ST. LOUIS -- To a man, the Cardinals spent much of Sunday digesting the news, alarming in detail and its implications severe in scope. Then they embarked on what could be more than a month's worth of games without Yadier Molina, their unofficial captain and emotional leader, who underwent emergency surgery Saturday night following a pelvic injury with traumatic hematoma. It took 14 innings, but they found another comeback win in them.
This time it was William Fowler, whose two-run home run off Luke Farrell with two outs in the 14th inning gave the Cardinals a remarkable 4-3 victory over the Cubs, their second walk-off win in as many days and their first three-game sweep of their storied rivals in nearly three years.
St. Louis' fifth straight win came after a sea of scoreless innings separated three comebacks, Fowler's blast capping the final one when his line drive barely eluded the outstretched glove of Jason Heyward beyond the right-field wall. And it brought an improbable, celebratory and cathartic end to a marathon day spent with Molina's well-being weighing heavy on the mind.
"Before the game, I texted him and he said to win the game and go have fun," said Francisco Pena, Molina's replacement for the night. "And we did. We had a lot of fun."
Shocked and elated, the Cardinals spewed out of the dugout to mob Fowler. He was riding an 0-for-5 night and down to his final strike. Harrison Bader's infield single a batter prior had marked the club's second hit over its last 7 2/3 innings, over which it barely threatened against five Chicago relievers.
Six St. Louis relievers nearly matched them, until Mike Mayers surrendered a go-ahead home run to Javier Baez in the top of the 14th. That set the stage for Fowler's first career walk-off homer, and St. Louis' second in as many days against Chicago.
The last team to win on consecutive extra-inning walk-off home runs? The Cardinals, in June 2011 against the Cubs.
"I'm elated," Fowler said. "It's something special if you do it against them."
Heyward's teammate on the 2016 World Series-champion Cubs, Fowler often witnessed the right fielder's heralded defense up close. Mix that experience with the frustration bubbling from his sluggish start, and Fowler inched up the first-base line trepidatiously, fearing the worst.
"Especially the way my season is going -- I've squared up balls, and they've all been caught -- so I didn't think today would be any different," Fowler said. "I see J-Hey flying. [I thought,] 'If you catch this, I'm going to cry.' Then he jumped, and I thought he caught it. And then I saw. Words can't even explain it."
Racing from first as the tying run, Bader had only his teammates' reactions to discern whether the game, in an instant, was won or lost. "As soon as I saw the ball hit over my head, I put my head down," Bader said. "I was going to score from first. Then I look back, and I don't know what happened initially. Then I saw everyone lose their mind."
Fowler's home run was projected by Statcast™ to travel 351 feet, making it the club's shortest homer this season. It sailed over Heyward's glove by mere inches before caroming into the seats, coming close enough to delay the Cardinals' celebration. Several players in the home dugout thought Heyward made the play, which would've ended the 4-hour, 46-minute contest (elongated by two rain delays) in an equally dramatic way.
"It got over," Heyward said. "It got over."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bader busts it: Filling in admirably again for the injured Tommy Pham, Bader extended the game by beating out an infield hit in the hole with two outs off Farrell in the 14th. The outfielder continues to turn heads with his defense and hustle, both of which were on display Sunday.
"There was nothing to lose," Bader said. "There is still a game to be played. We're down by one, we're not down by five. I handed the baton off, and Dex worked his magic."
Heyward loses Wong's line drive: Another line drive Heyward couldn't corral led to the Cardinals' second run. In the sixth inning, the right fielder lost a Kolten Wong line drive in the lights, and it ended up as a game-tying triple. Heyward charged the ball and slid to try to make a catch, but the ball sailed over his head and to the wall, scoring Jedd Gyorko.
"It just should've been caught, and I didn't catch it," Heyward said.
HE SAID IT
"That was honestly just a great team win. Obviously, everyone knew we were missing Yadi, so for us to put together a big game and sweep was really big. It shows the depth of this team." -- Bader, on the Cardinals' resilience
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Wong's triple was the first by a Cardinals hitter this season, in 1,061 plate appearances across 31 games. They were the last team in MLB to record a triple, and the 31-game drought to begin a season is the longest in franchise history.
Mayers appears likely to be optioned so the club can activate John Gant, who will make his first start of the season when the Cardinals open a two-game set with the Twins on Monday. Assuming injured Adam Wainwright's place in the rotation, Gant will oppose Twins rookie Fernando Romero, who won in his MLB debut last week. First pitch is set for 7:10 pm CT from Busch Stadium.