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Ugly loss made worse by injuries, ejection

Molina (left wrist) undergoes X-rays; Wong (left side) scratched
@anne__rogers
September 16, 2020

A game that got out of hand early turned into a painful and costly loss for the Cardinals on Tuesday night. And the Brewers' 18-3 drubbing of St. Louis at Miller Park could leave bruises on a Cardinals team already in the middle of what they’ve branded a “daunting” week

A game that got out of hand early turned into a painful and costly loss for the Cardinals on Tuesday night. And the Brewers' 18-3 drubbing of St. Louis at Miller Park could leave bruises on a Cardinals team already in the middle of what they’ve branded a “daunting” week of games.

After starter Jack Flaherty allowed a career-high nine runs on eight hits in only three-plus innings, St. Louis unraveled.

Box score

Milwaukee scored seven runs in the fourth inning and six more in the fifth. Yadier Molina’s catcher's interference in the fifth, when Ryan Braun’s bat hit him in the left wrist, caused Molina to step off to the side near the Brewers' dugout. Suddenly, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt heard something he didn’t like from Milwaukee's dugout and rushed over. Both dugouts and bullpens emptied, and when order was restored, Shildt and Brewers manager Craig Counsell were both ejected.

“Listen, the game’s one-sided,” Shildt said. “We didn’t play well enough. They had the upper hand on it. We don’t get there very often, [but] we were there, we accept that as professionals in certain situations. … I hear chirping out of the dugout -- and we don’t start things, but we’re not going to take it. Heard something that I didn’t appreciate. I will always have our players’ backs.”

Shildt declined to elaborate on what was said, but it was clear he was furious.

Despite Molina's painful wrist and Matt Wieters putting on catcher’s gear in the dugout, Molina stayed in the game for two more innings. When the Cardinals took the field for the bottom of the sixth, Molina began arguing with the umpires while reliever Nabil Crismatt was warming up, although the reason was unclear.

“This is a guy, in a 12-2 game at the time, takes a bat to his hand ... and plays two more innings,” Shildt said. “You talk about tough, you talk about dedicated, you talk about competitive. And yes, I’m going to defend that.”

Molina was ultimately removed from the game in the bottom of the seventh inning, with the Cards trailing, 17-3. He told a team official he had no answers about the condition of his wrist and he declined to speak to the media. His status is unclear as the Cardinals await X-ray results taken Tuesday night.

The status of second baseman Kolten Wong, who was a late scratch Tuesday due to left side discomfort, is also up in the air. What comes next for both Wong and Molina will be determined Wednesday.

“We’re at a crossroads between [Wong] and Yadi, and figuring out what that looks like,” Shildt said. “I’m not saying either one of them is going on the [injured list], but if a decision needs to be made, that’s a 10-day decision, which effectively -- I’m no mathematician, but I can do basic math -- leads us right to the end of the season. But we also know we’ve got five games in the next three days that are important, as well.”

Milwaukee jumped on Flaherty early, though the right-hander struck out six in three-plus innings. Braun went back to back with a struggling Christian Yelich to give the Brewers the lead in the bottom of the first inning. Flaherty allowed two more runs in the third before the Brewers piled on in the fourth. They didn’t bite on Flaherty’s breaking ball, which caused him to throw it in the strike zone, making it more hittable. Three of the four singles against Flaherty in the fourth inning were on breaking balls, and the fourth was on a fastball that was set up to be down and inside -- but ended up in the middle of the plate.

When asked if he thought the Brewers had something on him or if he was possibly tipping pitches, Flaherty focused on his execution.

“I don’t know,” Flaherty said. “I think at the end of the day, if you execute pitches, everything else doesn’t matter. There were a couple I didn’t execute. But they were on a lot of pitches that I threw. … At some point, you need to be able to stop the bleeding, and I wasn’t able to do that.”

Shildt added: “It was uncanny how well they read him. They were taking some really close pitches, to their credit, evidently. Pitches were clearly more [in the] middle of the plate, so that’s part of it. Give them credit. Sometimes you get beat. You get beat and tip your hat. … I’ve got zero concern about Jack Flaherty and I’ve got zero concern about the sun coming up.”

Tuesday’s loss taxed the roster ahead of St. Louis' second doubleheader in three days on Wednesday, and it certainly didn’t help the club's positioning in the National League Central standings. The Reds are a half-game back of the second-place Cardinals, who are five games back of the Cubs. Milwaukee is one game behind St. Louis heading into Wednesday’s doubleheader, while the Reds will battle the last-place Pirates on a day that could see a shift in the standings with a week and a half left in the regular season.

The Cards will have to quickly put Tuesday’s game behind them.

“We’ve got two games tomorrow, so I think you let it go,” Paul Goldschmidt said. “We don’t really have a choice. Once you get down that much, you finish that game up and move on.”

Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.