Sunday’s Game Report: Pirates 7, Cardinals 5
By Rob Rains
There was only one part of Sunday’s script that didn’t come off the way the Cardinals wanted and hoped it would.
In the final regular-season game of their careers at Busch Stadium, Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina were honored in a pre-game ceremony that brought tears and one loud ovation after another.
Then, Pujols went out and drove in two runs with a ground-rule double in the first and in what turned out to be his final home at-bat, he launched career home run 702 in the third.
What tarnished the feel-good moment, however, was another sub-par performance from Adam Wainwright. He allowed six runs over 4 2/3 innings, no doubt raising more questions about what his status will be for the postseason that begins on Friday.
As Wainwright left the mound under that cloud of uncertainty, manager Oli Marmol decided to use that moment to also take Pujols and Molina out of the game and the three walked together to the dugout one last time.
“That was a surprise,” Wainwright said. “I thought it was cool.”
For Pujols and Molina, it was more steps toward their impending retirement, which will begin as soon as the Cardinals’ postseason run is over.
Wainwright’s immediate path isn’t as clear-cut, although he did feel better about his performance on Sunday than he had in his other recent starts.
“The curve ball was much better; the cutter was much better,” Wainwright said. “Still working on the heater. Still working on getting a little zip to that pitch, but the other two had good bite. Baby steps.
“I got swings and misses. That’s when you know. I hadn’t been getting any swings and misses at all. I need some more, but at least I got some today.”
Wainwright’s start came after he was one of the speakers in the pre-game ceremony, honoring his two long-time teammates. He had the option of taping his speech earlier, but he didn’t want to do that.
“I just felt they deserved a little live action there, it didn’t take away from anything. I was able to re-focus,” Wainwright said.
When his next chance to pitch comes is out of Wainwright’s control.
“No idea,” Wainwright said. “I’m good enough to keep making adjustments and keep gaining steam towards the end goal.”
The man who will make that decision, Marmol, wasn’t ready to deliver the answer. He has not committed to any starters yet for the best-of-three wild-card round that begins on Friday.
The battle to determine whom the Cardinals will play changed a little on Sunday. The Padres clinched a wild-card spot, and the Phillies have a two-game lead over the Brewers with three to play.
Here is how the game broke down:
At the plate: Pujols’ double was part of a three-run first inning as he later scored on a sacrifice fly by Molina … His homer in the third tied the game. Eight of his last 10 home runs have either tied the game or given the Cardinals the lead … Their final run scored in the fourth on back-to-back doubles by Dylan Carlson and Paul DeJong.
On the mound: Wainwright gave up a three-run homer to Ben Gamel in the second, allowed another run in the third and two runs in the fifth. He walked two and struck out four … The two lefthanders vying for a spot on the postseason roster, Zack Thompson and JoJo Romero, both pitched well. Thompson allowed a solo home run, the only hit he gave up in 2 1/3 innings. Romero retired all four batters he faced with two strikeouts.
Key stat: in his final six starts of the season since Sept. 3, Wainwright pitched a combined 28 2/3 innings, allowing 23 earned runs on 44 hits.
Worth noting: Pujols’ three RBIs moved him into a tie with Babe Ruth for the second-most in MLB history with 2,214. He also hit a home run in his first career at-bat in Busch Stadium II on April 9, 2001 … Sunday’s attendance of 46,680 brought the season total to 3,320,551, an average of 40,994.
Looking ahead: The Cardinals will pitch both Miles Mikolas and Jose Quintana in Monday’s game in Pittsburgh, lining them up for starts in the postseason, although which exact games they will pitch has not been determined.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports