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Messy moments in Milwaukee: Flaherty rocked, Molina injured, Shildt ejected in 18-3 fiasco

Messy moments in Milwaukee: Flaherty rocked, Molina injured, Shildt ejected in 18-3 fiasco

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MILWAUKEE — A gnarled, ugly game that had its messy moments before it erupted into angry ones cratered into a loss with lingering consequences for the Cardinals.

The Milwaukee Brewers jettisoned starter Jack Flaherty early and left manager Mike Shildt irate later in the worst loss and possibly costliest game in many visits to Miller Park. The Brewers scored nine runs off Flaherty on their way to an 18-3 victory Tuesday, and as they stacked rallies an incident that sent Yadier Molina for X-rays brought Shildt toe-to-toe with Milwaukee’s dugout.

An insult he heard, from someone near the Brewers’ bench, was too much with the lopsided score and possible injury to Molina.

He still seethed more than an hour later.

“I’m not going to take it,” Shildt said. “I’m not going to take any chirping out of the dugout. We’re not going to start things, but we’re not going to take it. Heard something I didn’t appreciate. I will always have our players’ backs. I will especially have a Hall of Famer and a guy who has the most physical, mental toughness that I’ve ever managed and may ever manage. I will always have his back.”

The nine runs against Flaherty were a career worst for the opening day starter, and the 18 runs scored by the Brewers were their most ever against the Cardinals. The loss left the Cardinals fuming, their pitching on fumes, and sporting welts galore — physically, in the box score, and on their nerves.

Molina caught another two innings after Ryan Braun’s bat hit him in the left hand for a catcher’s interference. The results of the X-rays were not immediately known, and the Cardinals expected to have Molina undergo another exam Wednesday. Infielder Kolten Wong was removed from the lineup shortly before first pitch because of a soreness in his side that Shildt said the team hopes it caught before it became more severe. He too was undergoing additional exams.

On the eve of a doubleheader Wednesday and another one Friday, the Cardinals needed five innings from the bullpen and aren’t sure if their two Gold Glove-winning fielders will be available today, tomorrow, or this week.

“We’re at the crossroads,” Shildt said of the roster decisions. His concern for Molina was as apparent in the postgame interviews as it was on the field.

He added: “If Yadier Molina is in discomfort something is wrong.”

• STANDINGS: Cards in second by half-game over Reds

• BOX SCORE: Brewers 18, Cardinals 3

The Brewers had already shoved Flaherty (3-2) from his start by sending 10 batters to the plate in the fourth. They were on the way to having 11 hitters in the fifth when Braun, with the bases loaded, clipped Molina’s glove. The catcher’s interference brought home another run, widening the lead to 12-2. At that moment, the Cardinals were primed by a previous issue with the Brewers’ hitters and the runaway score. Molina’s injury had their focus. But Shildt set his eyes on the Brewers’ dugout. What he heard in response drew his response.

Jedd Gyorko picked up on Shildt’s fury quickly and created a buffer between his former manager and his current team. Eventually, pitching coach Mike Maddux and even Molina would work to separate Shildt from the Brewers players and manager Craig Counsell.

Shildt declined to say the phrase he heard or who said it.

“I feel like it was more directed at me, quite honestly,” Shildt said. “Did I do anything to warrant it? Perhaps. I was staring in the dugout. I will accept that. With my mask on it’s hard to appreciate what people are really intending. I can hear great, though. My hearing doesn’t suffer with the mask on. … There’s no allegations against Ryan Braun, necessarily. It just didn’t look good. It’s a second catcher’s interference of a guy who has caught since June of 2004 when he made his debut. It just didn’t look good when a little bit of conversation took place prior to it. It didn’t look good.

“At that point you think I’m going to accept that? No,” Shildt continued. “But you take the high road. There was a look in the dugout. There was something said. At that point all bets are off.”

Shildt’s anger simmered for minutes after the brouhaha cleared.

No punches were thrown, no players were shoved, and all sorts of COVID-19 protocols and social-distancing practices were shattered. Both managers were ejected.

Molina stayed.

Despite Shildt telling him the game was out of hand and the health of his hand was more important, and teammate Matt Carpenter making one last attempt to lobby Molina to leave the game, the catcher played on. He was there later to defend rookie Nabil Crismatt’s warmup tosses and engage in an animated discussion with the umpires. Shildt said he did not get an explanation on the details.

“That’s what make makes him so damn special,” Shildt said.

The Brewers put the Cardinals on alert in the first inning when former MVPs Braun and Christian Yelich socked back-to-back home runs against Flaherty. That erased the Cardinals’ 1-0 lead and continued Flaherty’s troubles with the Brewers. He’s yet to win a game in six starts at Miller Park, and no other team has had success like Milwaukee against him. In the second half of last season, he allowed five earned runs in 12 innings to the Brewers and five earned runs total to any other team he faced in 87 1/3 innings. Flaherty pitched into the fourth inning, but did not get an out. All five batters he faced reached. All five batters scored.

In his previous 33 1/3 innings against the Brewers, they have 41 hits, 30 earned runs, and 11 home runs. There are no secrets.

“Uncanny how well they read him,” Shildt said. “They were taking some really close pitches. To their credit, evidently.”

The Brewers spent innings ignoring Flaherty’s slider, and after the game the righthander was asked if he felt they knew what pitch was coming.

Did they know him that well? Did he have a tell?

“There are a handful of pitches that I didn’t execute,” Flaherty said. “They were on a lot of pitches that I threw. At the end of the day, it comes down to execution. Especially in situations like that where it snowballs.”

That is the Cardinals’ concern coming out of a loss like Tuesday’s — that what happened in it will lead to losses in the days to come. The uncertainty of two stalwarts, Molina and Wong, and the use of three relievers from a thinned bullpen means there could be a cascade of complications for the roster. Anger cools, but this loss could burn.

There are five games in two cities in a span of 60 hours.

“Sometimes you get beat,” Shildt said. “You get beat and you tip your hat. And we’ve tipped our hat before. We don’t like doing it. But we tip it. I’ve got zero concerns about Jack Flaherty, like I’ve got zero concerns about the sun coming up.”


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