ST. LOUIS -- A simple detail adhered to in Saturday’s 11th inning -- Andrew Knizner running on the inside of the third-base line and causing a throwing error that won the Cardinals a game -- perfectly describes the kind of team St. Louis talked about being this season when they were in Spring Training back in March, manager Oliver Marmol said.
With the bases loaded in the 11th inning of Game 2 of a marathon-like doubleheader, Knizner wisely ran to the inside of the third-base line on a ball hard hit toward the bag by Paul Goldschmidt. Cincinnati’s Nick Senzel snagged the ground ball, but his throwing lane home was smaller than normal with Knizner in the way -- one reason why the Cardinals teach that tactic to their baserunners. When Senzel’s throw hit Knizner in the elbow and caromed away, it allowed him to score the only run of the night in a 1-0 St. Louis victory at Busch Stadium.
“That’s textbook, to be honest with you,” said Marmol, whose Cardinals swept the doubleheader over the Reds on Saturday. “It’s something that we review and is talked about. For [Knizner] to pull it off, that’s the perfect play.
“Coming into Spring Training, you create an identity for what you want to be known for, and this group wanted to make sure opponents viewed us as relentless, but another word was smart. That right there is good baseball.”
Knizner failed to come through in the bottom of the 10th when his shallow fly ball was caught by TJ Friedl and turned into a double play. In the 11th, however, Knizner was the automatic runner to start the inning on second, and he used his knowledge as a catcher and applied the baserunning rules taught to him by Cardinals coaches to score the winning run.
“We talked about it this series: ‘Find a way to win. If you’re not getting hits you want or making the pitches, find a way to win,’” said Knizner, who was on the defensive end of a similar play a night earlier when Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado threw a Reds runner out from his knees. “This happened to be my play to help the team win, and it worked out. It’s a baserunning play we work on, and I’m glad to see it come to fruition.”
Reds manager David Bell admitted that the heady baserunning play by the Cardinals was a good one, saying: “My understanding is that it was unfortunate [for the Reds] but a good play [by Knizner], and it was legal.”
The Game 2 victory was the Cardinals’ eighth walk-off win of the season.
Superstar Albert Pujols didn’t start Game 2 of the doubleheader after playing nine innings at first base in the opener. Once the Reds replaced righty Hunter Greene with lefty Reiver Sanmartin in the seventh inning, the Cardinals got Pujols into the nightcap as a pinch-hitter. However, he chased a ball out of the strike zone against Sanmartin and was struck out.
St. Louis won Game 1 of the doubleheader, 5-1, earlier in the day behind eight strong innings from starter Dakota Hudson. Pujols, who started Game 1 batting second for just the second time in his career, went 0-for-3 with two walks in Game 1. He remains at 698 home runs for his career, two shy of becoming just the fourth player in MLB history to hit at least 700 home runs.
Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos, who has rediscovered his elite stuff in recent weeks, smothered the Reds in the top of the 10th inning and Matt Reynolds, who was pinch-running for Donovan Solano as the automatic runner, never moved from second base. In the top of the 11th inning, lefty Steven Matz -- pitching at the MLB level for the first time since July 23 when he tore the MCL in his left knee, blanked the Reds.
Matz started Saturday morning in Des Moines, Iowa, but he was recalled from Triple-A when Jordan Hicks (right arm fatigue, neck spasms) was placed on the 15-day injured list. Matz made the five-plus-hour drive to St. Louis and prepared himself to pitch in the second game of a twin bill.
“You’ve got to go right after those guys with a runner already in scoring position, so it was a little bit of a different animal,” Matz said. “All you want to do is help a team win, so to do it right away feels good.”
Knizner said he and his teammates are taught the right way to play by a Cardinals franchise that has always prided itself on fundamentals. Following the fundamentals at the end of a marathon doubleheader helped them nab another victory, Knizner said.
“The St. Louis Cardinals go hand-in-hand with fundamental baseball and playing the game smart,” Knizner added. “It’s what we try to do all year, especially in the second half when wins are so hard to come by.”