runs in the fourth to take the lead 3-1. The scoring began with a solo home run by Brendan Donovan. Nolan Arenado singled and Corey Dickerson doubled. Tyler O’Neill plated Arenado on a sac fly. Dickerson scored on a double by Nolan Gorman.
St. Louis scored their final run in the seventh on a solo home run by Gorman.
Gorman was 2-for-3 with two RBI. Dickerson was 2-for-3.
The Cardinals pulled a victory from the jaws of defeat in a ninth inning five run rally to beat the Nationals 6-5 on Wednesday. Starter Jordan Montgomery pitched 6 2/3 innings, gave up one run on three hits, struck out six and walked two.
JoJo Romero finished the seventh inning for Montgomery and returned to start the eighth. Romero combined with Giovanny Gallegos to relinquish four runs in that inning. Zack Thompson secured the final out of the eighth. Jake Woodford tossed a scoreless ninth and earned his fourth win of the season.
The Cardinals took the initial lead in the fourth on a solo home run by Paul Goldschmidt. The Nationals tied it at 1-1 in the seventh, then scored four runs in the eighth to take a 5-1 lead.
In the home ninth, the Cardinals rallied. Brendan Donovan led off with a single. Goldschmidt drew a walk. Nolan Arenado thumped a ground-rule double down the right field line to score Donovan. Goldschmidt came in on a ground out by Corey Dickerson. Tyler O’Neill walked. Following a Nolan Gorman strikeout, Yadier Molina singled and Arenado crossed home. Ben DeLuzio pinch ran for Molina. Tommy Edman doubled to left field, O’Neill and DeLuzio came home for two runs to walk it off 6-5.
Arenado and Molina were both 2-for-4 with an RBI. Donovan was 2-for-4. Edman had two RBI. Goldschmidt and Dickerson each had an RBI.
The Cardinals were throttled by the Nationals in the final game of the series and ended with only a 2-2 split. Starter Adam Wainwright continued to struggle with command of his pitches, going five innings and giving up four runs on nine hits, while striking out two.
Andre Pallante surrendered a run in 1/3 inning in relief and took the loss, his sixth. Jordan Hicks followed with two runs allowed in 1 1/3 innings. Chris Stratton threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings. James Naile surrendered four runs in the ninth.
The Cardinals scored in the first inning to briefly lead 1-0. Brendan Donovan drew a walk, then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Paul Goldschmidt singled and Donovan scored.
The Nationals quickly tied the score at 1-1 in the top of the second. The Cardinals answered in the home half to retake the lead 3-1 on a Yadier Molina two-run long ball.
Washington cut the lead to 3-2 in the in the third, then took the lead 4-3 with two runs in the fourth. The Cardinals tied it 4-4 in the bottom of the fourth on Molina’s second long ball, a solo shot.
The Nationals added a run in the sixth to make it 5-4 then brought two more runs home in the seventh to widen the lead to 7-4. A four-run ninth inning by Washington increased the tally to 11-4.
The Cardinals rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth for the final score of 11-6. The two runs scored on a single by Corey Dickerson.
Donovan went 3-for-3 with two runs scored. Molina was 2-for-4, both home runs, with three RBI and two runs scored. Dickerson was 2-for-5 with two RBI. Tommy Edman was 2-for-4. Goldschmidt had an RBI.
In the field, Nolan Arenado made a throwing error.
The Cardinals lost the first of a three-game series in Pittsburgh on Friday. Starter Miles Mikolas struggled through five innings, gave up four runs on eight hits, fanned eight and walked two. Mikolas took the loss to bring his record to 11-11 on the season.
Zack Thompson threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings in reliefs. Jake Woodford surrendered four runs in the final 1 2/3 innings.
The Pirates got on the board first with a second inning solo home run. The score remained at 1-0 until the Pirates scored again with three runs in the fifth to make it 4-0.
The Cardinals’ lackluster offense returned and scored only two runs in the game. The first run came in the sixth. Paul Goldschmidt doubled and Nolan Arenado singled. Goldschmidt scored on a force out by Corey Dickerson.
