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Bader's alert defense ignites Cards' comeback

@LangoschMLB
April 9, 2019

ST. LOUIS – Once in play, it was likely the last pitch Miles Mikolas was to throw all evening, the one Russell Martin popped into shallow center with one out in the sixth inning. Harrison Bader turned it into both a highlight and much-needed momentum. Bader’s catch started a key

ST. LOUIS – Once in play, it was likely the last pitch Miles Mikolas was to throw all evening, the one Russell Martin popped into shallow center with one out in the sixth inning. Harrison Bader turned it into both a highlight and much-needed momentum.

Bader’s catch started a key inning-ending double play that carried the Cardinals into the bottom half of a frame in which they jumped on the Dodgers’ bullpen to grab their first lead of the night. They never lost it, either, halting the Dodgers’ five-game winning streak and 10-game home run binge by hanging on for a 4-3 victory on Monday to open a four-game series at Busch Stadium.

The outcome hinged on a series of events in the sixth, which opened with Mikolas seeking to get through the inning for the first time in three starts. He found himself in trouble with two runners advancing into scoring position and Martin at the plate. Martin didn’t hit his 2-1 fastball far -- just 239 feet -- but it had seemingly ideal placement.

“Another broken-bat hit that I thought was about to fall,” was Mikolas’ initial reaction. “I was pretty upset with it.”

That is, until Bader appeared.

The speedy center fielder reached a 29.8 feet/second sprint speed while covering 74 feet in 4.3 seconds to make the grab on a ball that had an expected batting average (based on exit velocity and launch angle) of .600. The four-star catch, with a 40 percent catch probability, represented the most difficult play made by a Cardinals outfielder all season.

“I went from being pretty upset with the circumstances to being really happy,” Mikolas said. “It was awesome. I didn’t realize how far that ball got out there or how fast Bader can be when he’s coming in on the ball.”

“Special closing speed,” noted manager Mike Shildt.

It would have been enough to freeze Max Muncy on third. But the Cardinals did even better when the defense realized that Enrique Hernandez was there with him. Hernandez was easily doubled off second to close the inning, giving Bader his second outfield assist in as many days.

“He just thought that Bader was a little bit deeper, and it was a ball that was kind of softly hit and he just thought he had a bead on it and didn’t expect Bader to come up with it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts explained afterward. “This guy is a very heady baseball player. It’s just a perfect storm of a couple things happening two nights in a row. But he gets it, he gets the game.”

The gaffe, which came one night after Hernandez didn’t complete a double play because he forgot how many outs there were in the inning, closed Mikolas’ night at 100 pitches and ushered the Cardinals back to bat with the deficit still at one.

And that’s when they pounced.

A Dodgers bullpen called into early action after Hyun-Jin Ryu exited with a groin strain in the second inning finally slipped in the bottom of the sixth. Matt Carpenter singled and Paul Goldschmidt drew his team-leading eighth unintentional walk to keep the momentum snowballing. Carpenter’s sharp read of Jose Martinez’s single off former Cardinal Joe Kelly helped him score the tying run.

Goldschmidt then aggressively scampered home when Martin couldn’t smother a pitch in the dirt.

“He’s always anticipating and looking for an edge,” Shildt said. “[He] was on time and ready and saw it and didn’t hesitate, and obviously scored the run that put us ahead to win the game.”

Jenifer Langosch is a senior content manager at MLB.com. She previously covered the Pirates (2007-11) and Cardinals (2012-19). Follow her on Twitter.