photo: Edmundo Sosa via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
The St. Louis Cardinals continue to tread water, going 3-3 against two last-place teams. The upcoming schedule is much tougher, with Cincinnati and Milwaukee just ahead. Rookie Edmundo Sosa’s hot bat is earning him more time at shortstop. Our history feature celebrates interesting accomplishments by catcher Yadier Molina.
Monday, August 23 – Off day
The St. Louis Cardinals ended the homestand with a short two game series with the Tigers. In the first game, the Tigers held on to win 4-3 against a Cardinals offense that struggled early.
Starter Jack Flaherty had a good first inning, then showed signs of the injury that took him out of the game after two innings. Flaherty gave up two runs in that second inning on two singles and three walks. The right hander returned to start the third, but after surrendering back-to-back home runs, he left the game. The four runs that Flaherty yielded were the only runs the Tigers scored. Daniel Ponce de Leon tossed 2 1/3 innings. Four more relievers, Andrew Miller, Kwang-Hyun Kim, T.J. McFarland, and Luis Garcia combined to finish the game without additional runs scoring.
The Cardinals offense could do nothing against Detroit starter Casey Mize, as well as reliever Kyle Funkhouser. St. Louis hitters finally got to Erasmo Ramirez in the eighth. Harrison Bader led off with a triple and Edmundo Sosa drew a walk. Tommy Edman plated Bader on a ground out for the first of three Cardinal runs. Dylan Carlson was hit by a pitch. The Tigers replaced Ramirez with Michael Fulmer. Nolan Arenado doubled off Fulmer and plated by Sosa and Carlson.
St. Louis was unable to score in the ninth and lost the game 4-3. The offense had just six hits. No Cardinal had multiples. Extra base hits were the Bader triple and doubles by Carlson and Arenado.
Edman stole his 20th base of the season. Paul DeJong was caught stealing for the first time.
In the second game of the series the Cardinals were able to gain the narrowest of victories to split the two-game series with Detroit. The Cardinals scored early, but Detroit eventually tied, taking it into extra innings. St. Louis won in the bottom of the 10th in a walk off.
Paul Goldschmidt took Tigers starter Tarik Skubal deep in the first inning to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. Goldschmidt again scored with the bases-empty long ball against Skubal in the third.
In the fifth, Detroit cut the lead to 2-1 with that score holding until the ninth. After retiring the first two hitters, Cardinals closer Alex Reyes gave up a double to pinch hitter Miguel Cabrera. Harold Castro tapped Reyes for a single and Cabrera scored to tie the game at 2-2. The Cardinals failed to score in the bottom of the ninth.
The game went into the 10th with T.J. McFarland on the mound for St. Louis. McFarland kept the Tigers off the board, and the game proceeded to the bottom half. Tommy Edman started out at second base. Detroit reliever Michael Fulmer intentionally walked Goldschmidt. Dylan Carlson lined out. Edman stole second base. Fulmer intentionally walked Nolan Arenado. Paul DeJong grounded out and Edman was thrown out at home. Lars Nootbaar singled to right field and Goldschmidt scored for the walk off victory.
Goldschmidt was 2-for-4 with two RBI and three runs scored. Edman was 2-for-5.
Starter Jon Lester pitched five innings and gave up one run on seven hits, fanned four and walked two. Luis Garcia, Genesis Cabrera, and Giovanny Gallegos each tossed a scoreless inning. Reyes gave up the tying run in the ninth and was tagged with the blown save. McFarland threw a scoreless 10th to earn the win.
Edman stole his 21st base of the season. Goldschmidt stole his ninth base.
The Cardinals took on the Pirates in a four-game series in Pittsburgh. Thursday’s Game 1 loss was as sudden as it was tough and heartbreaking. A large lead was lost in a blink of an eye.
The contest began very well for St. Louis. The offense got to Pirates starter Mitch Keller early and often. In the first inning, Nolan Arenado blasted his 26th home run, a two-run shot. In the second inning, Lars Nootbaar led off with a walk and Edmundo Sosa singled. Tommy Edman doubled to plate Nootbaar and Sosa. Edman scored on a single by Paul Goldschmidt. The Redbirds led 5-0.
The Pirates got one run back in the home half of the second inning. In the top of the third, Sosa thumped a two-run home run to center field to put St. Louis up 7-1.
The Pirates again answered with two runs in the bottom of the third, cutting St. Louis’ lead to 7-3. That held for the next 3 ½ innings. Andrew Miller started the seventh and gave up a double and a walk. Miller was replaced with Genesis Cabrera, and the Pittsburgh hitters began teeing off on the left hander. In all the Pirates hit four singles, two doubles and a two-run home run in the seventh for eight runs in that inning. The Bucs took a 11-7 lead in a short space of time. Daniel Ponce de Leon and stopped the bleeding, but the Cardinals were not able to recover.
Edman was 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. Sosa was 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored. Arenado drove in two.
Starter Miles Mikolas pitched 4 1/3 innings and gave up three runs on eight hits, struck out three and walked one. T.J. McFarland got the final two outs of the fifth inning. Andrew Miller retired all three batters in the sixth, then started the seventh but was replaced after two batters with no outs. Genesis Cabrera relieved. Against the two lefties, the Pirates scored eight runs. Two were charged to Miller and the other six to Cabrera. Neither pitched recorded an out in the seventh. Daniel Ponce de Leon, the third pitcher of the inning, got the three outs to end the bloodshed. Junior Fernandez threw a scoreless eighth. Cabrera was tagged with the blown save and the loss.
The Cardinals recovered from the tough loss on Friday to come back and edge Pittsburgh in the third game of the road series.
J.A. Happ got the start and pitched 5 2/3 innings, gave up two runs on three hits, fanned four and walked three. Luis Garcia tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Happ. Giovanny Gallegos surrendered one run in the eighth. Alex Reyes threw a scoreless ninth.
The game was scoreless for the first four innings. In the fifth, the Cardinals put up three runs. Edmundo Sosa and Harrison Bader hit back-to-back doubles. Sosa scored on Bader’s double. Tommy Edman then hit a two-run home run to left field. The Cardinals led 3-0.
The Pirates responded with one run in the home half of the fifth. Pittsburgh added a second run in the sixth. In the seventh, Paul DeJong tripled and scored on a sac fly by Edman for a 4-2 St. Louis lead.
The Bucs made it 4-3 in the eighth, but the Redbirds bullpen held on in the ninth. Paul Goldschmidt was 3-for-4, Edman had three RBI and Bader drove in one.
Edman made a throwing error and Bader threw a runner out at home.
The Cardinals continued their revenge for Thursday’s game by pummeling the Pirates with a 13-run sledgehammer. The offense pounded Pittsburgh’s pitching with 18 hits.
The Redbirds got started with two runs scored in the second inning on a Yadier Molina single, a Dylan Carlson walk and a triple by Edmundo Sosa.
St. Louis added five more runs in the third inning. Tommy Edman led off with a double and scored on a Paul Goldschmidt single. Tyler O’Neill singled, and Nolan Arenado singled to load the bases. Molina ground into a force out and Goldschmidt was thrown out at home. Sosa tripled again, scoring O’Neill, Arenado, and Molina. Sosa scored on a single by Adam Wainwright. The score was 7-0.
The Cardinals bats were quiet in the fourth and fifth. In the sixth, Edman singled and scored on a Goldschmidt double. The onslaught continued in the seventh. Dylan Carlson walked but was out on a force out by Sosa. Harrison Bader walked, and Wainwright walked. Edman singled to score Sosa. Goldschmidt walked and Bader scored. St. Louis had a 10-0 lead.
The Cardinals continued to score with three runs in the eighth. Carlson hit a two-run home run. Sosa singled and Lars Nootbaar doubled. Edman plated Sosa on a single. From there, the Cardinals finally stopped scoring and the Pirates never did.
Edman was 4-for-6 with two RBI and two run scored. Goldschmidt was 2-for-4 with three driven in. Carlson went 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. Sosa was 4-for-6 with five RBI and three runs scored.
