ST. LOUIS (AP) — Backup catcher Matt Wieters acknowledges he might have to get in better shape for the St. Louis Cardinals.
He nearly did, all in one trip to the plate.
Wieters hit 14 foul balls during a grueling 19-pitch at-bat that finished with a deep flyout with the bases loaded during a wild rally that sent the Cardinals over the Minnesota Twins 6-4 Tuesday night for a doubleheader split.
“Sadly, I would like to say that I wasn’t running out of breath up there, but I was,” Wieters said. “I might need to work on some cardio. That’s probably the most swings I’ve taken in a day this year so far.”
Wieters, a switch-hitter, estimated his longest plate appearance before might have been 11 or 12 pitches. He nearly missed a grand slam earlier in the at-bat on a long foul against reliever Caleb Thielbar.
“The hardest part of that at-bat for me was trying not to guess or look for a pitch but to stay locked in and hit whatever he was going to throw up there,” Wieters said. “I knew it was getting up there. I wanted to get a hit there and drive in a couple of runs.”
His teammates were rooting for him to get a hit to finish it off.
“Everyone is laughing,” teammate Tommy Edman said about the players on the bench. “It’s just an unbelievable at-bat. I think we were all hoping to see him get to 20 pitches. That would have been a pretty cool landmark. It’s an unbelievable job by him. He just missed a grand slam.”
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt was impressed with Wieters, who has 15 at-bats this season and one hit. The 34-year-old was a four-time All-Star who nows backs up Yadier Molina.
“That was some at-bat,” Shildt said. It speaks what we’ve been doing — grinding it out and taking tough at-bats.”
Wieters’ at-bat was not a record. In stats kept since 1988, San Francisco’s Brandon Belt had a 21-pitch at-bat against Los Angeles Angels pitcher Jaime Barria in 2018 that ended with a flyout.
Wieters set the Cardinals record for a plate appearance in that span, topping 17 pitches seen by Rick Ankiel in 2008.
Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz and Miguel Sanó all homered, leading the Twins to a 7-3 victory over the Cardinals in the first game. Cruz also homered in the second game to tie him for the MLB lead with 15. Cruz also is the first player in Twins history to homer in both games of a doubleheader three times in a single season.
The Twins led 2-0 in the third inning of the nightcap before combining two singles, three walks and two hitters to score five runs.
Wieters, hit by a pitch from Randy Dobnak (6-3) earlier in the inning, came up with two outs and the bases loaded against Thielbar.
Wieters quickly fell behind 0-2 before eventually working the count full. He then fouled off nine straight pitches before flying out to the warning track in center field.
Genesis Cabrera (3-1) pitched one inning in relief to earn the win. Giovanny Gallegos earned his fourth save in as many chances by pitching 1 1/3 innings although he gave up a solo homer to Cruz in the seventh.
The Twins took a 2-0 lead on a two-run homer in the second by rookie Brent Rooker, the first of his career.
Jose Berríos (4-3) pitched into the sixth before being lifted to earn the win in the opener. He gave up three runs on four hits and struck out eight.
“I felt sharp,” Berríos said. “I was pitching on the black today. I had good command. I could throw all the pitches for strikes.”
Donaldson hit a three-run drive into the left field bullpen to give the Twin a 3-0 lead in the third. He snapped an 0-for-8 rut with his third home run this season.
Carlos Martinez (0-2), who had missed more than a month while dealing with the coronavirus, was chased in the fourth.
It was just the second start of the season, both coming against Minnesota, for Martinez. He had not pitched since July 28 when the Twins roughed him up for seven hits and six runs in 3 1/3 innings.
Minnesota made it 5-0 when Cruz led off the fifth a home run. Cruz was in the lineup for the opener after sitting out a second straight day Monday with hip soreness.
The two-game series between Minnesota and St. Louis was condensed to one day so the Cardinals could have one more day off before the end of the season, with a backlog of makeup games this month.
Behind second base, a large No. 20 was placed touching the grass to honor Hall of Fame outfielder Lou Brock, who died on Sunday at the age of 81. The six-time All-Star used his speed and bat to help the Cardinals win three NL pennants and two World Series championships.
In a statement released by the Cardinals, Lou Brock Jr. thanked all the fans for rooting for his dad.
“Everyone says St. Louis is a baseball town, and my father absolutely was a baseball guy. What is so amazing to me is how St. Louis’ love for baseball has been honored with the likes of Jack Buck, Bob Gibson, Stan Musial, and all the wonderful guys. To know my dad’s name honors the city, as well as MLB, is a gift,” his son said.
Cardinals: The Cardinals optioned 21-year-old rookie OF Dylan Carlson to the alternate training site. The club activated Martinez, recalled right-handed pitcher Daniel Ponce De Leon as the 29th man and designated right-handed pitcher Ryan Meisinger for assignment. The highly touted Carlson was hitting .162 with one home run and five RBIs since his big league debut.
Twins: RHP Jake Odorizzi (chest contusion) is set to pitch one more time at the Twins’ alternate training site in St. Paul, Minnesota. He remains on track to be back with the Twins in the middle of this month.
Cardinals: C Yadier Molina was back in the lineup for Game 1. Molina exited in the sixth inning in Monday’s 5-1 loss to the Cubs with a bruised left elbow.
Twins: Are off Wednesday and Thursday. Will host visiting Indians on Friday. No starters for either team have been announced.
Cardinals: Are off Wednesday. In hosting Detroit in a doubleheader Thursday. RHP Jack Flaherty ( 2-1, 2.95) will start the opener. LHP Austin Gomber (0-0, 0.64) will pitch in the second game. No starters for the Tigers have been announced.
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