MILWAUKEE — On a night when their opening day starter, Jack Flaherty, gave up as many runs as he had in his six previous starts this season combined, that might not have been the worst thing that happened to the Cardinals.
Yadier Molina was called for catcher’s interference when Ryan Braun’s bat hit him on the left hand and wrist, and manager Mike Shildt said Molina underwent X-rays and was being evaluated after the game.
“We’re still processing what that looks like,” Shildt said. “There’s some discomfort there for sure. This is something that we’re hopeful is not going to prevent him from going forward. But if Yadier Molina is in discomfort something’s wrong.”
As Shildt was out checking on Molina, he heard something from the Brewers dugout which led to him and Molina, with the rest of the team following, approaching the dugout and exchanging words with the Brewers.
“I’m not here to cast blame,” Shildt said. “Obviously a little frustrated that our captain’s been hit. You hear something out of the dugout … I’m not going to take it. I’m not going to take any chirping out of the dugout. We don’t start things, but we’re not going to take it. I heard something I didn’t appreciate.
“I will always have our players’ backs. I will especially have a Hall of Famer and a guy who has the most physical, mental toughness of any player I’ve ever managed and may ever manage.”
Shildt, who was ejected along with Brewers manager Craig Counsell, admitted that he was staring in the dugout after Molina was hurt.
“There is no allegation against Braun necessarily,” Shildt said. “It just didn’t look good. At that point you think I’m going to accept that? No. There was a look in the dugout. Something was said. And at that point all bets are off.”
It appeared that Braun and Molina had a verbal exchange before his bat hit Molina’s glove hand.
Molina was not made available to the media after the game.
Molina actually stayed in the game for two more innings before finally coming out.
“Clearly he was compromised,” Shildt said. “How he continued to play, I still marvel at this guy’s desire to compete. This is a guy in Yadier Molina, in a 12-2 game at the time, takes a bat to his hand that we’re still evaluating how compromised he will be moving forward and plays two more innings. You talk about tough, you talk about dedicated, you talk about competitive. My respect level for him is through the roof and yes I am going to defend that to the inth degree, always.
“It’s what makes him great. Yadi’s an absolute gladiator. There’s an instinct, a competitive spirit, a will that is almost indescribable unless you experience it on a field. That’s what makes him so damn special. Regardless of circumstance he’s got the heart of an absolute lion. That’s why he’s such a winner.”
The Cardinals also are concerned about the health of Kolten Wong, who was scratched just before the game because of discomfort in his left side.
Putting either Molina or Wong, or both, on the 10-day injured list would basically sideline them for the rest of the regular season.
“He (Wong) had a little something in his side area,” Shildt said. “We caught it early we hope. We’re still making a determination. We’re at the crossroads with him and Yadi of figuring out what that looks like. It could be worse, which is encouraging, but there’s something there.”
Starting on Wednesday, the Cardinals also face the challenge of playing five games in the span of about 72 hours with a doubleheader against the Brewers, a single game in Pittsburgh on Thursday and a doubleheader against the Pirates on Friday.
“It’s not ideal, but nothing’s ideal with what we’re dealing with,” Shildt said.
Before the Molina incident, Flaherty recorded only nine outs, giving up nine runs, as the Brewers blew the game open by sending 21 batters to the plate in the fourth and fifth innings, scoring a total of 13 runs.
The final score was 18-3 Brewers.
The loss, combined with the Reds win, left the Cardinals only a half game ahead of the Reds and a game ahead of the Brewers in their fight to hold onto second place in the NL Central with 15 games left in the season.
Here is how the game broke down:
At the plate
The Cardinals actually took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on an RBI double by Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt also had their second RBI on a bases loaded walk. Paul DeJong added an RBI single in the seventh.
On the mound
Flaherty gave up back-to-back home runs to Christian Yelich and Braun in the first, allowed a two-run double in the third and then failed to retire any of the five hitters he faced in the fourth, all of whom scored in what turned into a seven-run inning.
Of the five homers Flaherty has allowed this season, four have come in the first inning. Braun’s homer was the fourth of his career off Flaherty, the most he has allowed to any hitter in his career. The most runs Flaherty had previously allowed in a game was seven against Oakland on June 25 last year. In his six previous starts this season, in a combined 26 1/3 innings, he had allowed a total of nine runs.
The Brewers added six runs off Jake Woodford and Rob Kaminsky in the fifth before Nabil Crismatt was able to slow down the assault, allowing only a solo homer as he pitched the final three innings.
The 18 runs were the most the Cardinals have allowed in a game since the Astros scored 18 on Aug. 3, 2010. It also was the most runs the Brewers have scored in their history against the Cardinals at Miller Park. Their previous high was 13 in a game in 2007.
The postseason schedule has been set. The new wild card best-of-three series will be played at the home of the higher-seeded team. The division series, league championship series and Word Series all will be played at a neutral site. The NL series will be in either Arlington or Houston, with the division series beginning on Oct. 6 and the NLCS on Oct. 12 in Arlington. There will be no days off between games in either of those series.
The World Series will begin on Oct. 20, also in Arlington. This will be the first time the World Series will be played entirely in one stadium since 1944, when the Browns and the Cardinals shared Sportsman’s Park.
Adam Wainwright will start game one of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Brewers, with Johan Oviedo expected to get the start in game two.