St. Louis Cardinals MLB Notebook – Week of September 28 – October 4

Game Recaps

Wednesday, September 30, 2020 – Cardinals 7 at Padres 4

The first game of the Wild Card Series between the #5 seed St. Louis Cardinals and the #4 seed San Diego Padres began on Wednesday.  The Cardinals took the series lead with a 7-4 victory over the Friars.

The Cardinals offense has had its struggles during the regular season but was able to score a sufficient amount of runs to secure the win.  The lineup aggressively put four runs on the board in the first inning.  Tommy Edman, batting in the second spot in the lineup, singled and came home as Paul Goldschmidt followed with a home run to left field.  Dylan Carlson smacked a double to left and Yadier Molina singled to bring Carlson home. Paul DeJong doubled, sending Molina to third base, and Matt Carpenter plated Molina on a sac fly.  The Cardinals led 4-0.

Dylan Carlson via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The Padres responded with a run in the home first and added a second run in the second inning.  The Cardinals increased the lead to 6-2 in the top of the third as Carlson singled and Molina thumped a double to left field. DeJong singled to score Carlson.  Carpenter followed with a single to plate Molina.

The Padres added one run in the third inning and another score in the sixth.  St. Louis’ lead had eroded to 6-4.  An insurance run was added in the ninth.  Consecutive walks to DeJong and Carpenter and an RBI single by Fowler brought home the win as the Padres did not score in the bottom of the ninth.

Carlson, DeJong and Molina each had two hits.  Carpenter and Goldschmidt drove in two runs each.

St. Louis’ Kwang-Hyun Kim made the start.  The left-hander pitched 3 2/3 innings and yielded three runs on five hits.  Kim struck out two and walked two but did not give up the long ball to the high-powered Padres.  He threw 76 pitches, 44 for strikes.

Five relievers followed Kim to hold the lead. Ryan Helsley was the only one of the five to yield additional runs.  The right hander tossed 1 1/3 innings, gave up one hit and struck out one.

Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos, Andrew Miller, and Alex Reyes combined to pitch the final four scoreless innings.

Carlson stole his first postseason base, and Fowler had an outfield assist at third base.

Thursday, October 1, 2020 – Cardinals 9 at Padres 11

The second game of the Wild Card Series between the Cardinals and the Padres brought a slugfest that ended poorly for St. Louis.  After blowing two different four-run leads and unable to complete the two-game sweep, the Cardinals faced elimination on Friday in their final chance to advance to the Division Series.

Veteran righty Adam Wainwright made Thursday’s start.  The first three innings went well as his offense gave him a 4-0 lead.  However, the wheels came off the bus in the home fourth.

Wainwright gave up consecutive singles to Eric Hosmer, Tommy Pham, and Mitch Moreland.  With the bases juiced, Wil Myers grounded into a force out at third base to bring the first Padres run home.  With one out and runners on first and second, a wild pitch by Wainwright gave San Diego their second run of the inning.

After issuing a walk to Austin Nola, Wainwright came out of the game.  Austin Gomber walked his first hitter, Jake Cronenworth, but recovered to strike out Trent Grisham and Fernando Tatis Jr. to get out of the jam.

Gomber returned to pitch the fifth.  A throwing error by shortstop Paul DeJong put Manny Machado on first.  Gomber induced a double play by Eric Hosmer to eliminate the threat, but then gave up singles to Tommy Pham and pinch hitter Jurickson Profar.  Gomber was removed and replaced by Ryan Helsley, who fanned Wil Myers to end the threat.

The Cardinals gave themselves breathing room by adding two runs in the top of the sixth to increase the lead to 6-2, but the jubilation and their second four-run lead were both short lived.  Genesis Cabrera walked Nola and Cronenworth to open the home sixth.  After fanning Grisham, Cabrera departed in favor of Giovanny Gallegos. The recipient of the “game ball” after Game 1 went from hero to goat by giving up back-to-back home runs to Tatis Jr. (three runs) and Hosmer, which tied the score at 6-6.  After Pham doubled, Gallegos struck out Profar to end the inning.

Things went from bad to worse in the seventh and eighth as Daniel Ponce de Leon yielded three runs on Hosmer’s second solo shot and a two-run blast by Tatis Jr. in the seventh.  Kodi Whitley surrendered a two-run home run in the eighth to Myers with one of Tyler Webb’s runners aboard.  Ponce de Leon took the loss.

Overall, the pen yielded nine runs, all earned, in 4 2/3 innings. The final five Cardinals relievers of the night were all scored upon, giving up five home runs.

St. Louis’ offense was plentiful but could not keep pace with the powerful Padres attack.  Tommy Edman singled to center in the first and Yadier Molina later singled to drive him home to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead.  Matt Carpenter doubled to lead off the second and Harrison Bader singled to center to plate Carpenter.  Kolten Wong then thumped a two-run home run to right field for the 4-0 cushion.

Kolten Wong via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The Redbirds did not add on until the sixth inning. Paul DeJong and Carpenter walked to begin the frame.  Dexter Fowler’s line drive double to right field scored DeJong.  Wong plated Carpenter on a ground out to the pitcher.

After the Padres scored seven in the sixth and seventh, the Cardinals attempted to rally in the final two innings.  In the eighth, Carpenter was hit by a pitch and Fowler followed with a single.  Bader and Wong hit sac flies to bring the Cardinals to within one run, 9-8. However, the long ball subsequently yielded by Whitley negated this rally.

In the ninth, the final Cardinals rally began with a solo home run by Paul Goldschmidt.  With the lead down to 11-9, Dylan Carlson drew a walk and Molina singled.  The attempt ended there as DeJong popped out, Carpenter struck out, and Fowler grounded out against former Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

With his two hits Thursday night, Molina racked up yet another career milestone, becoming just the fifth player in MLB history to collect 100 hits in the post-season.

Wong drove in four runs and Bader plated two. Both of Goldschmidt’s hits went for extra bases, a double and a home run. Carpenter scored three times. However, as a team, the Cardinals offense’s ongoing problem bringing runners in continued as the team was just 4-for-18 with runners in scoring position. Even so, scoring nine runs should be enough to win.

Friday, October 2, 2020 – Cardinals 0, Padres 4

It is as basic as baseball itself. You can’t win if you don’t score.

That is how the challenging season of 2020 for the Cardinals came to its sputtering end as they were blanked by the San Diego Padres 4-0 in the elimination game of the best-of-three Wild Card Series Friday evening at Petco Park.

Jack Flaherty made a very strong start but was rewarded with nothing from the feeble offense.  After scoring 16 runs in the first two games, St. Louis’ offense apparently had nothing left to give.  The game remained scoreless  through 4 ½ innings as Flaherty battled with the Padres bullpen.  The Friars finally broke through in the fifth on doubles by Fernando Tatis Jr. and Eric Hosmer to take a 1-0 lead.  Flaherty finished his outing with a scoreless sixth and was replaced by Alex Reyes.

Jack Flaherty via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

In the seventh, the Padres offense added insult to injury with the help of the usually outstanding Cardinals defense.  When Trent Grisham grounded into a potential double play, a throwing error by 2019 Gold Glove second baseman Kolten Wong left runners on second and third with no outs.  An intentional walk to Tatis Jr. juiced the bases.  Manny Machado grounded to third, where Tommy Edman caught the ball on a high hop but failed to touch the bag before throwing home.  The force was removed at home, a run scored, and every runner was safe.  With the bases still loaded, Reyes walked Eric Hosmer and the Padres led 3-0.

San Diego completed its scoring when Reyes yielded a solo home run to Jake Cronenworth in the eighth.   Only this final run that occurred on Reyes’ watch was earned. Flaherty took the loss.

Against nine different San Diego pitchers, the Cardinals offense managed just four hits.  A double by Yadier Molina was the only to go for extra bases and his walk was only one of three earned by the team. Wong, Edman, and Dylan Carlson each singled.  In a continuing problem, St. Louis hitters were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.

The Big Picture

The Cardinals were eliminated from the postseason following losses to the Padres in the final two games of the Wild Card Series.  The Cardinals won the first game by a score of 7-2 but lost 11-9 and 4-0 in the final two games.

