Cards take control of WC spot behind Mikolas

St. Louis has half-game lead over Brewers after 10th win in 11 games

August 19th, 2018

ST. LOUIS -- Around the time arrived at Busch Stadium to ready for his fourth season start against the Brewers on Saturday, a celebratory exit was happening back home. There, some 1,100 miles away, Mikolas' wife Lauren carried the couple's twins out of the neonatal intensive care unit and home to meet their big sister.
Overjoyed that the 33-day hospital stay for Miles Jr. and Madelyn had ended, Mikolas then pitched the Cardinals past the Brewers and into sole possession of the second National League Wild Card spot. With a 7-2 victory, St. Louis is back in postseason position for the first time since June 26 and is also a half-game behind the Phillies for the NL's top Wild Card spot.
"I think it's good to keep those happy thoughts in your head while you're pitching," said Mikolas, who has been home just once since the twins' birth. "Sometimes you lose your focus for just a second and step off the mound and gather your thoughts to refocus. It's nice to have that my family is healthy and happy in the back of my mind. It makes me feel good."
Mikolas delivered his team-leading 17th quality start to help secure the Cardinals' seventh consecutive series win. In 30 games since Mike Shildt took over as interim manager, St. Louis has pushed past the Giants, Rockies, Dodgers and Brewers in the Wild Card standings. The Cardinals, now 14-3 in August, remain very much in the NL Central race, as well. The Cubs' lead is down to four games with six weeks to go.
"We're surging right now and we're dangerous," Mikolas said. "If you're going to get hot, this is the time to get hot."
A confluence of odd occurrences shifted momentum the Cardinals' way in the third inning. They scored three times after struck out for what should have been 's third out, but Brewers catcher , who had called for a cutter, couldn't react quickly enough for the fastball that Miley delivered. It trickled to the backstop.
"That's on me," Miley said. "I have to do a better job getting the signs."

Molina, who had to be tended to by a trainer earlier in the at-bat after fouling a pitch off his leg, reached on a passed ball for just the third time in his career.
"You talk about some real effort," Shildt said. "There wasn't any discouragement, any frustration. He immediately recognized the situation and was getting after it. That's big-time effort."
followed with a bloop single that, despite a 2 percent hit probability according to Statcast™, dropped in shallow right field to plate Matt Carpenter, who scored the go-ahead run on a night when his 35-game on-base streak was snapped. (He had reached on a fielder's choice.)

then snuck a single through the Brewers' infield shift to plate two more and push the Cardinals ahead, 4-1. All three runs were unearned.
"I feel like we didn't get a lot of breaks early in the year," DeJong said. "And now I feel like we're putting pressure on guys. We're taking good at-bats. We're not striking out a lot. These are the types of things that can happen. It showed that it made a difference."

It was plenty of support for Mikolas, who allowed just four baserunners after tagged him for a homer to open the second inning. He became the first Cardinals pitcher in three years to reach 13 wins in the team's first 124 games.
"We count on all our starters, but Miles has been an anchor for us," Shildt said. "He's been able to separate worlds and still compete. Tough guy."
The ending was a lot less dramatic than the start, which included warnings being issued to both benches in the first inning. After Mikolas hit in the side with an 0-1 fastball in the top of the inning, Miley threw an inside pitch to O'Neill in the bottom half of the frame that prompted a warning from home-plate umpire Cory Blaser. Brewers manager Craig Counsell was ejected after arguing Blaser's decision.
• Getting heated: Tempers flare for Cards, Crew

Mikolas' final act: Mikolas ended his start with an emphatic fist pump after working out of trouble in the sixth. With runners in scoring position and one out, he protected a three-run lead by striking out Shaw and pinch-hitter . The Cardinals then rode that momentum into the bottom of the inning, where they scored twice on a triple by .
"That's a big spot in the game right there," Mikolas said. "We battled hard for some of those runs, and I didn't want to let my team down."

With 's 450-foot home run in the second inning, the Cardinals have now homered in 11 consecutive games. That's the active Major League lead and five games shy of the season high, which was set by the Phillies.

Fitting for a day that the Cardinals inducted speedster Vince Coleman into their Hall of Fame, Bader showcased his fast feet once again. After reaching a sprint speed of 28.9 feet per second, according to Statcast™, while driving in two with an RBI triple, Bader made another diving catch in center. To do so, Bader covered 74 feet in 4.3 seconds, reaching a sprint speed of 29.6 feet per second.

"To say you expect a play to that degree is maybe unfair," Shildt said. "But he's giving us reason to expect a play like that to be made."
With a catch probability of 47 percent on the play, according to Statcast™, it ranked as Bader's eighth four-star catch of 2018. Bader is tied with Cincinnati's for the most four- and five-star plays this season. Both have 14.
"I've been making them my entire career," Bader said. "The only difference is a little more coverage on them for the public to see. Right before that at-bat, Ozuna was talking to me, another set of eyes, and I'm always listening because he has a tremendous amount of experience. He kind of had me leaning that way, so credit to him for picking that out and allowing me to go get that ball."

After reaching on a single to lead off the third inning, Cardinals second baseman sustained an elbow contusion after he was struck by a pickoff throw from Miley. Brewers first baseman moved away from the bag as Miley lifted his front foot and couldn't reach the throw. Wong exited in the fourth inning and is considered day to day.
"It just got him in a tough place, kind of a stinger," Shildt said, adding that X-rays were negative on Wong's elbow. "He had trouble gripping the ball, so clearly it was a decision to get him out today, and [we] will evaluate him for tomorrow and moving forward."
• Wong day to day with elbow contusion

"Any catch that any center fielder can make, I think he can make it a little Bader. I told him to get a T-shirt made up that said something like that, but he's slacking on his custom T-shirt game." -- Mikolas, on Bader
The Cardinals will go for their fourth three-game sweep of the season as they close out this homestand with a 1:15 p.m. CT game against the Brewers on Sunday. , who homered in a victory his last time out, will face Milwaukee right-hander . Gant's previous two appearances against the Brewers this season came in relief, and he allowed five runs (one earned) over four innings.