St. Louis Cardinals Eliminated by Philadelphia Phillies in Wild-Card Round

ST. LOUIS — They each lived the fairy story. One started as a Thirteenth-round draft selection and ended as the one participant ever with 700 house runs, 3,000 hits and more than one World Series titles. The different, the child brother in a circle of relatives of primary league catchers, grew as much as earn 10 All-Star picks and 9 Gold Gloves, sufficient to hide his left arm with tattoos of every.

The slugger, Albert Pujols, returned this season for a completing flourish after a decade in California. The catcher, Yadier Molina, by no means left. Together they performed 31 seasons and greater than 4,000 video games for the St. Louis Cardinals. The birds at the bat would possibly as neatly be named Albert and Yadi.

Now, alas, those birds have flown. They went out with singles, each bringing the go-ahead run to the plate in the overdue innings whilst going through removal in the wild-card around. Surely there needed to be any other exciting bankruptcy, the Cardinals idea. Surely the story would no longer finish.

“There was just so much magic going on with Albert and Yadi,” mentioned pitcher Adam Wainwright, the 3rd venerable Cardinal from the championship years. “I just felt like: you can’t go out like that. There’s too much goodness going around to lose two games in a row.”

Yet this is the way it ended, with a 2-0 victory by the Philadelphia Phillies — in the sport and the collection — that ushered Pujols and Molina into retirement. It was once the primary playoff collection victory for the Phillies in a dozen years, and the primary time in a complete season {that a} department winner didn’t even achieve the department collection.

For that, the Cardinals may blame baseball’s made over playoff layout. One department winner in line with league will have to play in the brand new, best-of-three wild-card around. The different first-place finishers — those with the easier data — get a bye.

The American League Central winner, the Cleveland Guardians, dumped the Tampa Bay Rays in two video games. But the Cardinals, who gained the National League Central, hit .185 and went 1 for 11 with runners in scoring place in opposition to the Phillies. That is how fairy stories finish.

“We didn’t hit the ball, that’s it,” Molina mentioned. “It is tough to lose this way, but we fight till the end.”

Molina threw the ultimate punch. The atmosphere — down by two runs, with a runner on and two out in the 9th — will have to have felt acquainted. A decade in the past, going through playoff removal in Washington, Molina got here up in the similar spot and walked to stay the season alive. This time, off Zach Eflin, he lashed a unmarried to proper and left for a pinch-runner.

Pujols had completed the similar in the 8th, singling and leaving for a pinch-runner, hoping {that a} teammate may do the remainder. That time the Cardinals’ ideal avid gamers, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, each fanned in opposition to Seranthony Domínguez. In the 9th, Tommy Edman popped out to 3rd to finish the sport. Pujols didn’t linger lengthy in the dugout.

“I just kind of took a moment, maybe less than 15 seconds, and walked in the clubhouse,” Pujols mentioned. “There’s nothing to be sad about. It’s part of the game in baseball. I’ve been on the other side, too, where you celebrate and win. I’d rather be on that side than this side, but it wasn’t meant to be for us this year.”

Pujols, 42, did his ideal. He reached the All-Star damage with a .215 moderate and 6 house runs, no longer sudden from the oldest participant in the majors. In the second one part, even though, Pujols surged to .323 with 18 house runs. He completed with 703 profession homers — trailing Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth — and best Aaron ever drove in extra runs.

“I’ve never seen anything like that, what I saw this year with him, with any player,” Arenado mentioned. “I’m just in awe of his presence and the way he goes about his business. Never seen a harder worker at that age.”

Molina, 40, was once a cast hitter however an peculiar catcher, born to play the placement of his brothers, Bengie and Jose. Molina used methodology and knowledge to excel, incomes agree with from his pitchers and provoking conviction in their selections.

“He’s a game-changing player, but he’s just a great teammate and friend and leader on this team,” mentioned Wainwright, who made 328 begins with Molina catching, probably the most for any battery in primary league historical past. “He brings a calming presence that’s hard to replace. That’s a very, very important position, and he’s controlled his staff and the clubhouse as good as anyone could.”

Folks right here like to rely homers — each and every Cardinal fan now thinks of Pujols once they dial the Northern Virginia space code — however numbers pass over the purpose with Molina. Baseball Reference provides him simply 42.2 wins above alternative, fewer than a number of catchers who don’t seem to be in the Hall of Fame, like Thurman Munson, Bill Freehan and Jorge Posada.

Yet throughout the sport — and particularly in the house clubhouse right here — Molina is a lock for Cooperstown.

“How often can you say you played with two first-ballot Hall of Famers?” Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas mentioned. “How often does that happen?”

Mikolas took the loss on Saturday, permitting best two hits however either one of the Phillies’ runs, the primary a 435-foot homer by Bryce Harper. That was once sufficient for starter Aaron Nola, who blanked the Cardinals into the 7th inning, simply as Zack Wheeler did in Game 1. The bullpen wobbled a bit of — those are the Phillies, take into accout — however got here via in the top.

For Phillies enthusiasts, it was once behind schedule revenge for a 2011 playoff loss that despatched the staff sliding for a decade. That 12 months, the Cardinals have been the wild card and clinched with a shutout in Philadelphia. This time, the Phillies have been the wild card and clinched with a shutout in St. Louis.

And possibly this is truthful, in some sense, as a result of in actual fact that Pujols and Molina didn’t want any other bankruptcy. They had already written permanent tales, it doesn’t matter what took place this October. There was once not anything left to end up, and so they knew it.

“I enjoyed every single moment; there’s nothing to regret,” mentioned Pujols, including later, “The memories, being around my teammates, the fans, spring training, the crack of the bat every day — those are things that you miss.”

That was once as wistful as Pujols were given by his locker after the sport. He insisted he had no longer considered sharing a level on the Hall of Fame with Molina in 2028, the primary 12 months they’re eligible for induction. That would cause them to teammates once more, symbolically, however for Molina, the bond with Pujols may no longer perhaps be more potent.

“I’m going to be his brother forever,” Molina mentioned. “You can’t ask for more.”

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