Injuries to important players on contending teams have been starting to pile up over the past week. The list already included names such as Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera and Los Angeles Dodgers Yasiel Puig, who both remained out of the lineup on Wednesday with their respective abdominal and knee ailments, though Puig did pinch-hit and strikeout. And now it includes another All-Star in St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig, who suffered a sprained left foot during Wednesday night's 16-inning victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
Craig entered play on Wednesday hitting .314/.373/.457 with 13 home runs and 97 RBIs, so an extended absence would obviously be very problematic for the Redbirds. But for one night anyway, rookie Matt Adams picked up the slack in epic fashion. First, with the game still tied at three in the 14th inning, Adams, who was 0 for 3 in the game and 0 for his last 17 overall, led off the frame with a solo home run to put St. Louis up 4-3.
Immediate hero status for Adams, though this time it was only temporary. In the bottom half, the Reds used the same formula that earned them a victory on Tuesday to tie the game again. After Ryan Ludwick singled leading off, manager Dusty Baker would call on Billy Hamilton to pinch-run once again, the rookie speedster immediately swapped second base. Just a couple pitched later, Zack Cozart rolled a single up the middle to make it 4-4.
A scoreless 15th followed, which officially made this the longest Cardinals-Reds game in history. And that's when Adams stepped up once more, homering off Logan Ondrusek to give the Cardinals a 5-4 lead, which would hold up as the final score.
In doing so, Adams became the first Cardinals player ever to hit two extra inning home runs in the same game, and the first MLB player ever to hit two home runs from the 14th innings on. He's also the second player this season to enter the game as a substitute and later hit two home runs in extra innings. That's a pretty special game for a veteran, let alone a rookie. And from a team standpoint, the win couldn't have been much bigger. With the win, St. Louis moved back to within one game of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central, while extending the wild card leads over the Reds to 2 1/2 games.
Manager Mike Matheny will definitely take it, but the concern after the game went right back to Craig. To make that situation all the more maddening, the injury was of the fluke variety. With the tying run at the time on second base in the sixth inning, Craig pushed a grounder to the hole on the right side that Reds first baseman Joey Votto flagged down with an impressive dive. However, Votto couldn't gather himself to make a good toss, so he ended up lollpopping a throw behind and over the head of a covering Bronson Arroyo.
The play had disaster written all over it for Reds as it allowed Carlos Beltran to score the tying run standing up. It then quickly turned into a disaster for St. Louis, because Craig had to quickly change directions if he wanted to advance to second base. Those were clearly his intentions, but as he made the turn he realized first base umpire Laz Diaz was in his path. This caused Craig to take two or three or awkward steps to avoid contact, and one of those resulted in sharp twist of his left foot.
Craig immediately crumpled to the ground, but the play continued around him. The Reds would eventually tag him out, but that was of no concern to St. Louis. Again, the initial diagnosis is a left foot sprain, which could be a tricky injury based on initial reports.
Allen Craig on crutches, in boot. Heading back to St. Louis tomorrow for MRI after X-rays were inconclusive here. #stlcards
— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) September 5, 2013