Angels tag Gallegos for three-run ninth to stun Cardinals
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - If it ain’t one thing for the Cardinals during this tumultuous beginning to the 2023 season, you can pretty safely assume it’s going to be another.
On Wednesday night at Busch Stadium, it was the reliable reliever coughing up a pair of home runs to negate eight innings of well-played, astutely-managed baseball. Giovanny Gallegos allowed three ninth-inning runs and the Cardinals watched helplessly as a pivotal statement win for their season slipped away in a 6-4 loss to the Angels.
Although two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani racked up 13 strikeouts on the Busch Stadium mound, the Cardinal lineup actually dealt him the type of damage that few other teams have been able to fathom so far this season.
Thunderous swings by Nolan Gorman and Dylan Carlson helped to put the Cardinals in position to grind out a win in the Ohtani game. But the best-laid plans for manager Oli Marmol went up in smoke when Gallegos—who entered Wednesday with a shiny 1.00 ERA on the season—allowed home runs to Jake Lamb and Mike Trout to twist a 4-3 St. Louis lead into a 5-4 deficit.
Ohtani later added a double, his third hit of the night, and came around to score an insurance run as the Angels stunned the Cardinals to drop St. Louis to 10-21 on the season, the standalone worst record in the National League.
The Cardinals scratched out four extra-base hits and four runs against Ohtani, who came into Wednesday’s start with a 1.85 ERA on the season. Although the Cardinals struggled to put bat to ball against Los Angeles pitching throughout the evening—the Cardinals struck out 17 times as a team, 13 coming against Ohtani—they benefitted from a transaction that saw whiffs traded for the promise of damage.
Unlike the tentative swings we’ve seen from the St. Louis lineup in recent days, Cardinal hitters were unapologetic in taking their hacks Wednesday night. Though it led to quite a few quick turns back to the dugout, it also produced a respectable showing against one of the game’s best pitchers.
“I feel like there was more intent, one through nine,” Marmol said. “There was some swing-and-miss, for sure. But at the end of the day, we impacted the ball a little better than we had been. A couple of homers to show for it.”
Gorman put the Cardinals ahead in the bottom of the first inning with a two-out home run. In the fourth, Dylan Carlson followed up doubles by Nolan Arenado and Willson Contreras by providing his first long ball of the year—and from the left side of the plate—to put the Cardinals ahead.
All of the team’s damage for the game came against Ohtani, but those four runs had a chance to hold up thanks to nimble baton passes by Cardinal pitching. Miles Mikolas (5.2 innings, three earned runs) gave way to Jordan Hicks, who stranded two runners with a strikeout in the sixth inning before crowding the bases and handing off to Ryan Helsley to navigate a high-leverage moment in the seventh.
Helsley handled the jam with a K of his own, and breezed through the eighth as well, requiring just 10 total pitches to put the Cardinals on the doorstep of a key victory. But that’s where things fell apart. Despite the economy of Helsley’s pitch count to that point, Marmol turned to Gallegos to close out the game in the ninth.
“You definitely think about (Helsley) going back out there, but that’s three up-downs,” Marmol said. “At that point, he’s done his job.”
“It’s easy to sit here and say, why not send him back out? Well, that’s easy—once you see what happens. Gio, I mean, is punching out the world in April… So you tell me what the problem is with Gio finishing that game.”
The quality of the process notwithstanding, the move backfired for the Cardinals manager in this instance as Gallegos inexplicably had his worst outing of the young season on a night where the Cardinals could least afford a misstep.
“I’d be lying if I said it’s not frustrating,” Marmol said. “But we’ve been tested quite a bit, and this fits right in.”
“It takes a hell of a lot of courage to be patient. I can’t look at one guy in the eye that’s in that clubhouse and ask for more—because of the way they’re going about it with their preparation and their overall intent during the game. It hasn’t amounted to wins and that’s the part that’s frustrating. But I can honestly look at each one of these guys and know that they’re putting in the work.”
As the standings dictate an increase in the pressure upon this Cardinals team to turn things around in a hurry, the fan base voiced its own frustration Wednesday in a more prominent way than we’ve seen in some time in St. Louis.
Tuesday’s loss to the Angels—the Cardinals’ 10th-straight series-opening loss to begin the season—closed with a whimper and a few scattered boos on a night where the Cardinals seemed listless from the jump. But Wednesday night at the ballpark was a different story.
When the attendance quiz flashed across the big screen following the stunning top of the ninth, fans within earshot of the press box audibly accused all 42,148 of them of being “suckers” for supporting a product that can’t seem to get out of its own way on the field lately.
After Tommy Edman flew out to end the game, the boos were coordinated and hearty from a group of supporters who had seemingly lost faith.
Before a reporter could complete his query about fan frustration after the game, Oli Marmol cut it short and launched into an impassioned statement that characterized the frustration of the clubhouse.
“Do you think they’re more frustrated than us?” Marmol retorted. “No, I can tell you right now they’re not. That clubhouse is extremely frustrated.
“Understand something. This is year 17 with the Cardinals. I’ve had the privilege of doing this for 17 years for one organization. Whether you’re in the minor leagues as a coach in the lowest level, if you’re a coach at the big-league level where you’re managing in my seat, you wake up every single day with one thing in mind. It’s how to improve the organization.
“So to sit here and think that other people are more frustrated than the people in this clubhouse is insane. Absolutely insane, I can tell you that. Every coach that’s in that clubhouse wakes up and loses sleep over how to improve what’s going on at the moment. That’s the only thing that crosses your mind, every minute of the day. That’s why this organization has been good for a long time. It’s because everyone wakes up with the same thing in mind.
“Yeah, we want to deliver for this city. That’s what you wake up for every day. And trust me, we don’t mind the accountability. That’s also why we wake up every day. Because it drives us, knowing that if we do well, things go well. And if you don’t, people are pissed. That drives me. It drives everybody in that clubhouse. So if you think other people are more frustrated than within these walls, you’re crazy.”
The impact of Marmol’s rant is up to the ear of the beholder—some fans were glad to see some fight from the embattled manager, while it only ramped up the craving for a pound of flesh from others—but it did at least show outwardly some of the consternation that Cardinals fans feel ought to exist for the struggling club in the moments that don’t unfold in front of television cameras.
What makes this loss in particular so difficult to grasp is the fact that the Cardinals actually played a good, clean game before the bullpen mishap soiled it. But when the resulting ‘L’ in the standings looks identical to any other that a team might earn, the stench from shoveling another one onto the growing pile is no different, either.
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