St. Louis added their second run in the seventh on an RBI double by Tommy Edman.
The Pirates added four more runs to their total in the eighth to lead 8-2.
On the base paths, Edman stole his 27th base, and Tyler O’Neill swiped his 12th bag. In the field, Lars Nootbaar had an outfield assist at home.
The Cardinals defeated the Pirates 7-5 in Game 2 of the weekend series on Saturday. Starter Jack Flaherty pitched five innings, gave up three runs on six hits and walked four.
Andre Pallante threw a scoreless sixth. JoJo Romero surrendered one run in the seventh. Giovanny Gallegos hurled a scoreless eighth to earn his third win. Ryan Helsley allowed one run in the ninth but received his 15th save.
The Pirates took the lead with a first inning solo home run. The second home run given up Flaherty came in the second, a two-run shot that put the Pirates ahead 3-0.
The Cardinals came back in the fifth on a solo home run by Brendan Donovan and again in the sixth on a two-run home run by Albert Pujols to tie the game at 3-3.
A solo home run by the Pirates in the seventh gave them the brief 4-3 lead. In the eighth, Nolan Gorman doubled. Tommy Edman pinch ran for Gorman and Pujols plated Edman on a single to tie the game again 4-4.
In the ninth, Yadier Molina led off with a single and was replaced by pinch runner Lars Nootbaar. Paul DeJong singled, advancing Nootbaar to third. DeJong advanced to second on a ground out by Donovan. Nootbaar was tagged out at home on a fielder’s choice by Corey Dickerson. Dickerson was at first with DeJong at third. Paul Goldschmidt walked to load the bases. Nolan Arenado then hit a bases clearing double to left field. The Cardinals led 7-4.
The Pirates added a fifth and final run in the home half of the ninth.
On the base paths, Ben DeLuzio was caught stealing. In the field, Arenado made a fielding error. Donovan had an outfield assist at second base.
The Cardinals snatched another victory from the jaws of defeat with a 4-3 win over the Pirates in the rubber game of the series on Sunday. Starter Jose Quintana pitched well enough to keep it close and give a sluggish offense the chance to pick up speed. The left hander pitched 5 2/3 innings, gave up one run on four hits, struck out four and walked one.
Jordan Hicks relieved Quintana and surrendered one run in 1 1/3 innings. JoJo Romero and Chris Stratton combined to throw a scoreless eighth. Stratton received the win. Ryan Helsley gave up a run in the ninth but was able to close it down to earn his 16th save.
The game started as the first two started, with the Pirates taking a 1-0 lead in the early innings, this time in the third inning.
From then on, the game was 1-0, with the Cardinal offense unable to score runs against another 4.00+ ERA pitcher, Mitch Keller. For most of the game there were few hits, and many fewer runs. Five of the seven Cardinal hits came in the last two innings. For the second game in a row and the third game this week, the offense came alive in the ninth inning.
In the ninth, with the Cardinals down 2-0, Tommy Edman doubled. Corey Dickerson followed with a double that scored Edman. Then Albert Pujols came to the plate. The Pirates pitcher threw him two balls low and outside. It appeared an unintentional intentional walk was in the works. Then surprisingly Pujols was given a high fastball and he tattooed it over the right center field wall for a two-run home run, #697 of his career. The Cardinals led 3-2.
PUJOLS IS IN SOLE POSSESION OF 4TH ALL-TIME! pic.twitter.com/UMj2W6wjRp
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 11, 2022
Tyler O’Neill followed with a solo home run as insurance, and it was needed. In the bottom of the ninth, Helsley threw a fastball down the middle of the plate to Greg Allen, and he hit it for a home run to cut the lead to 4-3. Helsley had retired the first two hitters out on four pitches, and he was cruising until the mistake pitch to Allen. Fortunately, pinch hitter Ben Gamel flied out to center to end the game.
Edman was 2-for-4 as the only Cardinal with multiple hits. Pujols had two RBI. Dickerson and O’Neill each had an RBI.
