Donovan’s hit, Nootbaar’s HR end Cards frustrating stretch

SAN DIEGO — Lars Knottbar got the ball in the fifth inning on Thursday afternoon at Petco Park. The singles race at home did not tie the match. The Cardinals were not given the lead. But the reaction of his teammates declared that it was a great way home.

“You can feel it in the dugout,” said manager Oliver Marmol.

What Marmol felt was relief. St. Louis’ streak ended with three consecutive losses without goals. So that was the 47-stroke without a win. The Cardinals’ self-proclaimed confidence was bolstered by the results.

The way it seems to work in baseball is that one big swing brings another. The second result came from Brendan Donovan, who claimed his first major in the MLS to lead St. Louis to a 5-4 win over Padres at the end of the series.

When a Statcast-predicted Donovan sailed 418 feet on cutter loyalist Nick Martinez over the right midfield wall in the seventh inning, rest was no longer on his mind. His ideas were more practical.

“Touch every base,” he said sarcastically.

The Cardinals, who closed in on the NL Central title, improved to 48-9 in the games they hit more than Homer. They had nearly three on Thursdays – including one from Slugger that has caught the most eyes these days.

Albert Pujols, two 700s homer in his career, gave fans a thrill with a 108.6 mph single that rocked into the left corner in the second half. The 335-foot drive that Statcast predicted wasn’t quite the height to give the Pujols the 699th and he was hit so badly that he was denied another milestone—an additional 1,400 base hits.

Pujols poked fun at the deep moves in rounds six and eight, but he’ll take his 700 quest to Los Angeles, where the Cardinals play the weekend’s set against the mighty Dodgers. Although rejected in San Diego, Pujols were among the first to greet the Nootbaar after the stalled Homer, along with fellow veteran Yadier Molina.

“I think it’s a big deal, when these guys are feeling good,” Nutbar said. “They are the leaders of the team. To get that kind of breath, that rest, it’s always good. This team is dangerous. We all know that. It’s only a matter of time.”

Nootbaar, hitter number 9, hit against Padres clerk Joe Musgrove. The right hand doubled on fastballs, and Nootbaar pulled second from Statcast-projected 386 feet to the right center. The last Homer Cardinals came before that in the third game on Saturday, when Molina fired in the first game with a double-header against the Reds. This also marks the last runs gained before the 47-stroke streak.

“We do really well when we hit doubles and pigeons and walk, and today we did,” Marmol said.

Donovan scored a winning starting shooter Jack Flaherty—six runs, three runs (two earned) fours and four walks nine—with a different type of hitting. While Nutbar struck early, Donovan showed exemplary patience and judgment over strike zone.

Donovan took three balls in a row, then saw a chopper in the heart of the strike zone. With NL MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt on board, the score was 3-0 all the way. When Martinez picked up a lot of plate again – on his fourth straight break – Donovan was on the offensive. All that remains is to touch those rules.

“I was just trying to hit a fly ball, get one across, and skip the lead a little bit,” Donovan said. “I kind of ran my barrel a little more than I thought it would. It was one of the biggest swings I’ve had this year, so that has been pretty cool for me.”

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