This game was started by Wainwright. The right hander didn’t get a complete game this time, or a Maddux. Wainwright went seven scoreless innings with three hits allowed, five strikeouts and one walk. Junior Fernandez and Kodi Whitley each tossed a scoreless inning.
In the field, Bader made a throwing error on ball that hit second base and bounced away from Edman trying to catch it.
The final game between the Cardinals and the Pirates ended badly for St. Louis. The action went along quietly, with the Cardinals leading most of the way until it fell apart in the ninth.
Kwang-Hyun Kim started and pitched four innings. The left hander gave up one run on three hits, struck out three and walked one. Luis Garcia tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings, and T. J. McFarland followed with 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Giovanny Gallegos pitched a scoreless eighth. Alex Reyes came in for the ninth and surrendered three runs to take the loss and the blown save.
St. Louis took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on an RBI triple by Tyler O’Neill. It was O’Neill’s first career three-base hit. The Pirates tied it up in the fourth.
In the fifth, the Redbirds retook the lead on a two-run home run by Tommy Edman. The game remained 3-1 in favor of the Cardinals until the ninth. Reyes walked the first hitter, Bryan Reynolds, but struck out Colin Moran. Reyes walked Jacob Stallings. Toshi Tsutsugo came to the plate with two runs on base. Reyes hung a slider to Tsutsugo on the first pitch and the right fielder sent the ball out of the stadium and bounding into the Allegheny River. The 3-1 lead went into the river with the ball and the Pirates walked it off to split the series, two games each.
Edman was 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. Dylan Carlson was 2-for-3 and was caught stealing for the first time.
The Big Picture
It was a disappointing stretch from the Cardinals this past week. The team split both series, both against last place teams. St. Louis took 1 of 2 from the Tigers and 2 of 4 with the Pirates for a 3-3 week. This record does little to help the Cardinals move closer to the second Wild Card playoff spot. The only thing that did help was the Reds losing 2 of 3 to the Marlins over the weekend. The Cardinals are at least one game closer, now back 3.5 games of the second wild card instead of the previous 4.5.
The week brought more offense from the Cardinals than has been the standard lately, though not enough to win all the games. Four of the six were one run wins or losses. The lineup is still failing to get hot at the same time, or at least most of them. It is 2 or 3 players carrying the load and not always the same 2 or 3 from week to week.
The operative word is consistency, a word that has been repeated ad nauseam in this Big Picture week over week for much of the season. Major league hitting is very hard, and player performance will normally ebb and flow, but it seems when a Cardinals player goes cold, it is for a long time. Two players in particular have been struggling for weeks, Nolan Arenado and Harrison Bader. Bader’s struggles are more pronounced than Arenado’s, as the third baseman occasionally pops one out of the park or gets the errant single. Both players have shown dazzling defense, and that has mitigated the struggles somewhat. Bader especially has saved the Cardinals many runs over the last few weeks. Nevertheless, the offense needs their contribution with the bat. Also struggling so much he has been relegated to the bench recently is Paul DeJong. Edmundo Sosa has performed so well he has taken many of DeJong’s starts at shortstop over the past couple of weeks.
The top offensive performers over the last seven days by OPS are Sosa (1.717), Tommy Edman (1.290), Paul Goldschmidt (1.135), and Dylan Carlson (.836). Under .700 are Nolan Arenado (.588), Yadier Molina (.400) and Harrison Bader (.362). Tyler O’Neill missed some time with a tight back, and his OPS was .620.
Now to the pitching. The starters have been fine, other than poor Jack Flaherty, who has once again been sidelined with an injury, this time perhaps for most, if not all, of the remaining season. Filling his spot is Kwang-Hyun Kim, who was recently activated from his own stint on the injured list, but without the ability to pitch deep into games.