On the base paths, Lars Nootbaar was caught stealing.
NL Central Standings
The Big Picture
The Cardinals had a tougher than expected week against two of the worst teams in baseball. They managed to scratch and claw their way to a 4-3 record nevertheless. They split a four-game series with the Nationals and barely won 2 of 3 over the Pirates. The Cardinals remain eight games ahead of the Brewers for first place in the NL Central.
The issue during the week was the offense being nonexistent, barely there or they played catch up at the end of the game. The Cardinals were completely shut out in one game, and when they did score it was in a blowout or a game where all the runs came at the end in desperation. In only one game out of seven did they take and maintain a lead to the end. In other words, it was not a good offensive week for the Redbirds.
The bright spot for the week was Albert Pujols, who continued his march to 700 home runs with a vengeance, hitting home runs #696 and #697 in back-to-back games in Pittsburgh. Yadier Molina has also picked up his offense of late.
The top offensive performers for the week by OPS were Molina (1.090 in 18 ABs), Tommy Edman (.980), Brendan Donovan (.929), and Corey Dickerson (.838). The usual suspects, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, had down weeks offensively and both were kept out of the lineup for Sunday’s game for a rest.
Down at the bottom offensively were Andrew Knizner (.143 in 6 ABs) and Lars Nootbaar (.235 in 19 ABs). Nootbaar made two game saving plays on defense in Sunday’s game and continues to provide the energy the team needs despite his offensive struggles.
As for the pitching, both Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright have been struggling lately. Jack Flaherty has made two starts since coming off the IL, one was okay, and one was not. He has missed most of the season with arm issues, so it is not surprising he isn’t back to form. Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery have been fine.
The bullpen has had its ups and downs (literally in some cases, as there has been some shuttling back and forth from Memphis). Chris Stratton has greatly improved so far. The middle innings have been mostly Stratton, JoJo Romero, Jordan Hicks, and Andre Pallante. The back end is Giovanny Gallegos and Ryan Helsley. Helsley has had an issue with the long ball in the last couple of games, though it was not fatal. Gallegos has been good except for one bad outing against the Nationals. The Cardinals now have Zack Thompson from the left side back in the bullpen and he pitched well. Jake Woodford pitched poorly in his last outing.
The Cardinals come home for a six game homestand against the Brewers and Reds. Both teams will be tough, and the Brewers will be coming off back-to-back wins over the Reds. The Brewers especially will be gunning for the team that is eight games ahead of them and that has recently shown vulnerability offensively. The offense has to come back and perform better than it did over this last week. This is the final stretch of games over the next several weeks and there must be no letting up.
Trade and Acquisition Rumors
There are no trade or acquisition rumors to report.
- 9/5 The Cardinals optioned RHP Dakota Hudson to the Memphis Redbirds.
- 9/5 The Cardinals designated RHP Junior Fernandez for assignment.
- 9/5 The Cardinals activated RHP Jack Flaherty from the 60-day injured list.
- 9/6 The Cardinals sent LHP Steven Matz on a rehab assignment to the Springfield Cardinals.
- 9/7 RHP Junior Fernandez was claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
- 9/7 The Cardinals selected the contract of OF Alec Burleson from the Memphis Redbirds.
- 9/7 The Cardinals designated CF Conner Capel for assignment.
- 9/7 The Cardinals placed CF Dylan Carlson on the 10-day injured list. Left thumb sprain.
- 9/9 CF Conner Capel was claimed off waivers by the Oakland Athletics.
- 9/10 The Cardinals optioned RHP James Naile to the Memphis Redbirds.
- 9/10 The Cardinals recalled LHP Packy Naughton from the Memphis Redbirds.
- RHP Alex Reyes (frayed right labrum) remains on the 60 day IL. The right hander had surgery on the shoulder back in May. It is unlikely Reyes will pitch this season.
- LHP Steven Matz (left knee MCL tear) was placed on the 15-day injured list on July 24. The left hander made his first rehab start in Springfield and went 1 1/3 innings. Matz will continue to pitch in relief for Springfield and will be put in the St. Louis bullpen when he returns.
