Cards cap wild rally with walk-off walk in 9th

August 27th, 2020

ST. LOUIS -- In this unique, condensed and sometimes strange 2020 season, teams will take wins however and whenever they get them. If it includes four walks, a hit batter and a sharp bounce over the third baseman’s head, it’s all the same at the end -- in the win column.

That was what the Cardinals’ ninth inning looked like in their 6-5 walk-off win over the Royals on Wednesday at Busch Stadium. Down three after the Royals had extended their lead in the top of the ninth, all nine Cardinals hitters went to the plate in the ninth. Leadoff hitter had struck out swinging against Trevor Rosenthal to end the eighth inning, but it wasn’t his last at-bat of the game: He drew a five-pitch walk off of Randy Rosario with the bases loaded and the game tied in the ninth for his second walk-off of this homestand.

“When you’re leading off, you always have a chance of showing up in a big situation,” Wong said. “I knew with the bases loaded, I wanted to make this guy work. I wanted to get him in the zone where I could get a good swing off. If not, I wanted to make him pitch hard.”

The win backed up ’s strong two-run, six-inning outing. It won the series heading into a doubleheader against the Pirates on Thursday and pushed the Cardinals (11-9) to two games behind the Cubs in the National League Central.

For the Cardinals, it was a necessary win for two teammates. and chose not to play Wednesday night to bring attention to social injustice.

“We all stood behind them,” Wong said. “We were going to play for our brothers. So if they’re watching, this game’s for them. And we love them, and much respect to those two.”

After Rosenthal came in with the bases loaded in the eighth inning and struck out rookie and Wong on six pitches, St. Louis worked Rosenthal's pitch count up to 33 in the ninth. With the bases loaded and one out, pinch-hitter fouled off four pitches during a seven-pitch strikeout to lift Rosenthal -- the former St. Louis closer who has revived his career with the Royals and notched his seventh save of the season on Tuesday night against the Cardinals -- from the game.

“This rally was predicated upon our good at-bats yesterday,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “That’s one thing you appreciate, when you grind out at-bats, and you have team at-bats. We had a lot of quality at-bats [Wednesday]. We had opportunities [Wednesday] and couldn’t get on top of it. But took a lot of tough at-bats, made them work like crazy to bring it home, which set us up for today.”

Four of the five batters who faced Rosenthal in the ninth worked a six-pitch or greater at-bat. That brought in Rosario, who hit to bring in one run. hit a sharp grounder that bounced off third baseman Maikel Franco’s glove and over his head, scoring two and tying the game.

“Trev’s a beast,” Wong said. “We knew him since he was here, and I got a chance to face him during the quarantine time when we were back here. You could see that he was starting to figure stuff out. So it was one of those [times] where you just make them work, and eventually, a closer’s not meant to go that much.”

Since returning to the field after the team's COVID-19 outbreak paused its schedule, the Cardinals haven’t won every game. But Shildt has repeatedly said he’s impressed with the at-bats he’s seeing from the offense -- especially given that hitters didn’t see live pitching for two weeks during their quarantine. Entering Wednesday, the Cardinals were ranked sixth in the Majors in pitches per plate appearance, with 4.08. The league average is 3.93.

“This whole team, our motto is to grind pitchers out,” Wong said. “We want them to be tired. We want them to understand that they faced the St. Louis Cardinals. We’ve done that from the get-go.”