Unflinching in his devotion to leave at-bats behind and not let any result – good, bad, or blech – leak into many, Paul Goldschmidt did not fixate Monday on the unforgiving math of his first four plate appearances. He didn’t measure the sunk costs of three strikeouts or the five outs he caused, calculating instead the one opportunity he’d have to dramatically change the game.
Goldschmidt knew the only way he would bat in the 10th inning was with the bases loaded and two outs. That’s it. If the inning kept going, he’d have that one chance to end it.
He turned a single moment into a grand display.
Goldschmidt, his evening leaden with three strikeouts and then a double play, turned on a 90-mph slider and drilled it for a walk-off grand slam to launch the Cardinals to a 7-3 victory against the Toronto. An inning after Nolan Arenado’s liner off that same left-field wall caused a premature pop of fireworks above the Busch Stadium scoreboard, Goldschmidt ignited all the fireworks and ruckus the home ballpark could muster after the Cardinals’ first extra-inning win of the year.
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“Five outs in four at-bats – that’s not what you want to do,” Goldschmidt said after the game, lowering his chin to fight a grin. “Honestly, I was telling myself, ‘Play some good defense. I may get a chance if that inning comes up. ‘ Bases loaded. Two outs. It’s my only shot to hit right here. (I was) preparing for that at-bat. “
“Pretty cool,” he said.
Goldschmidt’s seventh career grand slam was the seven walk-off homer of his career and the seventh extra-inning homer of his career. In the last swing of the game, Goldschmidt also extended his on-base streak to 29 games and his hitting streak to 15 games. Goldschmidt’s grand slam was the first to win a game in the Cardinals’ last at-bat since Matt Carpenter’s in 2017, and that too came against the Blues Jays.
The prelude to Goldschmidt’s winning swing came in the top of the 10th inning when and infielder made a crucial play in the outfield. Rookie Brendan Donovan, who has started all over the field for the Cardinals and had a short cameo, made a diving catch in the right field that kept Toronto from scoring a go-ahead run. In the bottom of the inning, the Cardinals got the winning run to third base with zero outs. Hazelwood West alum David Phelps froze the runner there, though, editing a storybook ending by striking out pinch-hitter Albert Pujols and getting two outs without the runner at third advancing. The rally sputtered, threatened to stall.
Tommy Edman and pinch-hitter Edmundo Sosa revived it with two two-out walks that did exactly as Goldschmidt counted up. He had a fifth at-bat to make a final impact.
Professionally stoic and devoted to not letting today’s struggles become this week’s slump, Goldschmidt’s presence at the plate meant his teammates tried to mirror him in the dugout.
“We’re on pins and needles,” starter Miles Mikolas said. “Not being too mercurial out there in the dugout. Staying even keel. ”
A pitcher’s duel that dictated most of the game veered sharply into a gift-giving spree by the Cardinals until winding back into a contests of bullpen trying not to blink.
Both starters, Mikolas and Toronto’s Jose Berrios, dictated the tempo of their half innings. Mikolas tirelessly pounded the strike zone through his 6 2/3 innings. He struck out five and didn’t really get in trouble until his final inning and the free bases started. Berrios also got the game into the seventh inning for the Blue Jays, pitching 6 1/3 innings, avoiding walks entirely, and striking out seven. He left with a lead that didn’t last, and both starters were tagged with three runs.
By the end of the fifth inning, the two right-handed starters had gone twice through the opponent’s lineup, faced 18 batters, and squeezed 15 outs from them.
What neither starter had done was thrown a 70th pitch.
“It’s good when you’re on defense, but when you’re hitting, it’s like, ‘Man, that was a little quick,'” Goldschmidt said.
Mikolas helped give the game such alacrity once he hopscotched out of the first inning. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. worked a five-pitch walk from Mikolas to push the game’s second batter into scoring position. In a bind before he got a second out, Mikolas started peppering the Blue Jays with strikes – and never really stopped. He got a fly out and a strikeout to end the first inning without allowing a run. Mikolas then retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced.
Eight of those outs didn’t get the ball out of the infield.
Few of those batters saw more than four pitches.
“There were a couple of innings I went down to get a drink or use the bathroom and I came out and it was like two outs, two strikes,” Mikolas said. “Get my stuff and get back going again. I’d love us to score tons of runs, but I do like when I feel good not having to sit down for a whole long time. “
Mikolas retired six batters in order on a total of 20 pitches to bring the game to the sixth inning. He had thrown only 60 pitches total and kept the Blue Jays scoreless through five.
His 62nd pitch ended that.
Greeted by boos each time he came to the plate due to his prominent spot in Houston’s lineup during the sign-stealing scandal in 2017, Springer headed back to the dugout escorted by cheers in his first two at-bats. Mikolas struck out Springer to start the game and struck out Springer to assert control of the third inning. When Springer came up to lead off the sixth inning, he struck back. Toronto’s designated hitter tagged a 1-0 slider from Mikolas for a solo homer to the seats beyond the left-field wall. That knotted the game, 1-1, and it shaped the Cardinals’ decision in the seventh when Springer once again came up with Mikolas on the mound.
What little chance Mikolas had of facing Springer for a fourth time in the game vanished when he hit the Jays’ No. 9 hitter, Bradley Zimmer. That loaded the bases. Mikolas’ 99th pitch was thus his last.
Rookie Andre Pallante, the first of the seven Cardinals this season (so far) to make their big-league debuts, had one out to get to finish the seventh inning. Manager Oliver Marmol said he went with the rookie head of reliever Ryan Helsley because Helsley was limited to an inning Monday, and Pallante could get an out here and pitch the next inning, too.
Pallante had to deal with the bases loaded.
He made it worse before he made it end.
Inviting tremors from last year’s MLB record 29 walks with the bases loaded, Pallante forced two runs in with a bases-loaded walk. He walked Springer on five pitches. The Jays got one hit in the inning and yet produced two runs and the lead because of three walks and a hit batter left nowhere else for runners to go. As with any capacity limits, the overflow had to head home.
The Cardinals’ rally to answer began around rookies and radiated from there.
Down by the two runs Pallante walked home, the Cardinals stirred to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, and it began with a swing by a newcomer. Juan Yepez scorched a pitch from Berrios with one out to cut into the Blue Jays’ lead. The homer, Yepez’s fourth of the season in the majors, let his bat at 112.7 mph – the top exit velocity measured this year for a Cardinals’ homer.
“That ball was hammered,” Marmol said.
Donovan, another rookie, followed with a single, and then the inning sped up on Berrios. Corey Dickerson singled to put Donovan, the potential tying run, at third base and Chase Berrios from the game after 6 1/3 innings.
Adam Cimber relieved Berrios with runners at the corners and quickly fell behind to Harrison Bader. The Cardinals’ No. 8 hitter didn’t get the take sign on Cimber’s 3-0 pitch, so he didn’t. Bader lashed a single to right field to turn the 3-0 pitch into a 3-3 tie. Sharp defense, like Donovan’s catch or Tommy Edman’s diving snag of a grounder, froze it there and helped the Cardinals force extra innings to give Goldschmidt a fifth at-bat, another chance to do what he didn’t have in any of his previous four at- bats. He had three strikeouts and a double play for five outs as his tailwind, and yet showed no hint, looked completely unflappable despite the breeze.
That is, until he had that one chance to create a gust.
“That’s a player who is confident in what he’s able to do,” Marmol said.