- RHP Drew VerHagen (right hip impingement) is on the 60-day injured list. VerHagen had hip surgery and is out for the remainder of the season.
- RHP Jack Flaherty was activated from the 60-day injured list and has made two starts.
- OF Dylan Carlson was placed on the 10-day injured list on Wednesday with a left thumb sprain. Carlson had been relegated to platoon status against LHP for the last couple of weeks due to poor performance against RHP. On Wednesday, the team announced an MRI revealed a sprain of his left thumb. The outfielder will go without swinging a bat for 4-6 days.
The Cardinals have returned to St. Louis for a six game homestand. The team will have an off day on Monday, then play two games with the Brewers. Jordan Montgomery will make the Tuesday start with Adam Wainwright following on Wednesday.
The Reds come to town on Thursday for a four-game series with starters yet to be named. If the rotation holds, however, the likely starters for that series are Mikolas, Flaherty, Quintana and Montgomery again on Sunday.
After a travel day on Monday, September 19, the Cardinals play three games in San Diego against the Padres. The team then goes to Los Angeles to play the Dodgers in a weekend series.
The regular season schedule can be found here.
Blast from the Past
In the next installment of our series on the career home run record of Cardinals great Albert Pujols, we review the 2007 and 2008 seasons. 2007, the year following a World Series win, was a down season for the Cardinals as they finished below .500 with a record of 78-84. In 2008, the Cardinals were back to a winning finish.
Following is each season with totals for each and further details about the home runs hit.
This was Albert Pujols’ seventh major league campaign. Pujols hit 32 home runs including four games with two homers.
Pujols’ first long ball in 2007 (#251) was hit on April 8, 2007, against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. The Cardinals defeated the Astros 10-1. The long ball, of the two-run variety, was hit off Astros starter Jason Jennings in top of the third inning.
The final home run hit by Albert in 2007 (#282) was hit in Miller Park off Brewers starter Carlos Villanueva on September 26. It was a solo shot in the top of the first inning. The Cardinals beat the Brewers 7-3.
Further details on the 32 home runs hit by Pujols in 2007.
- Twenty-three of the 32 home runs were hit against right-handed pitchers. Nine were hit off left-handers.
- Of the 32, 20 came on the road and 12 at home.
- Albert hit 7 home runs against the Chicago Cubs.
- Two of the long balls were served up by Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano
- Albert hit four home runs each at Wrigley Field and Minute Maid Park.
- Locations of the 32 home runs were Up the Middle (19), Pulled (11), and Opposite Field (2)
- Long balls by month: April (6), May (3), June (7), July (7), August (7), September (2).
- Type: Fly Balls (26), Line Drives (6).
During Albert Pujols’ eighth major league season, he hit 37 home runs in total, including three games with two homers.
His first 2008 home run (#283) and the second (#284) were hit on April 9, 2008, against the Astros at Minute Maid Park. The first was a two-run long ball in the first inning against Astros starter Chris Sampson. Albert hit his second home run of the game in seventh inning against Dave Borkowski. It was a solo shot. The Cardinals won, 6-4.
Pujols’ final home run of 2008 (#319) was a solo shot at Busch Stadium on September 27 in the seventh inning against Cincinnati Reds reliever Jon Adkins. The Cardinals prevailed, 8-5.
Further details on his 2008 home runs.
- Pujols hit 26 home runs against right-handed pitchers and 11 against left-handers.
- He hit 19 home runs at home and 18 on the road.
- Albert swatted six home runs each against the Reds and the Astros.
- Pujols hit two home runs off Atlanta Braves pitcher Jorge Campillo.
- Great American Ball Park couldn’t hold four of the 37 home runs.
- The locations of the home runs were: Pulled (19), Up the Middle (17), Opposite Field (1).
- Long balls by month: April (5), May (9), June (3), July (4), August (8), and September (8).
- Type of home runs: Fly Ball (27), Line Drive (10).
The next installment will cover Pujols’ 2009 and 2010 seasons.
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