PITTSBURGH — Cardinals Nation must have been aghast when manager Oliver Marmol posted his lineup for Sunday’s finale of a series the Cardinals had a chance to sweep.
Paul Goldschmidt, second in the National League in hitting at .342 and riding a hitting streak of 14 games, wasn’t in it at all. Platinum Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado didn’t play in the field but was the designated hitter. Even Albert Pujols, the best hitter in the history of PNC Park, wasn’t in the lineup.
Only one of the five reigning Cardinals Gold Glovers was in his normal position, center fielder Harrison Bader. And to further accentuate the seemingly makeshift lineup was the fact that right-hander Angel Rondon, wasn’t on the club officially until an hour before game time. Rondon was in the game after four pitches when starter Steven Matz couldn’t shake left shoulder stiffness.
And so, the final score was 18-4. Cardinals. And this is why Marmol sits in his chair and we sit in ours.
By the end of the fourth inning, every Cardinal in the starting lineup had at least one hit. Pujols relieved Arenado as the DH in the fifth and resumed his PNC ways with his 31st and 32nd career homers here, most as a visiting player, giving him 683 homers in his Hall of Fame career.
With his drive in the fifth, he has five pinch homers in his career, with his previous pinch homer as a Cardinal coming 13 years ago. Of course, it was at PNC Park, where Pujols is 13th (including Pirates), who have played here.
The Cardinals completed their three-game sweep and raised their record here in the past four years here to 27-5.
But that wasn't all. Catcher Yadier Molina, with Pujols warming him up, made the first professional pitching appearance of his career in the ninth inning.
Like Pujols before him this season, Molina allowed two homers in the ninth inning, good for four runs.
Though he had a big lead through most of his stint, Rondon pitched as if the game was up for grabs as he gained his first major-league win.