MILWAUKEE — While division-leading Milwaukee have become the latest opponent dazed and unable to slow or even impede the Cardinals’ blitz toward October and a 14th consecutive winning season, there was beneath their rout a cold shiver of concern.
Take a breath. It involves a tarp.
A few innings after diving over a tarp to complete a catch in foul territory, Nolan Arenado left the game with lower back tightness. The extent of his injury was not immediately known and likely would not be until Thursday. Arenado had already contributed two runs and two hits to the Cardinals again throwing too much at Milwaukee in a 10-2 victory at American Family Field. The win was the Cardinals’ 11th consecutive and 13th in their past 15 games. While tightening their hold on the National League’s second wild-card berth, they show no signs of slowing.
Tyler O’Neill and Paul Goldschmidt both hit two-run homers in the thunderous win against the Brewers, and more than the offense is hitting its stride at the right time. Miles Mikolas had his strongest start in years with seven solid innings. The right-hander, now more than a month removed from the injury list, allowed two runs on four hits and struck out three. He did not walk a batter and he did not allow a run until the Cardinals led by seventh.
At 82-69, the Cardinals have secured their 14th consecutive winning season, all of them coming in the 14 years John Mozeliak has headed baseball operations. They have not had a losing season since 2007, and that was their only losing season in the 21st century.
Still, the evening came with a gulp that carries into the morning.
In the second inning of a game the Cardinals already led, 6-0, Arenado raced into foul territory to track down a popup from Brewers’ catcher Omar Narvaez.
Due to a defensive shift, Arenado started where the shortstop usually stands, and still had enough closing speed and room to make the kind of catch he’s made a signature play. It’s one of the myriad defensive plays that he practices, and one he gets used to going back on high popups that drift into foul territory is by using a football and treating that infielder’s play as if he was running a wide receiver route. His career is festooned with highlights of him racing into the foul territory well beyond third base, out where usually only left fielders or security guards tread, and making the catch, sometimes his glove to the backhand.
Arenado caught Narvaez’s fly ball several strides into foul territory, and his momentum carried him into the tarp that rests along the barrier between field and seats.
Arenado’s torso followed his glove into the gap between tarp and wall, and umpire Jeff Nelson followed soon after. He had to go over the tarp to get the right angle to see if Arenado had maintained control of the ball for the catch. He had. Nelson signaled him out.