The Cardinals' surprise hero of London Series

June 26th, 2023

This story was excerpted from John Denton’s Cardinals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

LONDON -- Some 10 innings into the London Series, the Cubs-Cardinals series was a one-sided affair tilted heavily in favor of the North Siders.

After the Cardinals committed three first-inning errors on Sunday -- well, a misplayed ball by 10-time Gold Glover Nolan Arenado was later changed to a double -- St. Louis was already trailing, 4-0, before the simmering tea inside London Stadium had cooled.

But from out of nowhere emerged a hero, who helped stabilize the Cardinals and pave the way for their somewhat surprising 7-5 victory in Sunday’s finale. Not Paul Goldschmidt, who drove in runs in both London Series games. Not hot-shot rookie Jordan Walker, who extended his hitting streak to 15 games on Sunday with his tying RBI single. Not even Willson Contreras, who had four hits against his former team on Sunday.

Instead, it was starter-turned-reliever , who came on in relief of struggling lefty Matthew Liberatore and pitched the most significant 2 1/3 innings of his Cardinals career. Woodford, who spent four weeks on the injured list with shoulder irritation in May and spent another stint with Triple-A Memphis, allowed just one hit as the Cardinals rallied for seven runs in a four-inning stretch.

A day earlier, when Adam Wainwright was shelled by the Cubs for seven runs and 11 hits, it was Woodford who entered and saved the bullpen by getting five outs with just 16 pitches while not giving up a run. Doing what he did over the two-game series left Cardinals teammates and coaches singing the praises of the 26-year-old.

“MVP of the series, because he really locked it down and he saved us,” closer Jordan Hicks said. “I called [Woodford] the MVP after the game and that’s what he is. If we played every series in London, he’d probably be the Cy Young or something.”

Added manager Oli Marmol: “We had some big hits, but what Jake did today -- especially following what he did [on Saturday] -- he was one of the most important parts of that game. It takes a lot to be able to do that, so for him to give us what he did, it was amazing.”

Woodford said he was so locked in on the task at hand during the London Series that he didn’t really get to look around London Stadium and savor the moment of saving the Cardinals before 55,565 fans on Sunday and 110,227 in the two games. The magnitude of the moment truly hit him, he said, when he was mobbed by teammates in the clubhouse with a celebration that included gobs of shaving cream.

“It’s definitely big coming back from injury when I was still feeling like I was finding my footing,” Woodford said. “We’re showing up every day and doing what we can to win. This team isn’t going to quit and we’re going to keep grinding. We haven’t gotten off to the best start, but to come here and bounce back after a [Saturday] game that wasn’t our best, it’s huge.”