Donovan does almost everything in extra-inning win

Utility ace homers, steals 3rd and scores winning run as Flaherty dominates on bump

May 28th, 2023

CLEVELAND -- When Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol was asked to pick his favorite Brendan Donovan moment from the Cardinals’ 2-1 win in 10 innings over the Guardians on Saturday at Progressive Field, he chuckled before he answered.

He could have picked Donovan’s trademark versatility since he played both left and right field in the win. Or he could have picked Donovan’s power since he gave the Cardinals an early lead with a 361-foot home run to right field.

But instead, Marmol picked an unheralded facet of Donovan’s game: his speed. 

With no one out in the top of the 10th inning, Donovan stole third base against Guardians pitcher Nick Sandlin. A batter later, Donovan sprinted home on a passed ball to score what ended up being the deciding run.

“He gave us a couple shots at it with the runner on third rather than us waiting around,” Marmol said. “It was heads up.”

While Donovan is by no means a speedster (he entered play in the 51st percentile in sprint speed), on the steal, he was able to get a great jump off Sandlin and had a near-perfect slide to get in ahead of David Fry’s throw.

“When I took off running, I thought I was out halfway,” Donovan said with a laugh. “Our staff had some good intel, and I just trusted them.”

Donovan’s steady play was a godsend for a Cardinals’ team that’s working through a series of struggles on offense. The biggest example of those struggles came in the seventh inning when the team blew a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity after Cleveland reliever James Karinchak walked the first three batters he saw.

After Paul DeJong lined out to right field, Cleveland reliever Sam Hentges got Juan Yepez to strike out before he ended the inning by getting Tommy Edman to ground into a forceout. And while that moment was deflating, Marmol was impressed with how his team responded.

“It’s important to win that game in that way,” Marmol said. “With so many games in a row, guys are grinding, and it’s easy to lose that game 3-1, but for us to be able to hold onto it and find a way to score was important.”

With the team’s big sluggers working through struggles (the Nos. 1 through 5 hitters went 0-for-19 with eight strikeouts on Saturday), Donovan’s steady play was a blessing.

“That’s what a team is,” Marmol said. “Those middle guys carry us quite often, so that’s exactly what a team does: Everyone shows up and prepares in a way to contribute. Our guys have done a nice job of that.”

Donovan might be the perfect example of that mentality.

“Sometimes the offense goes through lulls,” Donovan said. “We didn’t have a ton of hits or put up a bunch of runs tonight, but we’re a good club. We have several different ways we can beat you.”

Pitching proved to be one of those ways on Saturday, as Jack Flaherty set the tone on the mound.

On a day when Marmol said that he’d “assess” the future of the team’s rotation during their two-day break in the middle of next week, Flaherty went out and shoved, allowing one run over seven innings. 

Flaherty’s fastball was his go-to pitch, as he threw the pitch 45% of the time and was able to generate four whiffs and nine called strikes on the pitch. While Flaherty had to deal with traffic for most of the night (he allowed seven hits for the third time this season), the 27-year-old only walked one.

He entered play Saturday leading the National League with 33 walks.

“Jack was good,” Marmol said. “He pounded the zone with everything. Fastball command was there, and he had his curveball and changeup working. Pretty impressive outing.” 

The Cardinals were able to get strong pitching behind Flaherty as well, as Andre Pallante, Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos combined to allow one hit and one walk over three innings of work. 

“That was efficient and dominant,” Marmol said of his bullpen.