ST. LOUIS – There was nothing they could say to soothe their grief or make everything magically go away.
Therefore, many of St.
The players who stayed behind, or were unable to escape before it was too late, spoke little above whispers, trying to explain what had happened.
And Cardinal was someone everyone wanted to talk to, wondering why he was even going up, and if he could play again this year, he had gone to get X-rays at the local hospital.
The Cardinals have had the worst losing streak in their 141-year history, but what happened Friday afternoon in front of a stunned sellout crowd at Bush Stadium was, well, something no one saw coming.
Follow the whole game: Live MLB Scores
NEWSLETTER: Get the latest sports news in your inbox
The Cardinals have been to the postseason 31 times but have never played a game like this.
The Cardinals had a 93-0 record when leading by two or more runs in a postseason game.
They are now 93-1.
“You can’t even explain it,” Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado. “Everything is looking good, and then it ends, and that ninth inning will be remembered.”
The Cardinals took a 2-0 lead over the Phillies, needing only two outs, with the crowd on their feet and ready to dance in the aisles.
Twenty minutes later, they were trying to explain how the Phillies scored six runs in the ninth inning, turning a 2-0 deficit into a 6-3 victory in Game 1 of the National League wild card series.
In a magical Cardinals season, maybe Albert Pujols cheering for the city one last timeTheir 9th inning could be a nightmare that haunts them all the way to opening day.
The Cardinals can still take the best-of-three series, of course, by winning the next two games at Busch Stadium. But they played the game in such a spectacular way that it may not be easy to recover.
“I think we’re going to be fine,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said, trying to get anyone to believe it. “These guys have done a great job all year whether we win a big game or lose a big game. This will be no different.
“We know what is at stake. We win or go home. We will embrace that.”
They may have to first review what happened in a game they had no right to lose.
It was the ninth house of horrors.
It started innocently enough, with close range Ryan Helsley beating Rhys Hoskins. Then everything happened.
Helsley, who sprained his right middle finger on Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and hadn’t even attempted to throw breaking balls in the bullpen before the game, gave up a single to JT Realmuto.
Then, he got in front of Bryce Harper, 1-and-2, and walked him.
Plus another walk to Nick Castellanos to load the bases.
The Cardinals, finally realized that something was wrong with Helsley, called the bullpen. They ordered Jack Flaherty and Andre Pallante to warm up.
It was already late.
Helsley hit the ball in the dirt, and two pitches later, he hit Alec Bohm with a pitch, forcing in the Phillies’ first run. It was Helsley’s 14th ball in 23 overs.
Marmol and the Cardinals medics went to the mound, and Helsley told them he had lost the feeling in his finger. He threw a warm line. It went three feet from the strike zone. Marmol has signed that Pallante, and not Flaherty, will face Jean Segura.
“Pallante is a top ball player,” Marmol explained. “This game has a 70% [success rate]. You have one out. The condition is that you want to end the game immediately with the ground ball twice in play.
“If there are two people who come out, I go to Jack and go punch him. So, you are just playing the outs and probability there.”
It bounced back, as did everyone else in that inning.
Oh, Pallante got his ground ball right, and it probably would have been a double play, but second baseman Tommy Edman wasn’t playing a deep double play. He was playing inside, giving him a chance to throw out a runner at the plate. It showed that he was in no man’s land. The ball hit him, two runs scored, and the Cardinals trailed for the first time, 3-2.
“I think when the ball went through,” Segura said, “we were able to really take that step.”
As it turned out, the Cardinals’ dream was just beginning.
Pallante induced another ground ball, with Byson Stott hitting a ball to right to first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Instead of touching first base, he went home and pinch-runner Edmundo Sosa scored: 4-2.
Brandon Marsh stepped to the plate and hit what appeared to be a double play ball to Arenado, their Gold Glove third baseman. Instead, it went under his glove. It was now 5-2. Kyle Schwarber scored in the final game with a sacrifice fly.
When the inning ended mercifully, the crowd roared and flowed to the present.
It can be a scary memory and will certainly call forth a flood of second thoughts.
Why was Helsley still pitching in the ninth inning considering his injury? He ended up throwing 33 pitches, and is sitting in a local hospital, awaiting X-rays to see if his thumb will allow him to throw another inning this season.
“Obviously, we know the story by heart,” said Marmol. “It was not an issue before. There are no signs of it. …He then said that he began to lose strength.”
Why did Edman play at that time instead of down-playing twice?
“We’re in what we call the X-play where you’re so busy that if it’s a soft hit,” Marmol said, “you’re going to the plate. If it is hit hard, you can change it. You will have to get the ground ball right against Segura. He can run. So, you have to defend against both.”
What happened on the play with Arenado, having a double-play ball turn into a game-winning single.
“That’s what we’ve been doing all year,” says Arenado, “we’re aggressive. We try to play angry games. And it wasn’t really a joke. I would have gone back and taken out the filter.”.
Marmol says: “The boy makes every game in the world. So you just chalk it up to baseball and you keep going.”
Now, the Phillies are on the verge of winning their first postseason series since 2010.
“When you get one of the best defenders on the mound, and you get a play like that, get out of the back…” Segura said, laughing, “it’s special. A lot of adrenaline in my body, like when you give a small child a toy and jump around and be happy.
“I mean it’s a great feeling.”
And such a feeling of regret of the team gave the game in an epic and historical fashion.
“I don’t want to be remembered for that,” says Arenado, “I don’t want to. It hurts, but we can overcome it.
“I really want to believe it.”