Sunday’s Game Report: Brewers 7, Cardinals 6
By Rob Rains
One pitcher the Cardinals would have liked to have had available to pitch the ninth inning on Sunday, Jordan Hicks, has been reduced to a cheerleading role because of Tommy John surgery earlier this season.
The pitcher who took over the closing role when Hicks went down, Carlos Martinez, wasn’t at Busch Stadium on Sunday after spending Saturday night in a St. Louis hospital suffering from what the team believes is either a respiratory ailment or allergies which has caused him difficulty breathing.
Combined with having already used Giovanny Gallegos and Andrew Miller in the previous innings, the Cardinals turned to John Gant to start the ninth trying to protect a 4-3 lead in a crucial pennant-race game.
Gant made it through four batters, three of whom he walked, before he left with one out and the bases loaded. Tyler Webb took over and retired Mike Moustakas on a fly to center for the second out before Junior Fernandez, who began this year in Class A Palm Beach, relieved to face the right-handed hitting Ryan Braun.
On a 3-2 pitch, Braun hit what could turn out to be one of the biggest blows of the season against the Cardinals, depending on what happens the next two weeks.
Fernandez left a slider over the middle of the plate and Braun didn’t miss it, smashing a grand slam that turned the 4-3 Cardinals lead into a 7-4 deficit, and a two-run homer from Tommy Edman in the bottom of the ninth made it a 7-6 final.
“I like the challenge of trying to get the out and win the game,” said Fernandez, appearing in his ninth major-league game. “But it didn’t happen. I will try to do better next time.”
The three walks from Gant had as much to do with the final outcome as did Braun’s grand slam.
“The frustrating part about today is that uncharacteristically we put ourselves in a position not to allow ourselves to win,” said manager Mike Shildt. “We beat ourselves.”
The loss cut the Cardinals’ lead over the Cubs to two games in the NL Central with 13 games to play, including seven head-to-head contests.
“You move on,” Shildt said. “You win a big game and you are hungry for the next one. You lose a tough one and you come back and fight for the next one. We’ll show up tomorrow I can promise you that.”
It was the first time the Cardinals lost consecutive games at home since July 27 and 28. They are 18-6 at home since those two losses to the Astros.
Here is how the game broke down:
At the plate: The Cardinals were held to five hits but four of them were home runs. Harrison Bader had the first two-homer game of his career with solo shots in the third and seventh and Paul DeJong’s two-run homer, his 27th of the year, earlier in the seventh gave the Cardinals a 3-2 lead. Edman’s homer in the ninth off Josh Hader was his ninth of the season and second in two days … The Cardinals only other hit was a pinch-hit single by Jose Martinez in thr seventh.
On the mound: The Cardinals got five scoreless innings out of starter Michael Wacha before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth … Ryan Helsley gave up a two-run homer to Cory Spangenberg in the seventh that gave the Brewers a 3-2 lead and after the Cardinals retook the lead Andrew Miller gave up an unearned run in the eighth that cut the lead to 4-3 … Gant was charged with the loss, his first in 11 decisions this season.
Key stat: The loss was the fourth of the season for the Cardinals when they had a lead going into the ninth inning (73-4). Braun’s grand slam was the first go-ahead grand slam allowed by the Cardinals in the ninth inning since Jason Rogers, also on the Brewers, hit one off Trevor Rosenthal on Sept. 27, 2015.
Worth noting: Shildt said the team hopes to know more about Martinez’s status on Monday but said he likely was “day to day.” He said Martinez first felt ill earlier this week in Denver. He spoke with Martinez Sunday morning and said he was “feeling better … Clearly it’s a concern. I’m more concerned about Carlos and his health.” … The home run for Braun was his 14th at Busch 3, tying him with Joey Votto for the most by a visiting player since the stadium opened in 2006 … An error by Bader after he and Dexter Fowler ran together trying to catch a fly ball in the eighth snapped the Cardinals’ season-high nine-game streak without an error … Outfielder Connor Capel has been selected to replace Dylan Carlson on the Glendale roster in the Arizona Fall League. The Cardinals and Carlson made a joint decision to pull him out of the league and let him rest and work out this winter at his home in California.
Looking ahead: The Cardinals open a three-game series on Monday night at Busch Stadium against the Washington Nationals, who are fighting to win a wild-card playoff spot. Dakota Hudson will get the start against Stephen Strasburg.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains