Baserunning mistakes cost Cards in extras

August 29th, 2020

ST. LOUIS -- With one out in the bottom of the 12th inning Saturday afternoon, broke toward home when hit a chopper down the first-base line. Indians first baseman Carlos Santana fielded the ball, bobbled it and recovered before stepping on the bag for the out.

Molina stopped between third base and home plate, motioning that it was a foul ball. Santana ran toward the Cardinals’ catcher, then threw it to Cleveland third baseman José Ramírez, who tagged Molina out.

Game over. St. Louis lost its fourth consecutive game, 2-1, on that double play at Busch Stadium.

There was confusion on the field as Carpenter kept running toward second base and Molina kept motioning it was foul. But the play wasn’t reviewable. The Indians had won, and the Cardinals will look to avoid a sweep Sunday afternoon.

Manager Mike Shildt had not looked at the play on video before speaking with the media postgame.

“I can’t speak for him, but he broke and then realized he probably couldn’t make it, then stopped, then felt like [first-base umpire Ed Hickox] called it foul,” Shildt said. “And clearly he did not. And you saw the rest.”

“I don’t know if [Molina] knew if the ball was fair or foul, but from the dugout, it was way fair,” Indians temporary manager Sandy Alomar added. “He was in, like, standby mode. And then he kind of pointed at Santana, I don’t know if he was trying to trick him or not, but we were yelling from the dugout, ‘Throw the ball over.’”

Molina was not made available after the game. But his was not the only baserunning mishap that hurt the Cardinals. After popping up softly to end the 10th inning with the bases loaded, Cardinals shortstop started the 11th as the automatic runner on second. When Paul Goldschmidt barreled a long fly ball to center field, DeJong didn’t tag up and could not advance when Delino DeShields caught the ball.

After Brad Miller was intentionally walked, Molina grounded into a double play, ending the inning.

“I don’t need to go to Paulie in the 11th and say anything to him,” Shildt said. “Didn’t go exactly the way we’d like. I’m pretty sure he’s aware of that situation.”

A double from Tyler Naquin -- who dropped Carpenter’s game-tying fly ball that Statcast said had a 85 percent catch probability in the seventh inning -- off reliever Alex Reyes put the Indians ahead in the top of the 12th.

There were plenty of chances for the Cardinals to win Saturday; starter only allowed one run in five innings, and the bullpen held steady despite Génesis Cabrera leaving the game with a cracked fingernail on his left finger after warming up for the seventh. But the Cards -- who have scored six runs in their last four games -- were 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position Saturday.

They loaded the bases in the 10th for DeJong. They had two runners on for Molina in the 11th. And the Indians gifted them a wild pitch that put Molina on third with no outs in the 12th before Dexter Fowler’s groundout and the baserunning blunder sealed their fate.

“At the end of the day, it’s about scoring runs,” Shildt said. “We’ve got to figure out ways to score runs when we have opportunities. And situational hitting and approach is a big part of that. I know we worked on it a ton, but we’re getting on base -- strikeouts are down, walks are up -- but yeah, production is based on guys being able to execute your offense when people are in certain situations, including being in scoring position.”

Shildt said it’s “reasonable” that the Cardinals are mentally fatigued as they continue their stretch of 53 games in 44 days. The effort is there, but the execution has not always aligned. It was rational to expect St. Louis to hit a wall during this dense stretch, especially after a 17-day layoff from baseball activity during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I don’t think we’re going to make any excuses,” Shildt said. “But I think that’s pretty safe to assume it’s in the realm of possibility. But again, we don’t make excuses for anything.”