The Cardinals lost 5-4 to the Cubs on Saturday, but they still punched their ticket to the post-season — as MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch notes — with the Giants losing 6-0 to the Diamondbacks. It will be the Cardinals’ fifth consecutive playoff appearance. Since 2000, the Cardinals have appeared in all but four of 16 post-seasons.
Though Saturday’s achievement is satisfying, the Cardinals aren’t done yet. They can vastly improve their odds of success in October by clinching the NL Central and finishing with the best record. Entering play Saturday, the Cardinals had a five game lead over the Pirates and six over the Cubs. The Cardinals have 14 games remaining. The odds are on them taking care of business, but to quote an old saying, never count your chickens before they hatch.
The Cardinals’ schedule the rest of the way includes Sunday’s series finale against the Cubs, three home games against the Reds, four home games against the Brewers, three road games against the Pirates, and three road games against the Braves.
Anthony Rendon lost his job as the Nationals’ starting third baseman when he suffered a knee injury during spring training. He wouldn’t make his season debut until June 4, and rather than displace Yunel Escobar, the club sent Rendon to second base.
The Nationals plan to move Rendon back to third base for the 2016 season, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports. Manager Matt Williams said of Rendon at third base, “He’s most comfortable there. With the injuries and coming back, the apple cart and all of that, it would be a situation where Anthony is best served playing third.”
Rendon has battled other injuries this year, limiting him to 66 games total. While rehabbing in April, he suffered an oblique injury. He then missed about a month between late June and late July due to a strained left quad. Overall, Rendon hasn’t hit for much power but his numbers are otherwise decent considering the circumstances. He carries a .278/.355/.382 triple-slash line with five home runs, 21 RBI, and 36 runs scored in 293 plate appearances.
With Ian Desmond headed into free agency, the Nationals’ infield will include Rendon, Trea Turner, Escobar, and Ryan Zimmerman.
The Cubs-Cardinals rivalry continues to gather intrigue. Cubs skipper Joe Maddon criticized the Cardinals on Friday when they threw at first baseman Anthony Rizzo, which was ostensibly revenge for Matt Holliday getting hit in the head with a Dan Haren pitch. Maddon said after the game, “We don’t start stuff, but we will stop stuff.”
As it happened, Cubs pitchers hit three of the Cardinals’ batters on Saturday while the Cardinals hit none of the Cubs’ batters. Second baseman Kolten Wong was struck by Trevor Cahill in the sixth inning, and he was hit again by Fernando Rodney in the eighth. Home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman issued a warning to both teams. In the ninth inning, Hector Rondon hit Greg Garcia. Both Rondon and Maddon were immediately ejected.
Maddon is playing it off as a coincidence. Via Sahadev Sharma of BP Wrigleyville:
We’ll never know the true intent of any of the three Cubs’ pitchers. But Rodney had a 2-2 count with the bases empty and two outs against Wong. Then, after hitting him, Rodney slapped his chest, a common way players show that they accept blame, as if to say, “my bad”. In the ninth inning, Rondon was ahead 1-2 on Garcia and hit him with a fastball that ran a little too far inside. It wasn’t that far away from being a strike and certainly close enough to merit the benefit of the doubt, even given the circumstances.
At any rate, the Cardinals used the HBP to kickstart a rally. Zach Rosscup replaced Rondon and promptly served up a two-run home run to Matt Carpenter to make it a 5-3 game. He would allow back-to-back singles before being replaced by Pedro Strop. Strop got Jhonny Peralta to strike out, Yadier Molina to hit a sacrifice fly, and Stephen Piscotty to hit a game-ending ground out, thanks in large part to a terrific diving stop by Addison Russell. If, in fact, the Cubs had thrown at Garcia intentionally, they learned their lesson by very nearly losing Saturday’s game because of it.
Eugenio Suarez has done an admirable job filling in at shortstop for the injured Zack Cozart over the last three months. Cozart tore several ligaments and tendons in his knee in a June game against the Phillies in an attempt to beat out a play at first base. Since making his season debut, Suarez has hit .284/.321/.458 with 11 home runs and 44 RBI.
Cozart will resume his role as the Reds’ starting shortstop with full health in 2016. Manager Bryan Price feels that Suarez is a starting-caliber player, but the team would need to use Suarez at another position, perhaps left field. Suarez is willing to move to another position to fit the team’s needs, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports.
Suarez said, “If they need me at another position, I would try to play there. For me, the important thing is to play in the big leagues.” He added, “I’m ready for anything. I want to play in the big leagues, any position.”