ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) — Bad defense giveth, bad defense taketh away.
That was the lesson in Thursday’s walk-off winner for the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, a game book-ended by defensive blunders. Though an uncharacteristically rough start to the night for the Cardinals infield defense put the team behind the eight-ball early, it was an error in judgment by Reds closer Raisel Iglesias that gave the Cardinals all the room they needed to battle back in the ninth.
The Cardinals trailed for virtually the entire game Thursday, but held the advantage on the scoreboard for the only moment that mattered—when the ‘9’ next to the box score became an ‘F’. With the winning run on third in the ninth, Kolten Wong roped a long single to the right-center field wall, turning a game that had all the markings of a lackluster loss into a last-gasp 5-4 win for St. Louis.
It was the Cardinals first walk-off win of a pandemic-influenced 2020 season, a fact that showed in the team’s less-than-choreographed celebration surrounding Wong at first base.
Like Ricky Bobby, the Cardinals weren't sure what to do with their hands.
With a laugh, Thursday’s starter Adam Wainwright admitted that he and his Cardinals teammates probably looked a little confused regarding how to properly celebrate the occasion. Wong told reporters via Zoom that he almost grabbed a cup of water to throw on himself, in lieu of the large jug of ice cold liquid that is customarily poured over the walk-off hero.
Ultimately, the Cardinals opted for a subdued display of their excitement as they carefully jumped around Wong on the right side of the infield dirt, their hands raised above their heads.
“The whole world is operating at about half-speed right now, so why would we be any different?,” Wainwright said.
Following a road trip in which Cardinals starters routinely made their exits before completing four innings, Wainwright was the perfect man to take the mound on Thursday back at Busch Stadium.
In Chicago, his five-inning outing in the team’s first game back from its COVID-related hiatus last Saturday stood as the longest outing by a Cardinals starter until Johan Oviedo matched the mark in his MLB debut Wednesday.
Thursday, Wainwright raised the bar with a seven-inning performance that put the Cardinals in position for some late-inning magic.
First-inning throwing errors by Paul Goldschmidt—who misfired to Wainwright covering first base—and third baseman Brad Miller, who failed even to record the out at first after fumbling a potential double play ball, put St. Louis in a tough spot right out of the gate. Later in the first, Tyler O’Neill helped turn the defensive tide with a diving catch in the left-center field, but the Cardinals couldn’t escape their previous blunders unscathed.
Wainwright left the first inning trailing 2-0 thanks to a pair of unearned runs; he then permitted a run each in the second and third inning as he worked to settle into his start. From there, however, the veteran right-hander flipped a switch to keep his team in the game. Following an RBI double by Mike Moustakas in the third, Wainwright retired the final 15 batters he faced to navigate a critical deep outing for a Cardinals pitching staff ravaged by nine games in the past six days.
Offensively, it took the Cardinals longer than they would've liked to get things going. St. Louis had just four hits through the first eight innings, the club's lone runs coming on a quintessential Yadier Molina opposite-field single with the bases loaded in the second. In his first game back off the COVID-related injured list, Molina was his vintage self, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a caught stealing.
Molina's final run driven in came on a play that the Reds closer would probably like back. With the bases loaded once again for the Cardinals catcher, Molina hit a chopper toward the shortstop. The ball never got a chance to get all the way to Freddy Galvis, though, because the pitcher Iglesias attempted to field what would have been a likely double play had he not intervened. The ball glanced off Iglesias' glove into no-man's land between shortstop and third, resulting in one run, no outs and the bases loaded jam intact.
Iglesias must have been shaken by his miscue, because before the next better Dylan Carlson had a chance to impact the game, the pitcher balked to allow the tying run to score from third.
Though Carlson struck out, Wong was there to pick up the slack and send the cardboard cutouts home happy.
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