Cardinals wrassle Cubs

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) hangs out with the team in the dugout during a game against the Cubs on Friday, May 31, 2019 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Molina was placed on the injured list with a strained tendon in his thumb. Photo by Colter Peterson, cpeterson@post-dispatch.com

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MIAMI • The only time Cardinals righthander Dakota Hudson had finished the seventh inning in the major leagues was last year when he was a rookie reliever. But in his previous five starts this year, Hudson had knocked on the door of the seventh, lasting 6, 6, 6 1/3, 6 and 6 1/3 innings in order.

Finally, he opened that door Tuesday night when he fanned Miami’s Curtis Granderson to strand a runner at first to end the seventh in another stellar start.

Hudson, for the third consecutive outing, allowed only one run. He has given up five or fewer hits (four on Tuesday) in all of them. And the Cardinals won for the fifth consecutive time in a Hudson start as they belted the Miami Marlins 7-1 before 6,308 paid customers at Marlins Park, which was even fewer than on Monday. 

But then the Cardinals always knock the Marlins around here. Their 62-35 record (.639) in Miami is the best of any team since the Marlins joined the National League in 1993

It marked the third time this season that the Cardinals had had back-to-back quality starts on the road, with Hudson (5-3) a part of all three.

Cardinals catchers Matt Wieters and Andrew Knizner had been nothing for 27 (20 of those by Wieters) in the past 10 days with Yadier Molina on the injured list. But Molina, his right thumb tendon healed, came off the IL on Tuesday and had two hits, including a leadoff double in the eighth as the Cardinals put the game away with three runs. 

Kolten Wong bunted for a hit and Dexter Fowler, who had been five for 45, slashed a run-scoring single for his first of two hits. Pinch hitter Jose Martinez, hitting with men at first and second, singled to right center and Fowler followed Wong home, scoring all the way from first when right fielder Harold Ramirez returned the ball to second base.

Former Marlin Marcell Ozuna hit his 18th homer of the season in the ninth to cap the Cardinals' scoring. 

GOLDSCHMIDT DOUBLE KEYS TWO-RUN SIXTH

Paul Goldschmidt narrowly missed what would have been his 13th homer when his one-out drive to left in the Cardinals’ sixth inning hit the padding atop the wall and he had to settle for a double.

But Goldschmidt would score the go-ahead run on an error by Miami shortstop Miguel Rojas as the Cardinals took a 3-1 lead over the Miami Marlins in an unusual inning.

After Goldschmidt’s double, only his sixth of the season, Marcell Ozuna legged out an infield hit behind second, with Goldschmidt stopping at third. Yadier Molina lined to the left of Rojas, who made a diving catch to retire Molina and then threw to first to try to get Ozuna.

The throw was wild, enabling Ozuna to get back safely but the ball rebounded to first baseman Garrett Cooper, who fired home to try to get the sliding Goldschmidt, who alertly had tagged and then come home. Goldschmidt barely arrived safely. 

Lefthander Jarlin Garcia replaced slider specialist Elieser Hernandez and walked Kolten Wong. With Jeff Brigham pitching, Ozuna and Wong executed a double steal, except that Dexter Fowler termed he had been by Brigham’s pitch.

The Cardinals challenged and lost. The double steal stood. And Fowler wound up walking anyway. So did Harrison Bader to force in the second run of the inning.

BADER GIVES CARDS 1-0 LEAD

The Cardinals, who had only four hits good for four runs on Monday, turned their first hit of Tuesday’s game into the first run of the game in the second inning.

Kolten Wong drew a one-out walk from rookie Elieser Hernandez and, with two out, Harrison Bader sent a liner to left where veteran Curtis Granderson allowed a short hop to get past him and Wong scored from first on Bader’s triple.

Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson, the top ground-ball pitcher in the majors, hadn’t allowed a home run in his previous 40 innings before Tuesday. Hernandez, just recalled from Class AAA New Orleans, hadn’t given up any homers in his 48 innings in the minors or his two major league innings this year.

Hudson who had had nine consecutive starts of three earned runs or fewer allowed and at least five innings pitched, was on his way to another one as he got through the first three innings allowing just one hit, netting six outs on ground balls. 

But with one out in the Miami fourth, Harold Ramirez got his fourth hit in two games and Jorge Alfaro was hit in the left biceps by a pitch. Miguel Rojas singled to center and Ramirez, sliding home, barely got his hand on the plate ahead of Yadier Molina’s tag after Molina had taken a one-hop throw from center fielder Bader. 

MOLINA RETURNS FROM IL 

Cardinals catchers Matt Wieters and Andrew Knizner hadn’t had a hit in their last 27 at-bats, 20 by Wieters, before Tuesday. But all that might change now, with the earlier-than-expected activation from the injured list of nine-time All-Star and Gold Glover Yadier Molina.