The bullpen, however, has not been fine. The series in Pittsburgh very much highlighted the weaknesses at the back end. The “big three”, as they have been dubbed, Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos, and Alex Reyes are showing second half wear and tear, perhaps due to fatigue or overuse. Cabrera was rocked for six runs in one inning in Thursday’s game in Pittsburgh, a loss that was especially tough because the Cardinals had led for all the game up to that point by a decent margin. Reyes has been hit or miss for most of the second half and has been sporting a rough looking walk record. In Sunday’s game, he walked two and then gave up the walk off three run home run that went out of the ballpark, literally. Gallegos has had a couple of rough outings, and even in the appearances where he is successful, has been slow and plodding and just not as sharp as he has been in the past.
Manager Mike Shildt indicated to the media after Sunday’s loss that a change in Reyes’ role going forward is a possibility. Who will replace him if he is in fact moved out of the closer role is to be determined. In-season additions T.J. McFarland and Luis Garcia are currently the most reliable pen options.
The Cardinals’ remaining schedule is going to be tough. Games with teams who would make the playoffs if the season ended today predominate the month of September, including the Brewers, Reds, Dodgers and Padres (who have been struggling of late but are still in the hunt).
There is also a series in New York with the Mets, who are sub .500 and still trying to find their way back from a prolonged period of losing. The only other sub .500 team opponent in September is the reeling Cubs, with whom they have one final three game series.
Time is running out – if it hasn’t already.
NL Central Standings
Trade and Acquisition Rumors
There are no trade or acquisition rumors to report.
- 8/24 The Cardinals activated OF Dylan Carlson from the 10-day injured list.
- 8/24 The Cardinals optioned OF Austin Dean to the Memphis Redbirds.
- 8/25 The Cardinals placed RHP Jack Flaherty on the 10-day injured list. Right shoulder strain.
- 8/25 The Cardinals recalled RHP Junior Fernandez from the Memphis Redbirds.
- 8/28 The Cardinals recalled RHP Kodi Whitley from the Memphis Redbirds.
- 8/28 The Cardinals sent RHP Dakota Hudson on a rehab assignment to the Palm Beach Cardinals.
- 8/28 The Cardinals placed LHP Andrew Miller on the 10-day injured list. Left foot blister
- RHP Jordan Hicks (right elbow inflammation) remains on the 60-day injured list. Hicks began throwing bullpen sessions on August 16, but the team is being very cautious with the young right hander. It appears there may not be enough time for Hicks to return for this season and the team is looking for places for Hicks to play winter ball over the offseason to evaluate where he is in his recovery.
- 2B Max Moroff (left shoulder subluxation) remains on the 60-day injured list after suffering a shoulder injury in a batting practice session. Moroff had surgery on the shoulder and is out for the rest of the season.
- RHP Dakota Hudson (Tommy John surgery) was sent on a rehab assignment to the Palm Beach Cardinals. Hudson made his first start of two innings on Tuesday as he attempts to come back from elbow surgery. The RHP could possibly pitch for the Cardinals out of the bullpen at some point before the season is over.
- RHP Carlos Martinez (right thumb ligament sprain) had surgery on July 16 to repair his thumb ligament. The surgery makes it less likely the right hander will return to pitch this season. If that is the case, Martinez may have thrown his last pitch as a Cardinal. Martinez is on the final year of his contract, and though the team holds options for 2022 and 2023, they are not expected to pick them up.
- LHP Wade LeBlanc (left elbow pain) remains on the 10-day injured list. The left hander has suffered a setback in his attempt to return from an elbow injury. Le Blanc experienced continued discomfort after throwing his first bullpen session on August 24. It is possible he will not recover sufficiently to return to pitching this season.
- RF Dylan Carlson (right wrist) was activated and returned to the lineup on Tuesday against the Tigers.
- RHP Ryan Helsley (right elbow stress reaction), remains on the 10-day injured list. While recovering from the elbow injury, the right hander had an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee. President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak reported to the media that it is a long shot for Helsley to return this season. As for the elbow, no structural damage was found, and it will only require rest to recover.
- RHP Justin Miller (right ulnar nerve irritation) was placed on the 10-day injured list on August 18. Miller has resumed playing catch. The outlook for a return is late September if at all.
