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CHICAGO • The weekend that could come to decide the season didn’t waste much time before it reflected it.
The Cardinals inched into an early lead against their rival Chicago Cubs on Thursday night at Wrigley Field. But in a cloud of familiar errors and another runaway inning against starter Carlos Martinez, the lead, the game, and the good vibes for a fresh starts became just another loss to the Cubs.
Ian Happ homered as part of a five-run fifth inning against Martinez and the hosts remained ahead, winning, 9-6.
The teams have four more games this weekend.
The clock is ticking on the Cardinals to make their move.
Yadier Molina tied a career high with four hits for the 18th time, and he was a part of two rallies that helped the Cardinals to a 3-1 lead through 4 1/2 innings. Fresh from the All-Star Game, Molina singled and scored in the first inning. He doubled after Tommy Pham’s solo homer in the second inning, and in the fifth inning Molina singled and scored on Kolten Wong’s RBI single.
That five-inning labor to build a lead was vaporized in one inning.
Martinez (6-6) dialed back his velocity in the fifth inning and threw only two pitches at 90 mph or greater in his first 18 pitches. All of those off-speed offerings caught up to him with five hits in the inning. Two of those hits were extra-base thumps, including an RBI double by Anthony Rizzo and Happ’s three-run homer.
Happ did not see a fastball in his at-bat that netted a homer.
An error by Paul DeJong, the first of his two, ignited the inning but did not prolong it.
Martinez allowed six runs (five earned) on seven hits through five innings. He struck out only two batters — and his velocity oscillated from inning to inning, perhaps on purpose. He’ll be asked about that after the game.
The three runs the Cubs scored against the Cardinals’ bullpen proved a welcome game late as the Cardinals teased rallies in the eighth and ninth innings. Molina hit as the tying run in the eighth inning but Carl Edwards Jr. got a soft liner to second base to end the inning and the threat.
Cardinals answer bench coach question, add ‘Pop’ Warner to Shildt’s staff
One of the conversations interim manager Mike Shildt intended to have Wednesday, on the eve of his first full series and first visit to Wrigley Field in his new role, was with his coaches about how they would fill the vacancy left by his promotion.
He and the front office had an idea for the role of bench coach.
Turns out, they also had a person in mind.
The Cardinals promoted longtime coach Ron “Pop” Warner to the role of bench coach. The team made the announcement Thursday afternoon as it readied for the opener of a five-game, four-day series against the first-place Cubs. Warner and new hitting coaches Mark Budaska and George Greer are expected to be with the team Thursday night. It will be the first time Shildt has his complete coaching staff in place.
At the introductory press conference for Shildt, Cardinals officials said they were planning to split the duties of bench coach into a more committee-type approach. Greer and Jose Oquendo were mentioned as coaches who could take on different parts of the bench coach job.
Shildt said he had “a vision” of how this would work.
Warner, 49, spent a dozen years in the Cardinals’ organization as a coach and manager, moving up through the ranks to eventually manage Class AAA Memphis. After the 2014 season, he was moved into a field coordinator position, and he has worked throughout the organization since. He spent some time on the major-league staff a year ago after the June rearrangement of positions.
This blog will be updated with info from Wrigley Field throughout the afternoon, including the Cardinals’ lineup when available.
QUESTION: Do you get the sense that the team collectively exhaled upon Matheny’s departure?
QUESTION: At what point did you think Matheny was actually in trouble? Was there a comment or an in-game moment?
QUESTION: Do the Matheny and staff firings make the Cardinals more active or less active at the trade deadline? Does ‘Mo’ think that the absence of Matheny makes everything better, or is this just the first in a series of moves to change the club’s longterm direction?
QUESTION: A New York media report threw out C. Martinez’s name as possible trade bait. Any credence to that claim, or were they fishing for a news story?
QUESTION: Pretty safe to say that Shildt would be the preference of the front office for the job in ’19. If he gets this team to play 10 games above .500, is there any way he does not get the opportunity?
QUESTION: I’m a child of the 1980’s, and I love Jose Oquendo. He’s so intense and focused during every game, and he is universally respected by players. Why did he never get the chance to manage in St. Louis or elsewhere.
QUESTION: Would there be any consideration given to Terry Pendleton as a possible managerial candidate?
QUESTION: Much of today’s discussion has centered around Matheny’s departure, but what about John Mabry? The Cardinals have been clearly underperforming at the plate. Was Mabry on the chopping block before Matheny or was their fate always tied together?
QUESTION: If the Cardinals bring in an outside manager, does that impact Maddux’s status? Or does whoever takes the full-time job do so with the understanding that Maddux is locked in as the pitching coach?
QUESTION: More will be discovered as we watch Shildt manage, but what are your views on his preferred managing “style?” I hear “great baseball man” and “student of Kissell” but what are some specific things to pay attention to that may speak toward Shildt’s philosophies and tactics
QUESTION: Odds that Matheny gets another manager job in the big leagues? He does own a higher win percentage than some of the best managers in baseball history.
QUESTION: In a radio interview, Matheny talked about his relationship with the media, detailing his felt need to be guarded and inability to be himself. That seems like a formula destined for misery. What did you see that was different from the LaRussa approach of being authentic? Knowing this tendency, how did it change your approach?
QUESTION: Here’s a name for the coaching job: What about Barry Bonds? Fowler and others are quite fond of him.
QUESTION: Nolan Arenado is the player the Cardinals need to put them over the top. Would an offer of C. Martinez, a young pitching prospect and an outfield prospect be enough? What would be a fair offer to the Rockies?
QUESTION: Please explain the process the Cardinals medical team had in assessing Marcell Ozuna’s shoulder issue during the trade? I find it incredible that they traded four prospects for a player with a bum shoulder who literally can’t throw the ball more than 40 feet. And now it’s obviously affecting his swing.
QUESTION: There have been comments about certain hitters not being willing to listen to advice from the hitting coaches, including your earlier reference in the chat to Ozuna (that Budaska might be able to help Ozuna “if he is receptive.”) Could Ozuna’s struggles (or Fowler’s or Pham’s) in part be due to the fact that they aren’t accepting of help from coaches?
COMMENTS: Your story last week about there being “no rift” in the Cardinals bullpen seems to be about you trying to save face on a story that you didn’t know was going on. And by the way, you were quick with your “no rift” angle based on Hick’s statements, which were made AFTER Mozeliak talked to him. What did you think he would say? And you had no mention of the “snitch” angle.