Sunday’s Game Report: Cardinals 4, Cubs 2
By Rob Rains, STLSportsPage.com
During their franchise-record winning streak, the Cardinals have won games in a lot of different ways. On Sunday, they found another one.
After Harrison Bader’s home run in the eighth inning tied the game, the Cardinals scored two runs in the ninth without hitting a ball past the pitcher’s mound.
The victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field extended their winning streak to 16 games, the longest by a team in the National League since the New York Giants also won 16 in a row in 1951.
It’s also the longest streak after Sept. 1 since the Cubs won 21 consecutive games in 1935.
The win reduced the Cardinals’ magic number for clinching the second wild-card playoff spot to one over both the Phillies and Reds.
It didn’t come without a controversial play in the bottom of the ninth, on an infield fly call, when time was inadvertently called by the umpires before what should have been the final out of the game when Tommy Edman tagged Rafael Ortega while he was off second base.
Instead of the game being over, the Cubs had a runner on third, the potential tying run on second and the winning run at the plate with two outs, but Giovanny Gallegos was able to get out of the jam with a game-ending and streak-saving strikeout of Ian Happ.
“There’s a lot going on on that play,” said Cardinals’ manager Mike Shildt, who was ejected while arguing the call. “The infield fly rule always seems to give people pause. Is it live, is it dead, do you have to tag him? We had a lot of chaos taking place. I applaud the guys for sticking with it, heads up baseball play.
“They (the umpires) deemed the play dead, and at that point it’s dead. It’s just a matter of timing; timing wasn’t on our side. Gio bore down and was able to finish it off.”
The Cardinals took the lead in the top of the inning when Andrew Knizner started the rally by drawing a leadoff walk on four pitches. Lars Nootbaar beat out a perfect bunt for a single and a sacrifice bunt from Edman advanced the runners before Paul Goldschmidt was intentionally walked to load the bases.
A wild pitch let Knizner score the go-ahead run, and Nootbaar was able to score on a ball Tyler O’Neill hit back to the pitcher, who dropped it before getting the out at first.
“We love the blend of baseball,” Shildt said. “That’s Cardinals baseball. We like the homers … There was a lot of action in the ninth without the ball leaving the infield. We did the little things; the little things that help you win games.”
Eleven of the wins in the streak have come on the road, allowing the Cardinals to become the first team in the modern era to end the regular season by winning their last 11 road games.
Here’s how Sunday’s game broke down:
At the plate: Bader’s home run went onto Waveland Ave., clearing the left field bleachers. It was his third consecutive game in the series with a home run and left him 10-of-15 in the four games with the three homers, eight runs scored and five RBIs … The first Cardinals run came in the third on Paul Goldschmidt’s 31st homer, increasing his RBI total for the year to 98. The blast to dead center was estimated at 464 feet … The two homers gave the Cardinals 13 in the four-game series and 47 so far in September, the most they have ever hit in the final month of the season … The Cardinals had just four other hits before Bader’s homer in the eighth, including a single by Edman in the seventh that snapped an 0-of-13 streak.
On the mound: Jake Woodford pitched into the sixth inning, giving up the two Chicago runs on six hits … Four relievers combined to shut out the Cubs over the final 3 2/3 innings. Andrew Miller got the final two outs in the sixth, Kodi Whiltey pitched around two singles in the seventh and got an out in the eighth and Genesis Cabrera issued a walk between two outs in the eighth. Gallegos issued back-to-back walks with one out in the ninth before the crazy ending to the game, earning his 14th save.
Key stat: The 16 consecutive wins have come in the span of 16 days, including one day off and one doubleheader. In the first five months of the season, the Cardinals won 16 games in a month only once, in May. From May 30 to July 18, it took the Cardinals 41 games to win 16 times.
Worth noting: O’Neill’s stolen base in the sixth was the 12th by the Cardinals during the streak without a runner being caught stealing … The 13 homers are the most the Cardinals have hit in a four-game series against any opponent. They had 12 in a series at Pittsburgh in 2019 and also hit 12 in a three-game series at Baltimore in 2017 … The Cardinals are now 20-6 overall in September and finished the regular season with a road record of 45-36.
Looking ahead: After Monday’s day off, Adam Wainwright will get the start on Tuesday night as the Cardinals return home to host the Brewers, who clinched the NL Central title on Sunday. A win by the Cardinals or losses by the Philles and Reds would give the Cardinals the spot in the playoffs.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains