Defensive miscues and a hanging Helsley slider doom Cardinals in walk-off loss

Blake Sabol made Cardinals’ closer Ryan Helsley pay for a spinning slider as the Giants defeated St. Louis, 5-4 on Tuesday.
St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Tommy Edman is unable to catch a throw from catcher Willson...
St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Tommy Edman is unable to catch a throw from catcher Willson Contreras as San Francisco Giants' Thairo Estrada, right, steals second during the second inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Tuesday, April 25, 2023. Estrada scored. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)(Godofredo A. Vásquez | AP)
Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 1:38 AM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - You know things are bad when even the Cardinals’ triumphant comebacks are turning into devastating losses these days. That’s how it went down on Tuesday at Oracle Park as St. Louis battled back for a three-run rally in the eighth only to lose on a Blake Sabol walk-off blast.

Cardinals closer Ryan Helsley hung a slider in a dangerous spot. Sabol didn’t miss it, sending it deep to center field to lift the Giants over the Cardinals, 5-4.

“Just a bad location,” Helsley said to the Bally Sports Midwest postgame show. “Felt good all night. Made one bad pitch and ended up paying the price for it.”

A .200 hitter coming into Tuesday’s action, Sabol had struggled against fastballs this season, while maintaining a quality power stroke against breaking balls. Yet, Helsley never flashed a fastball in the Sabol at-bat, putting the 25-year-old light-hitting rookie into a two-strike count before delivering the fateful slider that ended another disappointing night of St. Louis baseball.

With the Giants down to their final strike, Sabol acknowledged he was sitting slider after noticing a concerted effort by the Cardinals’ pitching staff to attack him with off-speed stuff throughout the game.

Helsley found himself in a jam from the onset of his appearance as Tommy Edman made an uncharacteristic error on a routine grounder for the second night in a row to open the bottom of the ninth. Both booted balls came with Edman playing second base. Though Edman started Tuesday’s game at short and has been the team’s primary shortstop all season, he shifted to second in the late innings after Paul DeJong entered the game as a pinch-hitter.

Edman was also involved in a run-scoring play for San Francisco that featured two Cardinals’ errors in the second inning. As Thairo Estrada attempted to steal second base, Edman couldn’t handle an errant throw from catcher Willson Contreras, allowing the ball to trickle into center field. Things went from bad to worse for St. Louis as outfielder Dylan Carlson ran right by the bouncing baseball as he attempted to corral it.

On what would have been a routine steal of second, Estrada came around to score thanks to errors by Contreras and Carlson. That made life more difficult for Jake Woodford, who started for the Cardinals Tuesday. He managed a solid effort nevertheless, throwing 5.1 innings of two-run baseball.

Though Woodford got burned by the home run ball in the fourth—an aspect of his game that had been a rarity in past seasons but has increased in frequency in 2023—he still put the Cardinals in a position to compete.

The St. Louis offense struggled for the bulk of what amounted to a bullpen game for San Francisco, as former Cardinal John Brebbia got the start. He gave way to a slew of Giants’ relievers who matched up effectively against the St. Louis lineup until the eventual breakthrough in the eighth inning.

Dylan Carlson and Paul DeJong set the table with base hits against lefty reliever Scott Alexander. Tyler O’Neill delivered a pinch double on the first pitch he saw from Alexander to shift to tie the game before Paul Goldschmidt rifled a two-run knock off the glove of Brandon Crawford to provide St. Louis with a hard-earned lead.

It was short-lived for the Cardinals, though, as the Giants capitalized on the Edman error in a three-run bottom of the ninth that lifted San Francisco to consecutive wins to open the mid-week series at Oracle Park—leaving the Cardinals in dire straits amid the fall to a paltry 9-15 record on the year.

Despite the magnitude of the team’s struggles, Cardinals manager Oli Marmol remained steadfast in his belief that his group will not fade following a difficult start to the season.

“At the end of the day, we’re going through a tough one,” Marmol told the Bally Sports Midwest postgame show. “When you suffer like this, it creates some perseverance and character. I’ll tell you right now, this will serve us well down the road.

“This group’s not going to cave. I don’t care what people think. This will serve us extremely well when we get into September, I’ll tell you that.”