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Mikolas’ near no-hitter completes power-packed doubleheader sweep of Bucs | St. Louis Cardinals

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One out and one pitch away from authoring history this city hasn’t seen in decades by allowing no hits, Miles Mikolas saw the immortality of his excellent evening sail just over the reach of center fielder Harrison Bader’s glove.

On Mikolas’ 129th and final pitch of his start, Pittsburgh’s Cal Mitchell, who entered the game late, drove a ball to the straightaway center. Bader, his back to Mikolas, dove in an attempt to catch the liner, but it landed just beyond and bounded over the wall for a ground-rule double. Mikolas had retired 17 consecutive Pirates before Mitchell connected for the hit that denied Busch Stadium III its first no-hitter and St. Louis its first, by any pitcher, since 1983.

Mikolas’ superb 8 2/3 innings and dramatic finish punctuated a doubleheader sweep of the Pirates. The Cardinals held fast to a 3-1 win in Game 1 and then romped for a 9-1 victory in Game 2. The Cardinals had a seven-run lead by the end of the second inning to clear the way for Mikolas to breeze through the Pirates.

Paul Goldschmidt homered three times, had six hits in the doubleheader, and reached base in all five of his plate appearances during the night game. That paced an offense that also featured Brendan Donovan’s first career four-hit game. Through the first two innings of the Cardinals’ Game 2 win, the top three spots in the Cardinals order had gone six-for-six with six runs scored, and Goldschmidt had five of the six RBIs.

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The lone run Pittsburgh got against Mikolas came after a dropped fly ball to left field. Rookie Juan Yepez, replaced for defense in the seventh inning, circled under a high fly ball and had it glance off his glove to allow Bryan Reynolds to reach second. Two groundouts and Reynolds had scored.

On the scoreboard, that one run and one error the Pirates’ committed on their line score bookended the zero in between, right there under the “H.”

They highlighted what they could not detract from it.

Mikolas had to pitch around two errors and a hit batter on his way to toward the precipice of history. He hit a batter in the second inning, and promptly sidestepped any trouble with a double play ball. In the third inning, an infield error and a walk put to runners on base. Another double play unplugged that inning on the Pirates. The Pirates did not get a ball out of the infield until the error in left, and Mikolas did not get (or really need) an out in the outfield until the seventh.

Before the ninth inning, the closest the Pirates came to upsetting Mikolas’ evening was in the seventies when another deep fly ball headed toward the center field, carrying toward the batter’s eye. Bader tracked it down for an out, with his back to the center-field wall.

Goldschmidt keeps the heat on with homers

The phrase, coined out in the desert during his run of MVP-caliber seasons with the Diamondbacks, was how when the weather warmed, so did Goldschmidt.

The temps reached season-high scorching Tuesday at Busch.

Goldschmidt has been that hot for weeks.

After three hits, a homer, and reaching base four times Monday night, Goldschmidt had two hits in his first two at-bats of Game 1 and two homers in his first two swings of Game 2. Playing designated hitter for the first game, Goldschmidt claimed a lead for the Cardinals with a two-run homer in the third inning. The ball traveled an estimated 418 feet to dead center for his 50th home run at Busch Stadium. A few hours later he had his 21st multi-homer game of his career 1,250 feet of home runs in the doubleheader.

The Cardinals’ first baseman has 16 homers by Flag Day.

He didn’t hit his 16th homer of 2021 until July 19th, after the All-Star break.

Slick work by rookie infielder keeps alive no-no bid

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In order to clear a way for his bat to reach the majors, Nolan Gorman had to shift positions away from third, the corner he knew best, to second, the pivot he’d have to learn. Still relatively new to the position based on innings, Gorman kept Mikolas’ no-hit bid during Game 2 in place by showing the range of his improvements. In the fourth inning, Gorman made a diving play to his left in the shallow right field and threw Jack Suwinski out at first.

In the sixth, Pittsburgh leadoff hitter Tucupita Marcano hit a slow roller up the middle. Gorman raced to meet the grounder with his backhand. He used his arm – strengthened at third, an asset at second – to make the play while running away from first. That out, the second of the sixth inning, kept Mikolas’ zero in the hit column into the seventh inning.

Gorman’s savvy dash for second steals a run

The baserunning gambit, discussed and worked on at every level in the Cardinals’ minors, is meant to outrun the final out of an inning at second base – and then just keep going to see if chaos develops. It doesn’t often work, it didn’t work earlier this month when the Cardinals tried it, but when it does it creates what happened Tuesday in Game 1.

The Pirates thought they had an inning-ending groundout. The Cardinals stole a run.

With the bases loaded, two outs, and Gorman at first base, Goldschmidt skipped a grounder up the middle. Pirates’ shortstop Diego Castillo fielded the ball behind second and flipped to the base for the apparent force out. Except, Gorman didn’t slide. He didn’t even stop. Gorman hit second base at full speed, rounded it, and kept going. He beat the throw to second and by wheeling toward third time the Pirates in chase mode. It didn’t matter that the Pirates ultimately tagged out a runner after a prolonged 6-4-2-5-6-2 rundown.

Because Gorman raced to be safe at second that delayed the play enough for Goldschmidt to reach first and Yadier Molina to score before that third out.

“It’s something we talk quite a bit about coming up – the importance of that bases-loaded, two-outs and not sliding into the bag when that run is important,” manager Oliver Marmol said. “Just run through it. And beating the throw. That’s the perfect scenario, played out exactly the way we anticipated that play. “

Liberator leaves a lasting impression

The assignment for Matthew Liberatore’s one-game engagement at Busch Stadium was to challenge hitters with his stuff and see how it plays in the strike zone, not how well he can tease big-league hitters to chase outside of it. That approach within the confines of the strike zone opened up the rookie’s game in ways he had not previously shown in the majors.

In his most impressive start yet for the Cardinals, Liberatore pitched five scoreless innings in Game 1, struck out five, and consistently got ahead of batters so he could utilize the mix of pitches that makes him a top prospect.

“I felt a lot more comfortable out there,” Liberatore said (2-1). “I made a point of going after guys and not being afraid to be 0-1 on every single guy. … Which made a huge difference in my ability to get swings and misses, chases late in count. ”

The Cardinals promoted Liberatore to be the 27th man for Tuesday doubleheader and he returned to the Class AAA Memphis rotation after it.

The 22-year-old has wedged two scoreless outings around his two other starts. While he’s pitched five scoreless before and struck out more in a previous start, what Tuesday revealed was the increased efficiency that Liberatore suggests could get deeper into games when – not if – he’s next needed as a starter. He completed five innings on 79 pitches. He has the stuff.

“We talked about establishing that fastball, pitching in the righties, and it opens up the plate for him,” Marmol said. “He did exactly that with his fastball. He established it. He was in the zone, and his other stuff played. He was definitely on the attack. ”

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