- LHP Andrew Miller (left foot blister) was placed on the 10-day injured list on August 28, retroactive to August 27. The blister is on a different foot than the one he had which took him out for a while earlier in the season. Miller had the blister drained, and the Cardinals are hopeful the left hander will be able to return after the 10-day minimum has expired.
- RHP Jack Flaherty (right shoulder strain) is back on the injured list after making only three starts since returning from a lengthy stay on the injured list due to an oblique injury. Scans were taken of the shoulder that revealed no structural damage. The scans were sent out for a second opinion and the team is awaiting the results. A return for Flaherty this season remains uncertain at this point.
The Cardinals have traveled to Cincinnati, where they will play the Reds in a three-game series beginning Monday evening. Jon Lester is scheduled to make the Game 1 start. Miles Mikolas will go Tuesday, with J.A Happ to follow on Wednesday.
A Thursday off day enables travel to Milwaukee to play the first-place Brewers in a weekend set.
On Labor Day, Monday, September 6, the Dodgers come to Busch Stadium for a four-game series. The homestand will continue as the Reds visit St. Louis for a weekend series beginning September 10.
The Cardinals will make a brief road trip to New York to face the Mets in a three-game series starting Monday September 13, then return home for a weekend home series against San Diego.
The Cardinals regular season schedule can be found here.
Blast from the Past
Cardinals fans received good news this past week in the form of an announcement that long-time catcher and fan favorite Yadier Molina had reached an agreement with the Cardinals to return for one final season at a $10 million salary as the Redbirds backstop. The 2022 season will put the finishing touches on his long and storied career as one of the best catchers of his generation. This week’s Blast from the Past gives a very brief history of how Molina started and add some notable facts about his time with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Molina is the youngest of three boys born to Benjamin Molina Sr. and Gladys Matta in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. He was born on July 13, 1982. His two older brothers, Bengie and Jose, both had major league careers as catchers as well. Yadier began in baseball at a young age and played mostly infield positions until the age of 16. When he became too old to play for the local youth leagues, his father got him a workout with an amateur league team consisting of players who were 10 or more years older than Yadier. Molina made the team as their starting catcher.
When Molina was old enough to be draft eligible, in 2000, he worked out for the Cincinnati Reds, and impressed the likes of Johnny Bench and Bob Boone as well as scouts and executives of the Reds. Molina left the workout believing the Reds would draft him. Instead, he was selected by the Cardinals in the fourth round and signed for $325,000. He began in the minors for the Johnson City Cardinals and moved each year to the next level until he was called up on June 3, 2004, to the big league team to replace injured Mike Matheny. The rest is history.
The following are some interesting and/or notable facts about the future Hall of Famer’s long career for the Cardinals.
- The man he would replace as the Cardinals catcher, Mike Matheny, was not unfamiliar with Molina prior to his callup. Matheny reportedly told his wife in 2001 “I saw the kid who is going to steal my job.”
- Molina ascended to the role as starting catcher for the Cardinals to begin the 2005 season after Matheny left in free agency. At the age of 22, Molina was the youngest NL catcher to start on Opening Day since Jason Kendall in 1996.
- Molina’s uniform number for the Cardinals when he began his career was “41”. He changed it to “4” to start the 2006 season.
- Molina faced his brother Bengie for the first time in a major league game on April 18, 2007 in a 6-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants.
- His first career start at first base occurred on June 22, 2008, in a 5-3 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
- On April 5, 2010, Molina became the first Cardinals catcher to hit a grand slam on Opening Day.
- In 2011, Molina became the first catcher in franchise history to appear in five postseasons.
- Molina broke the record for most games caught in franchise history on April 18, 2016. It was his 1,440th career game.
- On April 2, 2017, Molina became the first batter ever walked in a major league game without a pitch thrown. He was intentionally walked in the bottom of the ninth inning by Cubs manager Joe Maddon in a 3-3 game.
- On July 11, 2017, Molina became the oldest catcher to hit a home run in an All-Star Game. His solo home run was hit against Ervin Santana in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation
Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos.
20% off Blowout Sale now underway on the spiral-bound, printed version.
Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.
Follow Marilyn Green on Twitter @Marilyncolor.
© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.