Thursday’s Game Report: Cardinals 4, Brewers 2
By Rob Rains
If the coronavirus pandemic had not kept fans away from Busch Stadium this season, there is no telling how loud or how long the standing ovation would have been for Yadier Molina on Thursday night as they celebrated his 2,000th career hit.
Dylan Carlson would have gotten his share of cheers as well.
On the night that Molina became only the sixth player in franchise history to reach that plateau, Carlson’s two-run homer and an RBI double were the biggest hits in the Cardinals’ win in the opener of the five-game series against the Brewers.
“Me and Goldy (Paul Goldschmidt) were talking early in the game and said it was probably one of the biggest games we missed not having a crowd, because you know what that crowd would have been like tonight,” said manager Mike Shildt. “Missed having it for Yadi tonight.
“We gave him a standing ovation (in the dugout). It was a fun moment, and a moment to just kind of pause and honor a great accomplishment for a great player. He got a little bit of his tip of the hat to his teammates.”
Both Molina and Carlson said winning the game was the most important result of the night.
With the Reds having the night off, the win gave the Cardinals a half-game lead in the race for second place in the NL Central and an automatic playoff spot. They also stayed alive in their attempt to chase down the Cubs, who lost in Pittsburgh earlier on Thursday.
The Cardinals are 2 ½ games behind the division-leading Cubs, who will play the White Sox three times this weekend.
Coming into the game two hits shy of 2,000, Molina got a rare infield single in his first at-bat in the second for hit number 1,999 and after striking out in the third and popping out in the fifth, he came to bat in the seventh and lined a single to center for the milestone hit.
“It’s great, it’s been many years,” Molina said. “The fans didn’t have that opportunity to be here and enjoy that moment with me but I’m pretty sure they are happy for me and cheering for me.”
Even though the fans were missing, Molina’s brother Bengie was there to help celebrate the moment in his job working on the Cardinals Spanish radio broadcasts.
“It’s a special moment for our family and to have Bengie here means a lot to me,” Molina said.
Here is how the game broke down:
At the plate: The Cardinals had a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Dexter Fowler drew a one-out walk and Carlson followed with his third homer of the year. In the sixth, Fowler again walked in front of Carlson, hitting ninth, and he drove him in with a double off the wall in left center … The Cardinals had other chances to add runs but were just 1-of-16 with runners in scoring position. Their cleanup hitters are a combined 0-of-30 with 16 strikeouts in the last 10 games. Matt Carpenter was in that spot on Thursday night and drew a walk in four plate appearances. He is now 2-of-33 in his last 12 games.
On the mound: Kwang Hyun Kim allowed five hits and one run in five innings, getting a key out when he retired Ryan Braun on a fly ball to right to end the fifth after he had issued back-to-back walks … With a 4-1 lead in the ninth, Alex Reyes allowed a pair of singles separated by a strikeout before Andrew Miller let one of the runs score on a single, but he then struck out the final two hitters, the last being Christian Yelich, to end the game.
Key stat: In his last seven games, batting either eighth or ninth, Carlson has two home runs – the same total as the rest of the Cardinals combined – and his nine RBIs represent one-third of the team’s total of 27 in those games. He has gone 8-of-25 in those games.
Worth noting: Milwaukee starter Corbin Burnes, who had a chance to win the NL ERA title, had to leave the game because of back discomfort in the fourth … Paul DeJong’s double in the seventh snapped an 0-of-18 streak … Carlos Martinez’s season effectively ended on Thursday when he was placed on the 10-day injured list with an oblique strain. Shildt said even if the Cardinals make a long playoff run it probably is unlikely that Martinez will be able to pitch again.
Looking ahead: The Cardinals will play their 11th doubleheader of the season on Friday. Jack Flaherty will get the start in game one, with Daniel Ponce de Leon following him to the mound for game two.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains and read his articles @STLSportsPage.com