From start to finish, it took the Cardinals some six hours 41 minutes to pull it off, but their 7-4 win over the Chicago Cubs Saturday night/Sunday morning enabled them to accomplish something they hadn’t done for a month — win a series.
Coupled with their extra-inning victory over the Cubs the night before, the Cardinals ended a string of eight fruitless series (0-7-1) as they scored their third victory in succession overall. What was left of a sellout crowd of 46,297 at Busch Stadium witnessed the conclusion just before 1 a.m., after a 3 hour 37 minute rain delay had halted proceedings in the bottom of the fourth, just after the hockey game down the street had started.
Center fielder Harrison Bader, who followed Dexter Fowler’s opposite-field homer in the eighth with one of his own to push a one-run lead to three, said players have to “trick” themselves during such a long delay so that they’ll be ready to play when the game resumes.
“It’s mind over matter,” said Bader. “If you don’t mind it, it don’t matter.
“If we’re going to be here. . we’re going to bring every ounce of energy we’ve got,” Bader said. “We’re going to lay it all out there.”
Cardinals righthander Jack Flaherty has given up just four runs in 17 innings covering his last three starts. And he has no wins to show for it. But Flaherty extended the majors’ longest streak of games with at least five innings pitched and four or fewer hits allowed. That streak went to eight as the 23-year-old Flaherty permitted four hits, two of them homers, while striking out eight and walking nobody in his five innings.
That Flaherty didn’t get the decision mattered not to him as he remained to talk to reporters after 1 a.m. “I mean, I threw yesterday,” he said in false wonderment as to why anybody would want to speak with him.
He preferred to talk about what happened after he left the game. “I love the way we pulled that game out,” he said.
After Flaherty left, the Cardinals went ahead for the first time with three runs in the sixth inning. Marcell Ozuna stroked his third consecutive single and scored from first on a one-out double to center by Matt Wieters as Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr., had trouble getting rid of his relay throw back to the infield.
Former Cub Fowler then tagged Tyler Chatwood with a run-scoring single to right. After Bader struck out, Fowler took off for second on a 1-2 pitch to Kolten Wong, who doubled into the left-field corner, chasing in Fowler and the Cardinals had a 5-2 lead.
But not so fast. . .
Chicago struck for two runs in the seventh off John Brebbia and Andrew Miller. Brebbia, a stalwart in the Cardinals’ bullpen all season, retired no one as Addison Russell singled, David Bote doubled him in and Almora Jr. walked. Bote was replacing All-Star infielder Javier Baez, who was a late scratch with a bruised heel.
Lefthander Miller relieved to face lefthanded-hitting Daniel Descalso, who bunted through the box as Miller couldn’t make the play, loading the bases. That hit was the Cubs’ first in their last 26 at-bats with a man in scoring position.
Miller struck out lefthanded-hitting Kyle Schwarber as he would later strike out lefthanded-hitting Anthony Rizzo to end the inning. In between, Miller at least got a glove on Kris Bryant’s smash up the middle, slowing it down so the Cardinals could get a forceout.
“Tremendous job of damage control,” said manager Mike Shildt.
Righthander Giovanny Gallegos, gradually receiving more high leverage situations, whipped through the eighth, recording two strikeouts to give him 38 in 24 innings. Gallegos was acquired from the New York Yankees last summer for Luke Voit.
The homers by Fowler and Bader off lefthander Kyle Ryan stretched the lead back to three runs and gave closer du jour Carlos Martinez breathing room for his first save of the season as he worked for a three consecutive game for the first time this season. Jordan Hicks was unavailable after throwing 35 pitches the night before.
Rizzo extended his hitting streak to 13 games by walloping his 16th homer to right center off a Flaherty changeup for the first run of the game in the first inning.
But the Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt, who already had hit two career homers off lefthander Jose Quintana, belted his 12th homer to right center to tie the game in the Cardinals’ first. Goldschmidt’s drive was measured at one foot beyond Rizzo’s at 422.
Just like that, though, Jason Heyward pounded his ninth homer to right leading off the second and the Cubs again had a one-run edge. The homer was the 11th surrendered by Flaherty, one off the staff lead of 12 by Miles Mikolas and Michael Wacha, and the 83rd given up by the Cardinals’ staff in 57 games, which is an unhealthy pace of 236 for the season. The 83-homer total was 11 more homers than that of the Cardinals.
Quintana made the mistake of walking Flaherty to open the Cardinals’ third. The Cubs’ pitcher retired the next two hitters but Goldschmidt got his seventh hit in 13 career at-bats against Quintana with a lined single to center and Ozuna delivered his 51st RBI of the season and 500th of his career with a single to left as Flaherty scored to make it 2-2. Ozuna, at that point, had 51 RBIs with just 52 hits.
Flaherty’s total of eight games of at least five innings and four or fewer hits tied his own streak of last season from Aug. 5-Sept. 14. The major league record is 10 held by lefthander Johan Santana and Ted Lilly.
The weather prevented Flaherty, who had thrown only 21 called balls in 77 pitches, from pitching into the sixth or seventh. “It (stinks),” said Flaherty. “(Matt) Wieters and I got into a good rhythm. I walked away and I wasn’t tired or anything.”
But he said, “You do what you can to help your team win and when your time comes to come out of the game, you get everybody else’s back, because they’ve got your back. It was fun to watch them do it after the delay. It’s hard. You sit around forever.”
Some players watched the Blues’ game during the delay. Shildt had work to to do. “I sat there and contemplated who was going to pinch-hit and who was going to pitch the sixth,” he said, smiling.
The night might have had more definition if the teams had played one more half inning before the tarp came onto the field, making the game an official game. Until play resumed at 11:21 p.m., though, there had been some thought that what everybody had seen would be a mirage because none of the statistics would have counted and the game would have to be replayed from the start.
If the game had gone five innings tied and then was stopped by rain, it would have been a suspended game and would have been picked up on Sunday.
Shildt said he thought, the cancellation of the game “might be a possibility. Then we got word, rightfully. New York (Major League Baseball headquarters), said, ‘You’re playing. Get your sleeping bags out if you have to,’’’ related Shildt.
“I get it. We’ve gone halfway into the game, and no one wants to pack another game into whenever they come back in July or whatever it is;”
There was a Fox television commitment on the line, too, for the St. Louis and Chicago markets although Shildt said, “I can’t speak to the market.”
When the game ended, there were no fireworks shot off because of the lateness of the game. I don’t know about city ordinances, man,” said Shildt. “I’ve got my hands full.”
John Gant, the best Cardinals’ pitcher this season, gained his fourth win of the season, tying him for the staff lead, by throwing one inning of hitless relief in the sixth, before the Cardinals rallied.