Molina, who last played on May 28 in Philadelphia but had to come out of the game with discomfort from a right thumb tendon strain suffered a few days before, was hitting .265 with 33 runs batted in over his first 50 games. He will hit fifth Tuesday night and Knizner has been optioned to Class AAA Memphis.

After taking batting practice outside and catching a bullpen session on Monday, Molina determined that “yesterday was a good day. Everything went well, so I’m back.”

It had been projected that Molina would return on Thursday in New York but he said, “I don’t like to surprise anyone. But I don’t want to put (out) a date and then don’t be (ready) on that date. I like to take my time and see how it is.

Manager Mike Shildt said he wasn’t surprised that Molina would be ready to go Tuesday. “I had a hint that it was coming,” Shildt said. “Once he got here yesterday and (got) his feedback about how he felt, I was pretty confident that we were going to have a Yadier Molina sighting in the lineup today.”

In the 11 starts Molina missed, the Cardinals went 6-5 but, as mentioned, got little offensive help from the other catchers.

Molina played virtually every day before he got hurt but Tuesday he said, “I go day by day. I’m going to be playing today and then I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what happens.”

Shildt, however, didn’t see any problem with Molina playing on back-to-back days. “When Yadi’s in there, Yadi goes,” Shildt said. “That is a not a concern about him going back-to-back.

“(Maybe) back-to-back months,” Shildt joked.

Yairo Munoz, who had a strong game both offensively and defensively on Monday night at shortstop, earned a start at third base for Matt Carpenter and will lead off. This is significant because sinkerballer Dakota Hudson is pitching for the Cardinals and, if right, will induce many ground balls.

CARDS SIGN FIRST-ROUND PICK

The Cardinals signed their first-round pick, lefthander Zack Thompson of the University of Kentucky and showed him around Busch Stadium Tuesday. Terms were not announced but the slot value assigned to the 19th overall pick in the draft had been $3,359,000. The 21-year-old Thompson is believed to be receiving somewhat less than that number as the Cardinals try to over slot to sign Maine high schooler Trejyn Fletcher, their second-round pick, who has committed to Vanderbilt if he goes to college. 

As a junior this year, Thompson posted a 6-1 record with a 2.40 earned run average while striking out 130 batters over 90 innings. His 13.00 strikeouts per nine innings pitched ranked 10th in the NCAA. 

Thompson, who has a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup, will report to Jupiter, Fla., where he will receive his minor-league assignment.

 NO STARTING POINT 

Any assessment of the Cardinals’ offensive problems must start at the start. Going into Tuesday’s game, the Cardinals’ leadoff men, mostly Carpenter, were hitting precisely .198 lowest of all 30 big-league clubs. Their leadoff men’s 50 hits were the least in the majors and their slugging average 29th at .336, ahead of only Detroit at .321.

“We’ve had long droughts,” said Carpenter. “There’s been an inning and then we go six, seven innings without scoring. We go two days without scoring and then we’ll score a bunch of runs in one game. Even when we were winning games, that was kind of how it worked.

“And our offense and our pitching staff hasn’t lined up at all — not at any point. When we get a good start, we can’t score. When we get good offense, we can’t get a good start. The answer is — and I’ve said it to our guys — we’ve got to have guys, myself included, who are supposed to produce stuff . . . to produce it.

“Outside of my first month, I’m starting to swing the bat a little better and Goldy (Paul Goldschmidt) looks like he’s starting to take some better at-bats so if both of us can get going, that will help a ton.”

Carpenter expects a lot of himself, not just as a leadoff man but as somebody who puts together good, often long, at-bats. “I definitely am a big part of setting the table for the group behind me. You can’t score runs if you don’t get anybody on base,” said Carpenter.

NO ALL-STAR STARTERS?

According to the first All-Star Game vote tabulations for the National League, the Cardinals have nobody in the top three at any position (nine for outfielders) to get into the new second round of voting, which will take place in a couple of weeks. The closest is Molina, who is fourth among catchers.

Elsewhere, Goldschmidt is sixth at first base, Paul DeJong sixth at shortstop, Kolten Wong eighth at second base, Carpenter ninth at third base and Marcell Ozuna 14th among outfielders.

CARDINALS’ LINEUP:

1. Yairo Munoz 3b

2. Paul DeJong ss

3. Paul Goldschmidt 1b

4. Marcell Ozuna lf

5. Yadier Molina c

6. Kolten Wong 2b

7. Dexter Fowler rf

8. Harrison Bader cf

9. Dakota Hudson p

MIAMI LINEUP

1. Curtis Granderson lf

2. Garrett Cooper 1b

3. Brian Anderson 3b

4. Starlin Castro 2b

5. Harold Ramirez rf

6. Jorge Alfaro c

7. Miguel Rojas ss

8. Rosell Herrera cf

9. Elieser Hernandez p


Players on the roster

Rick Hummel

@cmshhummel on Twitter

rhummel@post-dispatch.com

This article originally ran on stltoday.com.

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