Friday, December 2, 2022

Cardinals’ Wainwright ‘sad’ about not having Molina but blames own mistakes in 4-0 loss to Phillies | Cardinal Beat

PHILADELPHIA — Nine-time Gold Glover Yadier Molina, who has been home in Puerto Rico as he rests an ailing right knee, last played for the Cardinals on June 15. Since then, the Cardinals are 7-9, which is not a horrible record but his longtime battery mate, Adam Wainwright, has won just once since then in four starts.

Wainwright, who didn’t have much of a cutter and threw some damaging curveballs, suffered a 4-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday night as the Cardinals lost a series finale for the eighth consecutive time and 10th time in the past 12 series. They reached the halfway point of the season with a 44-37 mark after climbing as high as plus-10 the day before Molina last played this season.

“He brings a calming presence to a pitching staff,” said Wainwright, “but he’s also a guy that the other team looks out and knows it can’t steal on. He does a lot of things out there defensively probably like nobody else we’ve seen in our lifetime. There haven’t been many defensive catchers like him. Ever. I think anyone would say that. Johnny Bench said that.”

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Asked to expound on his pitching and personal relationship with a catcher he has started 316 games with, Wainwright said, “I’m sad out there. I’m not pitching sad but I miss my buddy. Hopefully, we see him soon.

“But the guys that are stepping in (Andrew Knizner and Ivan Herrera) are doing a good job, too. They didn’t throw the ball belt-high down the middle today. I did.”

Manager Oliver Marmol said the obvious. “It’s important to have (Molina). There’s a reason he’s been in the league for two decades. But I do think we’ll get him back.”

Of course, the Cardinals presented scant little opposition to Phils ace Zack Wheeler (7-4) and two relievers. They had four singles and never had two runners on base in the same inning.

Wainwright trailed only 1-0 into the sixth after allowing Rhys Hoskins’ third homer off him in nine career at-bats in the fourth.

Hoskins, now six for 10 against Wainwright, sent another long drive—this one to left center—in the sixth. But it hit the wall and went for only a double.

Nick Castellanos singled to left, scoring Hoskins to make it 2-0 but apparently thought his day’s work was done as he strolled back to the bag and exchanged pleasantries with his first-base coach as left fielder Brendan Donovan’s ill-advised throw home sailed past Knizner.

Castellanos remained at first, but scored soon enough as JT Realmuto jumped a 73 mph curveball and rapped his sixth homer to left field. It was a three-run inning and a 4-0 Phillies lead. Ballgame.

“I made two really horrible pitches — to Castellanos and, right there, to Realmuto,” Wainwright said. “Those were just backup … terrible pitches. And the home run to Hoskins earlier also was a hanging cutter. Three mistake breaking balls today cost us the game.”

Hoskins has 17 homers for the season and nine in his past 25 games. “He’s one of those guys I don’t make good pitches to,” Wainwright said.

Recalling a complete-game, 2-1 loss to Philadelphia in April, 2021, Wainwright said, “I gave up two solo home runs, to just him, and they were both belt-high right down the middle.

“Big-league hitters are going to hit those. He’s got some power and he hits the ball right down the middle really well. Unfortunately, I’ve thrown him three of them, just exactly the same way.”

The two teams will play four games starting Friday in St. Louis and Wainwright, queried if there might be a new plan for Hoskins, replied, dryly, “Keep it out of ‘belt high down the middle?’ Yeah, that would be a good plan.”

Wainwright threw only 22 pitches through two perfect innings. He threw 81 in the next 3 2/3. “I started running counts deeper,” he said. “I’d get ahead of guys and I’d let them back in the counts a lot. I wasn’t doing any favors for myself pitch-count wise, but I still should have finished that sixth inning much more competitively than I did.”

And the Cardinals should finish series better than they have. They haven’t won the finale of a series since June 5 in Chicago. “That is important,” said Wainwright. “Plus, we like those happy flights, too. Baseball’s funky like that. We might win the next eight.”

Marmol said, “You’ve got to be able to win series. We’re taking our best shot every night … and it didn’t work.”

Wainwright didn’t exactly lose this game by himself, though. The Cardinals’ offense was helpless against Wheeler.

“I thought he was electric,” said Marmol. “That fastball had life to it. He kept overpowering with it.”

Marmol had hoped the Cardinals could run up Wheeler’s pitch count where the high 90s fireballer might be over 100 pitches after six innings and have to exit the game. They missed by one inning as Wheeler had 105 throws through seven.

The Cardinals also took some chances they might not take. With Nolan Arenado at first in the fourth, Marmol let rookie Juan Yepez swing at a 3-0 fastball with one out. Yepez popped it up.

Marmol said he allowed Yepez to swing away in this spot because he was certain Wheeler would come with the fastball on that pitch but not necessarily on 3-1. “If you can bank on a fastball from a fastball pitcher and take your shot … I’m OK with it,” said Marmol.

Arenado, who hasn’t stolen a base in three tries this year, then was cut down at second for the final out of the inning. The Cardinals thought they had some intel in this situation but catcher Realmuto made a strong throw.

“You’re not going to get a ton off Wheeler, so you’ve got to take your shots,” Marmol said.

Knizner, one of five Cardinals who didn’t have a hit, said, “We just couldn’t seem to quite square him up. Hopefully, we can get him again (next weekend) and we know what’s coming.”

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