ST. LOUIS — A simple detail kept in Saturday’s 11th inning — Andrew Knizner running on the inside of the third baseline and causing a throwing error that won the Cardinals a game — perfectly describes the type of team St. Louis spoke that season while they were in spring training in March, manager Oliver Marmol said.
With bases loaded in the 11th inning of Game 2 of a marathon-like doubleheader, Knizner wisely ran to the inside of third baseline with a ball that was hit hard towards the bag by Paul Goldschmidt. Cincinnati’s Nick Senzel grabbed the groundball, but his home trajectory was smaller than normal with Knizner in the way — one reason the Cardinals teach their baserunners this tactic. When Senzel’s throw caught Knizner in the elbow and sped away, it allowed him to score the only run of the night in St. Louis’ 1-0 win at Busch Stadium.
“It’s textbook, to be honest,” said Marmol, whose Cardinals swept the doubleheader over the Reds on Saturday. “It’s something we’re reviewing and talking about. To the [Knizner] to pull it off, this is the perfect game.
“When you come to spring training you create an identity for what you want to be known for and this group wanted to make sure opponents saw us as relentless, but another word was smart. That’s where good baseball is right there.”
Knizner failed to get through at the end of the 10th when his flat fly ball was intercepted by TJ Friedl and turned into a double. In the 11th, however, Knizner was the automatic runner who started the inning second, and he used his knowledge as a catcher and applied the baserunning rules taught to him by Cardinals coaches to hit the winning run.
“We’ve talked about this series, ‘Find a way to win. When you’re not getting hits you want or making the pitches, you find a way to win,'” said Knizner, who was on defense in a similar game the night before as the Cardinals’ third baseman, Nolan Arenado, a Reds runner off the field, threw his knees. “That happened to be my game to help the team win and it worked out. It’s a baserunning game we’re working on and I’m excited to see it come to fruition.”
Reds manager David Bell admitted the Cardinals’ exhilarating base running game was good, saying: “My understanding is that it was unlucky [for the Reds] but a good game [by Knizner]and it was legal.”
The Game 2 win was the Cardinals’ eighth walk-off win of the season.
Superstar Albert Pujols did not start Game 2 of the doubleheader after playing nine innings at first base in the opener. After the Reds replaced right Hunter Greene with left Reiver Sanmartin in the seventh inning, the Cardinals brought Pujols into the nightcap as a pinch-hitter. However, against Sanmartin, he chased a ball out of the stroke zone and was hit.
St. Louis won Game 1 of the doubleheader 5-1 earlier in the day behind eight strong innings from starter Dakota Hudson. Pujols, who started runner-up in Game 1 for the second time in his career, went 0 for 3 with two walks in Game 1. He remains at 698 home runs for his career, two away from becoming just the fourth player in MLB history with at least 700 home runs.
Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos, who has rediscovered his elite stuff in recent weeks, choked out the reds in the top part of the 10th inning, and Matt Reynolds, who ran as an automatic runner for Donovan Solano, never moved from second base. In the top of the 11th inning, left Steven Matz, who was fielding at the MLB level for the first time since July 23 when he tore the MCL in his left knee, blinded the Reds.
Matz started Saturday morning in Des Moines, Iowa, but was recalled by Triple-A when Jordan Hicks (right arm fatigue, neck spasms) was placed on the 15-day injured list. Matz made the more than five-hour drive to St. Louis and prepared to play in the second game of a double count.
“You have to run right after these guys with a runner who’s already in goal position, so it was a little bit of a different animal,” Matz said. “All you want to do is help a team win, so it feels good to do it right away.”
Knizner said he and his teammates are being taught proper play from a Cardinals franchise that’s always prided itself on its fundamentals. Following the basics at the end of a marathon double-header helped them secure another win, Knizner said.
“The St. Louis Cardinals go hand-in-hand with basic baseball and playing smart,” added Knizner. “We try to do that all year round, especially in the second half when wins are so difficult to come by.”