As has been the case throughout the season, the offense, or lack thereof, was the predominate issue.  Though the Cardinals scored nine runs in Game 2, the pitching was unable to hold back the Padres offense.  In the third and final game, the offense was non-existent.

Only three Cardinals had an OPS in the series above .762, Yadier Molina (1.115), Paul Goldschmidt (1.055), and Dylan Carlson (1.016).  Three others had OPS’s at or above .700, Matt Carpenter (.762), Paul DeJong (.729), and Kolten Wong (.700).

Yadier Molina via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Harrison Bader, who had the highest OPS during the week before the series, had the lowest of the series (.293).  Bader ended the regular season with the third highest OPS on the team for the full season at .779.  Brad Miller, who ended the regular season with the second highest OPS (.807), slumped during the last two weeks of the season with an OPS of only .544 and thus did not start any of the three games and made only one pinch hitting appearance in the series.   The only Cardinal who has had consistent offense through both the regular season and the postseason is Goldschmidt.   One player cannot carry a team.

Pitching and defense basically powered the Cardinals into the offseason.  Both failed them to a lesser degree in the postseason, as evidenced by the staff’s 6.12 ERA. Other than Austin Gomber, Andrew Miller and Alex Reyes, the bullpen especially struggled.

Without a consistent offense and leaky pitching, it was an uphill battle for the Cardinals against the powerful Padres.

Enhancing the hitting should be a key component of the Cardinals’ offseason activity.

Final NL Central Standings

All four National League Central teams to qualify for the post-season lost their Wild Card Series. St. Louis was the only one of the four to even claim one game.

Team W L Pct GB Playoffs
Chicago 34 26 0.567 yes
St. Louis 30 28 0.517 3 yes
Cincinnati 31 29 0.517 3 yes
Milwaukee 29 31 0.483 5 yes
Pittsburgh 19 41 0.317 15

Cardinals icon Bob Gibson passes away

As the Cardinals were playing the third and final game of the Wild Card Series against the Padres on Friday, October 2, word came that former Cardinals pitcher and Hall of Famer Bob Gibson had passed away at the age of 84.  The news was a blow to an organization already in the throes of a heartbreaking loss in a postseason elimination game.

Bob Gibson (St. Louis Cardinals)

Gibson had been battling pancreatic cancer for a year at the time of his death.  While the announcement of his death came via Twitter during the game, the players were not informed until the game was over.  During the Zoom press conference after the game, Jack Flaherty and Yadier Molina shared their sorrow and offered their condolences to the family of Gibson.

What Gibson meant to both baseball and specifically the Cardinals cannot be summed up in a few paragraphs.  Gibson was without argument the best pitcher in the history of the Cardinals organization and one of the best pitchers in the history of major league baseball.  Mere words cannot do justice to the career of this great man.

Gibson was a two-time Cy Young Award winner, a nine time All-Star, and the National League Most Valuable Player in 1968.  Among all Cardinals pitchers he ranks first in many categories, including wins (251) and strikeouts (3,117).  He holds the MLB record for the lowest single season ERA, 1.12 in 1968, a record that may never be broken.

Gibson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981, his first year of eligibility.  He was included in the inaugural class of the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014.  After his retirement from baseball, he spent a year as a pitching coach for the Mets in 1981 and for the Atlanta Braves from 1982-84.  He also did broadcasting work for ESPN and was a special instructor for the Cardinals beginning in 1996.

The announcement of his death came on the anniversary of Game 1 of the 1968 World Series in which Gibson struck out 17 Detroit Tigers hitters to set a World Series record for strikeouts.

Gibson was and will always be the most favorite Cardinal to this author, who as a child watched him pitch in person several times at games in Busch Stadium.

Gibson is survived by his wife Wendy, son Chris, and daughters Annette and Renee.

Trade and Acquisition Rumors

There are no trade or acquisition rumors to report.

Transactions

  • 9/28 The Cardinals activated RHP John Gant from the 10-day injured list.
  • 9/28 The Cardinals recalled RHP Daniel Ponce de Leon and C Andrew Knizner from the Alternate Training Site.
  • 9/30 The Cardinals optioned RHPs Jake Woodford and Seth Elledge to the Alternate Training Site.
  • 10/3 The Cardinals activated RHP Carlos Martinez from the 10-day injured list.

