Unfortunate frame puts Cards in tough spot

September 14th, 2020

ST. LOUIS -- The costliest moment of the seventh inning on Sunday was not when the Reds took the lead on a bases-loaded walk, or when they extended it with a wild pitch and groundout.

It was when left the game with a trainer after facing one hitter, allowing a single and throwing just five pitches. The Cardinals later announced it was due to right groin discomfort, and the right-hander will be day to day.

Behind that three-run inning, the Cardinals dropped Sunday’s series finale, 10-5 -- their final series against the Reds at Busch Stadium -- and the way it happened put the bullpen in an uncertain spot heading into a gauntlet of games this week.

Gant’s injury was the third time this week that the Cardinals have had to remove a reliever from a game. strained his right groin while trying to notch a save against Detroit on Thursday. He went on the injured list the next day, and it’s unclear when, or if, he’ll be back during the regular season.

left Saturday’s game during warmups after his acrylic nail came apart and the Cardinals weren’t able to glue it back on. He was able to pitch Sunday.

Gant’s injury -- and timeline -- is yet to be determined. Manager Mike Shildt said the Cardinals are initially thinking it will be one to three days until Gant is available again.

“It’s not as severe [as Gallegos],” Shildt said. “Clearly, it will impact the bullpen.”

With St. Louis clinging to a one-run lead in the seventh, lefty came in to replace Gant and subsequently hit Aristides Aquino to load the bases, walked in a run and threw a wild pitch to tack on another.

All of this happens as the Cardinals prepare for a five-game, three-day series against the Brewers this week. Innings will be at a premium, and the Cards had to use six relievers Sunday after allowed three runs on six hits in four innings. He struck out eight batters and was at 90 pitches.

Martínez likely would have gone longer if left fielder hadn’t lost a high fly ball in the sun in the third inning. The ball dropped in front of Dean, allowing Eugenio Suárez to coast into second base with an RBI double. The Reds tied the game later that inning, with all runs charged to Martínez.

“We were able to keep him at the 90-pitch mark, which is where we wanted to keep him at today,” Shildt said. “We would have preferred to not have to do it for four innings. We’re going to need length from our starters consistently. But the stuff’s there.”

Dean was removed two innings later with right elbow discomfort. He had a couple of awkward swings in his at-bat in the third inning, which resulted in his second strikeout swinging of the game. Tyler O’Neill replaced him in the top of the fifth. Shildt said the injury was in Dean’s elbow flexor muscles and that the club would determine Sunday night if it required a move to the injured list.

That could be costly, too, as the Cardinals search for consistent outfield production. Dean had favorable reports before being promoted from the alternate training site and was on base four times Saturday night. He and center fielder -- who went 1-for-3 with a walk and a highlight-reel catch Sunday -- have led the way there in recent days.

Despite the uncertainty of the roster, the Cardinals head to Milwaukee ready to take on this dense stretch of games: 10 games in seven days against the Brewers and Pirates, including three doubleheaders.

Five games is enough to push the Brewers out of postseason contention -- or bring them well into it. After being no-hit by Cubs starter Alec Mills on Sunday, the Crew is two games behind the Cardinals for second place in the National League Central. St. Louis is four games behind the first-place Cubs.

The race is on.

“[We’re] certainly coming to the tough part of our schedule from a workload standpoint, but we’ve got some teams that we can do some stuff against,” Matt Carpenter said. “It would be nice to separate ourselves in the division. We’ll just see what we’re made of.

“That kind of writing your own destiny, that’s a good thing. We’re going to find out, one way or another.”