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‘Whitey Ball’ returns: Cardinals back Hudson’s stellar pitching with 15 singles, bold base running

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Cardinals begin four-game series with Diamondbacks

St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Dakota Hudson throws in the sixth inning on Thursday, April 28, 2022, during a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Mo. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

“Whitey Ball” reappeared at Busch Stadium in all its 1980s glories Thursday night.

In the first two innings, Cardinals runners Paul Goldschmidt and Harrison Bader went from first to third on batted balls that were played by infielders. Tommy Edman raced from first to third on Goldschmidt’s bloop single in the first.

Tyler O’Neill stroked sacrifice flies in both innings as the Cardinals knocked out, softly, Arizona Diamondbacks starter Humberto Castellanos after two.

But “Whitey Ball,” so named after Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog, also featured efficient starting pitching. Dakota Hudson was more than efficient. He didn’t allow a hit until the sixth and then only one over six innings as he set the tone for a one-sided 8-3 victory.

The sinker baller’s previous start had been almost as impressive. He gave up just two hits in 6 2/3 innings at Cincinnati last Saturday in a 5-0 victory.

“It just goes back to what ‘Waino' will say. He’ll say, ‘Always pitch instead of throw,'" said Hudson, referring to the veteran staff ace.

“I remember facing (Hudson) a few years back and he was nasty,” said third baseman Nolan Arenado, who appealed his two-game suspension for Wednesday’s brouhaha here.

“I don't think it needs to be two games,” said Arenado. “I don't think it needs to be a suspension. Maybe a fine … but not a suspension.”

Arenado had two hits, singles of course.

“The game’s going in the direction of doubles and homers. And we’re going to do plenty of that,” said Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol. “But when there’s 90 feet to be taken, let’s be prepared to do it. Today’s game was an absolute base running clinic.

“Guys played the game the right way tonight.”

Edman walked to start the first-inning, two-run rally, which also featured another sacrifice fly, by Corey Dickerson.

Bader and former Arizona star Goldschmidt had two of the three hits in a three-run second inning. To sum up: Five singles, three sacrifice flies, one walk, one hit batsman, at least three extra bases taken, five runs in two innings.

No one much seemed to notice that the Cardinals were going an eighth consecutive game without a home run. There wasn’t even a double.

They were singularly impressive, though, as all their 15 hits were singles, including backup infielder Brendan Donovan's first career hit, a single to right in the eighth.

“We’re going to hit plenty of doubles and homers,” Marmol said. “But when you’re not, how else can you win?”

The last time the Cardinals had 15 hits without an extra-base hit was a 10-3 win at Kansas City in 2004.

“I feel like we haven't hit our stride yet from the power aspect, and I think we will," said Arenado. "But this is what we have to do when we're not hitting homers. We’ve got to take our knocks and find a way to cause havoc.”

But Goldschmidt said, “It’s not like we’re bunting and dinking and dunking. We did have a few infield hits but there were some balls that were hit really hard.”

Three of those 15 singles Thursday night came in a three-run sixth inning as the Cardinals mixed in the prime staple of “Whitey Ball,” the stolen base. League leader Harrison Bader stole his fifth of the season and Yadier Molina the 70th of his career after both had singled.

Molina has a streak of 10 steals in succession over several years. “The guy’s got wheels,” cracked Hudson. “What can’t he do?”

Edman, who scored three runs, also moved up a base after his second hit on center fielder Daulton Varsho’s off-line, return throw to the infield. This set up a two-run single by Goldschmidt, who had three runs batted in and three hits on Thursday and has had 15 hits in 30 at-bats in a seven-game hitting streak, 13 of them singles and two doubles.

“Not the way we drew it up,” said Marmol, laughing.

The Cardinals' record for hits in a game without an extra-base hit is 16.

“We’re going to need extra-base hits to win, though,” said Goldschmidt, who still is homerless. “That’s the best way to score runs. But the thing is to have good at-bats and hit the ball hard, which we’re doing. If that happens, the results will follow.

“There’s a lot of ways to win and we try to be good at every facet of the game.”

With an assist from center fielder Bader, who banged into the wall to snag Pavin Smith’s third-inning blast, Hudson allowed nothing other than two walks over the first five frames.

“I honestly thought it was gone,” Hudson said. “It was an incredible play.”

Varsho singled to right with one out in the Arizona sixth for the D-backs’ only hit off Hudson, who is the first Cardinal since Jack Flaherty in 2019 to have consecutive games of two or fewer hits allowed over six innings or more, according to statistician Tom Orf. Hudson said he didn’t shake off Molina once.

“The last two outings, I’ve thrown well but I’ve also had incredible defense,” Hudson said. “I honestly didn’t know (the no-hitter) was there until people started cheering and I said, ‘What’s going on?'"

At 84 pitches on a rainy night, Hudson gave way to right-hander Aaron Brooks, who allowed three runs over 2 2/3 innings before Nick Wittgren finished.

Hudson is 2-1 and Marmol repeated what he said last week. “We’re going to really enjoy watching him over the next several months," Marmol said.

Arizona came into the game having taken the final two games of a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. But it was no match for the Cardinals, who have a 99-61 all-time record against the Diamondbacks.

“It was a clunker,” said Arizona manager Torey Lovullo. “We didn’t come out and do what I wanted us to do.

“The Cardinals came out and made a statement. They ran the bases aggressively. It took us four or five innings to get into the flow of the game.”

That’s probably what opposing managers were saying about the Cardinals 35 to 40 years ago, too.

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