Injury Report

  • RHP John Brebbia underwent Tommy John surgery on June 1. He missed the entire 2020 season and will likely miss part of the 2021 season.
  • RHP Jordan Hicks (Tommy John surgery – Type 1 diabetes) opted out of the 2020 season.
  • RHP Miles Mikolas (right forearm strain) had arm surgery and missed the majority of the 2020 season. Mikolas is expected to be healthy to return and pitch in Spring Training 2021.
  • LHP Ricardo Sanchez was transferred from the 10-day injured list to the 45-day injured list. Left elbow pain.
  • RHP Dakota Hudson was transferred from the 10-day injured list to the 45-day injured list. The right hander had Tommy John surgery and will be out for 9-15 months.
  • RHP Carlos Martinez was sent home to recover from his left oblique strain. He was activated from the 10-day injured list after the season concluded.
  • RHP John Gant (groin strain) was with the team but inactive in the Wild Card round. He was activated from the 10-day injured list after the season concluded.

Looking Ahead

St. Louis’ season is over following a loss to the Padres in the Wild Card Series.  The team has returned to St. Louis.  The postseason will continue without the Cardinals participation.

The offseason begins officially at 9 a.m. on the day following the end of the World Series.  All potential free agents will officially become free agents at this time, with current teams holding a five-day exclusivity window.  Five days after the end of the World Series, teams will begin making decisions on qualifying offers and whether to exercise options.

Offseason awards will be announced in November.  Teams will be making 40-man roster decisions in November in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft and will also be reinstating all injured list players not already activated.

Due to COVID-19 considerations, some or all of the usual offseason meetings will likely not take place in person.  The General Managers Meeting in November will take place virtually.  The Winter Meetings in December will likely also be virtual.

Blast from the Past

This week’s Blast From the Past will be the first in a series of history segments covering the great career of Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson, who passed away this past week at the age of 84.  We begin with a brief summation of his early life, followed by the beginnings of his baseball career, including his major league debut.  We end with some notable events that occurred during his career on the dates covered by this Notebook.

Robert Gibson was born on November 9, 1935 in Omaha, Nebraska.  He was the youngest child of Pack and Victoria Gibson.  Gibson’s father passed away of tuberculosis three months before he was born, and his mother named him Pack Robert Gibson in honor of his father.  Gibson hated the name and later changed it to just Robert.

Gibson was a gifted athlete and played on several youth baseball and basketball teams.  He attended Omaha Technical High School and participated in track, baseball, and basketball there.  He was named to the All State Basketball team his senior year in high school and won a full athletic scholarship for basketball to Creighton University in his hometown.

After graduation from Creighton, Gibson was offered a $3,000 bonus to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals.  The Harlem Globetrotters basketball team made Gibson a comparable offer and he delayed his start with the Cardinals to play for the Globetrotters for a year.

Gibson began his professional baseball career with the Cardinals in 1957 and made his major league debut on April 15, 1959 in a relief role.  Gibson pitched the final two innings in a 5-0 loss to the Dodgers, giving up two runs on two hits.  He made two more relief appearances on April 16 an 18 and then was reassigned to the Cardinals minor league affiliate in Omaha.

Gibson was recalled to the major leagues on July 30 and made his first career start, pitching a complete game 1-0 shutout against the Cincinnati Reds.  He made six starts in August and two more in September.  His last appearance was in a relief role on September 27 against the Giants in which he pitched 4 2/3 innings.  This was his last appearance in his rookie season of 1959.

A few notable events from September 28 to October 4 in the career of Bob Gibson include:

  • September 29, 1965 – Gibson hit career home run #11. This long ball was the first grand slam of his career and was hit off Gaylord Perry of the San Francisco Giants in the top of the eighth inning in an 8-6 win for the Cardinals.
  • October 2, 1968 – Gibson strikes out 17 hitters in Game 1 of the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. This set a new MLB record, surpassing the previous record of 15 by Sandy Koufax five years earlier.
  • October 3, 1965 – Gibson becomes a 20-game winner for the first time in his career, pitching a complete game against the Houston Astros at the Astrodome. The Cardinals beat the Astros 5-2.

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