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Cards flip script in extras to win Game 2

@anne__rogers
September 15, 2020

As the Cardinals begin this stretch of games that includes three doubleheaders this week alone, most eyes are on the pitching. Innings are needed. Starters need to go deep. The bullpen has been hit recently with injuries. Where will the depth come from? On Monday -- the first day of

As the Cardinals begin this stretch of games that includes three doubleheaders this week alone, most eyes are on the pitching. Innings are needed. Starters need to go deep. The bullpen has been hit recently with injuries. Where will the depth come from?

On Monday -- the first day of those three doubleheaders this week -- the depth was apparent. The pitching was excellent. It was the offense that needed tending to before the Cardinals scratched out a 3-2 win in extra innings over the Brewers in the second game of the twin bill.

Box score

Shortstop Paul DeJong switched to a two-strike approach after his first two at-bats in the second game on Monday and got three line drives out of it. The last one, in the ninth inning, scored automatic runner Tommy Edman and pushed the Cardinals to a doubleheader split for the first two of a five-game series at Miller Park.

“I was kind of jammed late a little bit off [Brewers starter Corbin] Burnes, so in my last three at-bats, I just tried to barrel the ball, nice and short,” DeJong said. “And got three line drives.”

The Cardinals fended off the Brewers from tying them for second place in the National League Central, which is what would have happened if Milwaukee won the second game. Now the Brewers remain two games back of the Cardinals with still three games to play over the next two days.

DeJong’s single was a much-needed momentum swing on a day where the Cardinals had little going offensively.

“We were able to come through,” manager Mike Shildt said. “Had plenty of opportunities. We’ve got to put the ball in play, get the ball in the air a little bit better. Too many strikeouts, too much soft contact in the infield. Lot of credit to Paulie for staying with it.”

The Cardinals scored four runs total in the two games Monday, both of which went to extra innings. In Game 2, they fought back against a Brewers bullpen that had used Devin Williams and Josh Hader in the first game. Trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning, Paul Goldschmidt’s double and Brad Miller’s single tied the game. But the Cardinals failed to score more with no outs; pinch-runner Harrison Bader got caught in a rundown between third and home, Tyler O’Neill struck out looking and Matt Wieters grounded out.

Wieters was left stranded as the automatic runner in the top of the eighth inning. The Cardinals left 14 on base and struck out 16 times in the nightcap.

“We haven’t seen the Brewers all year, so hopefully we’re learning from today,” DeJong said. “Overall, we have to put the ball in play a little bit more. We were talking before the game that we don’t think we’re this stagnant of an offense, so really we need to just trust ourselves and know what we’re capable of as a group.”

After Kwang Hyun Kim’s stellar start in Game 1, Daniel Ponce de Leon -- added as the 29th man for the doubleheader -- took a cue from Kim and sat in the same chair, in the same spot in the clubhouse between innings. It must have helped -- or maybe it was Ponce de Leon’s fastball that allowed him to pitch six-plus innings with nine strikeouts. All but one of those strikeouts was on his fastball, and he struck out five of the first six batters he faced. Monday was the first time he got through the fifth inning in his last nine starts dating back to last season.

“Any team against my fastball today wouldn’t look good,” Ponce de Leon said. “I’m not trying to brag, it just felt that good. Just happy to go deep enough in the game on a doubleheader day to give the team a chance.”

Then the Cardinals' pitching depth took over and delivered three scoreless innings. The Cardinals used Alex Reyes and Génesis Cabrera after the two threw 25 and 33 pitches, respectively, Sunday, but the two got out of the seventh and eighth innings with three strikeouts to give their offense a chance.

Their usage goes to show the state of the Cardinals bullpen, with Giovanny Gallegos (right groin strain) on the injured list and John Gant (right groin discomfort) unavailable for the next couple of days. Ryan Helsley was used in Game 1. Lefty Andrew Miller was apparently off limits Monday after throwing 15 pitches on Sunday, and lefty Tyler Webb was pegged with the ninth inning.

“Those are three big innings and three big zeros,” Shildt said. “[Reyes and Cabrera] are back-end, quality, high-leverage guys. They’re getting there soon, and they’ve earned it.”

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