Tuesday’s Game Report: Cardinals 14, Nationals 3
By Rob Rains
Before the third inning was over on Tuesday night, the Cardinals thought they had enough offensive highlights to last the rest of the game.
Home runs from Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, the first time that had happened as teammates, plus an uplifting home run from Matt Carpenter off the right field foul pole that earned him a curtain call, staked the Cardinals to a 5-1 lead over Stephen Strasburg.
Little did they know there were a lot more highlights to come.
The Cardinals sent 14 hitters to the plate in the fifth and scored nine runs – without the benefit of an extra-base hit. They had a pinch-hitter, Austin Dean, get two plate appearances in the inning – and he was the fifth hitter in the inning.
In the inning the Cardinals had seven singles, drew three walks, hit two sacrifice flies and had a batter reach on an error.
“That’s kind of tough to do,” Goldschmidt said. “That was kind of a crazy inning.”
While that inning was full of highlight material, the moment that was the chief topic of conversation after the game was Carpenter’s home run, which came one night after he got his first hit of the year, bunting for a base hit, despite hitting a lot of balls hard that were turned into outs so far this season.
“I haven’t seen some bad luck like this probably my entire life,” Goldschmidt said. “Kudos to him to keep having good at-bats. It looked like it might go foul and there was a little disappointment in the dugout but then it hit the pole and it was exciting. Nice to see him rewarded and good for our team.”
Manager Mike Shildt watched the flight of the ball with just one thought in mind.
“Just stay fair, just please stay fair,” Shildt said. “This team knows how good a player Carp is and what a contributor he is going to be to our club and that he hasn’t been rewarded. Everybody in that dugout has been pulling for that guy and was probably almost as happy for him as he was for himself and that’s saying something.”
Carpenter was indeed happy – and appreciative of his teammates and the fans who asked for the curtain call.
“When you’ve got those guys pulling for you, wanting you to succeed, it’s a great feeling,” Carpenter said. “Tonight was just a lot of fun. I could feel the excitement, everybody was fired up. It’s a big win for us.”
Four players – Goldschmidt, Arenado, Carpenter and Justin Williams – all finished with three RBIs, the first time that had happened in a game for the Cardinals since May 20, 1954.
The Cardinals had never scored more than three runs off Strasburg in his nine career starts, including one postseason game.
Here is how Tuesday night’s game broke down:
At the plate: The big night started with Goldschmidt’s homer, the 250th of his career, in the first inning – his first hit in the first inning since a double on opening day … The homers from Arenado and Carpenter, both two run homers, came in the third … The only player with two hits in the nine-run fifth was Williams, with two singles, that drove in three runs … Dylan Carlson and Andrew Knizner also reached base twice in the inning, both collecting a single and a walk … Carlson had three hits on the night.
On the mound: Jack Flaherty was the beneficiary of the big offensive night. He needed 70 pitches to get through three innings and 96 through five, even though he only allowed one run and three hits, having a lot of deep counts. He struck out six and hit one batter but did not walk a batter … Genesis Cabrera worked a 1-2-3 sixth with two strikeouts and Kodi Whitley, in his season debut, allowed just one hit in two scoreless innings … The other two runs for the Nationals scored off Daniel Ponce de Leon in the ninth, making his first relief appearance of the season.
Key stat: Coming into the game the current Cardinals had combined for just two home runs against Strasburg, both coming from Arenado, in 117 plate appearances. They hit three on Tuesday night in a span of 13 plate appearances.
Worth noting: With a day game coming on Wednesday, Yadier Molina got his first day off of the season. That lines him up to catch his 2,000th career game with the Cardinals with Adam Wainwright on the mound … Shildt confirmed that Kwang Hyun Kim will rejoin the starting rotation for Saturday night’s game in Philadelphia, replacing Ponce de Leon … To get a fresh arm for the bullpen, and to keep Johan Oviedo preparing as a starter, the Cardinals recalled Whitley from the alternate site camp on Tuesday and sent Oviedo back to the camp. The expectation is that Oviedo will become the team’s sixth starter when it begins a stretch of 17 games in 17 days on April 23. The Cardinals are committed to giving their starters five days of rest between appearances as one way of monitoring their work load.
Up next: Wainwright will get the start in the 12:15 p.m. game on Wednesday that concludes the series against the Nationals and the first home stand of the season.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains