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St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Kwang-Hyun Kim yells after he delivers during the first inning of Game 1 of a baseball doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs, Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

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MILWAUKEE — At the start of a week that the Cardinals have branded “daunting” because of all the doubleheaders smooshed into so few days, there are plenty of reasons for there to be angst about the pitching, the innings, and the recent injuries to stalwart relievers.

On Monday, the Cardinals didn’t lack for pitching. They had plenty. They usually do. The roster is teeming with pitching depth.

It’s the offense, the car keys to rallies, they too often misplace.

The Cardinals got seven shutout innings from Kwang Hyun Kim and six superb innings from Daniel Ponce de Leon and still searched for runs, any kind of runs, even accidental runs to back the starters. The Cardinals scored four runs in the doubleheader, two of them in extra innings with the head start of a runner at second base. Paul DeJong's RBI single in the ninth inning delivered a 3-2 victory in Game 2 that was eventually enough to overcome Jedd Gyorko's two-run homer. That rally, nine innings and 20 at-bats with runners in scoring position in the making, split the doubleheader.

The Brewers’ 2-1 victory in Game 1 came on a sacrifice fly in the eighth with all of the runs being scored in extra innings. Both games needed extra innings to be decided – a referendum on the two teams’ troubles scoring runs as much as how evenly matched they are or where they fit in the standings.

That could have gotten tighter Monday, too.

The start of a five-game, three-day set against the Brewers at Miller Park allowed the third-place Brewers (21-25) to close the gap with the second-place Cardinals (21-21). A sweep of the doubleheader by Milwaukee would have create a virtual tie for second in the division. The Cardinals overcome 15 strikeouts in the second game and a five-for-20 game with runners in scoring position to split the doubleheader.

Ponce de Leon did what he could in his cameo return to the rotation by striking out nine and pitching into the seventh innings. The only welt on his pitching line was Gyorko’s two-run homer. In the bottom of the seventh, Alex Reyes pitched out of a jam to force the game into extras.

Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes, one of the finer starters in the division with a sub-1.00 WHIP and a 1.99 ERA to start Monday’s game, gave the Cardinals opportunities to dent the scoreboard, and they found different ways to squander them. A single and a walk in the first inning left two runners stranded on a popup to end the inning. A leadoff single and a walk put two runners on for the middle of the order, and Burnes promptly struck out two batters to regain control of the inning and leave the runners on base.

Not even a wild pitch could grease a rally.

The moment they should have taken a 1-0 lead for sure came in the fourth inning when an error and a steal allowed Tyler O’Neill to reach second. Matt Wieter lined a single to right-center field, but curiously O’Neill retreated to second on a ball neither outfielder could reach, and that kept him from scoring. He got to third, where he did have a courtside seat for the groundout and strikeout that ended the inning.

The Cardinals tied the game in the top of the seventh, and even then left the go-ahead and insurance run in scoring position. Paul Goldschmidt’s 300th double of his career opened the inning, and he would score on a Brad Miller single for a 2-2 game – all with no outs. The first three batters of the inning reached base for the Cardinals, and the next three did not as the rally unraveled once it got only far enough to tie the game. The Cardinals were four-for-14 with runners in scoring position at that point, and two of those hits did not produce a run.

The first game, which plunged into extra innings tied at zero, proved a good dress rehearsal for the opportunities the Cardinals would fail to exploit later.

Against St. Louis native and rookie relief sensation Devin Williams, the Cardinals got a single and a walk from the stingy righthander. Kolten Wong’s one-out single was the first base hit off Williams’ changeup this season, and the walk nudged Wong into scoring position for the middle of the Cardinals’ order. A groundball and a called strike 3 later and Williams was out of the inning with the 0-0 score undisturbed, and the first of the Cardinals’ misfires on choice opportunities was in the box score.

With doubleheader games set for seven games, the eighth is technically extra innings, and that means, by rule, the inning starts with a runner on second base.

It was just the goose the Brewers needed after going scoreless for 21 consecutive innings.

But first, the Cardinals got the runner home, just not before popping up a bunt and taking a called strike 3 without the runner flinching from second. Tommy Edman lined a single to center for the game’s first run, and a 1-0 lead for the Cardinals to protect in the bottom of the eighth. Without John Gant (groin) for a few days and Giovanny Gallegos (groin) for at least this road trip, the next reliever up for the save opportunity was Ryan Helsley. He walked a batter to put the winning run on base, and Ryan Braun rocketed a double to the center-field walk that could have scored both runners, but with one out Avisail Garcia stopped at third.

The Cardinals got a reprieve, and turned to Austin Gomber to relieve.

With first base open, Gomber tried to tease Jace Peterson into a strikeout. Didn’t happen. From third base, Garcia urged the next batter, Keston Hiura to win the game. He got behind 1-2 in the count, and still Garcia was chatting him up. Hiura lined the sixth pitch he saw to left field for the walk-off sacrifice fly.

The late-game leak soiled Kim’s superb return to the rotation. The lefty pitched seven scoreless innings to give the bullpen a needed break, and he did so with efficiency and, at times, ease. Kim ran his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 24 with his career-high seven innings, and his ERA in five starts this season is 0.33. A Cardinals rookie hasn’t had an ERA that low in his first five starts in at least a century, if not ever.

Kim detailed how pitching coach Mike Maddux and catcher Yadier Molina walked him through their game plan for the Brewers and the expanded use of his fastball.

“The Brewers hitters are weak here against the inside fastball,” Kim said, through interpreter Craig Choi. “I threw (the fastball) for weak contact, and some of their bats were broke, as well.”

The Kim navigated a route to the inside slice of the plate, and Ponce de Leon followed in his wake.

Added as the team’s 29th man for Monday’s doubleheader and assigned the Game 2 start, Ponce de Leon has the same key for every start. His stuff is good enough, his stuff is sharp enough, and opponents don’t like it as long as it’s over the plate. When Ponce de Leon drifts to the edge of the strike zone or too far away from, he either prolongs at-bats with foul balls, or allows hitters to ignore his pitches entirely. The batter won’t be enticed by a curve if he knows it’s always a ball.

Ponce de Leon established quickly that he would be in the strike zone and still hard to connect. He struck out the first three Brewers he faced, and five of the first six. By the time he faced his 14th batter, Ponce de Leon had eight strikeouts.

As Kim illustrated, all eight came on fastballs.

Former MVP Christian Yelich, on his way to five consecutive strikeouts in the doubleheader, couldn’t catch up to a 94.1-mph fastball in the first inning, and he went after a 93.7-mph fastball in the fourth inning to get the same result.

***

Cardinals crack late, spoil Kim's gem and lose Game 1, 2-1, to Brewers in extra innings

By the time he ran his own personal scoreless inning streak to 24 innings, Kwang Hyun Kim had also helped keep the Milwaukee Brewers searching, groping, seeking a run of any type for the first time in 21 innings.

With baseball's extra-inning booster, they got two in the eighth.

That was enough to upend the Cardinals, take Game 1, and spoil the lefty's brilliant return to the rotation.

Keston Hiura's sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the eighth inning brought up Avisail Garcia to send the Brewers to a 2-1 victory in the first half of a doubleheader Monday night at Miller Park. The sacrifice fly came off lefty Austin Gomber -- an appearance that seems ready to assure Johan Oviedo's start Wednesday -- but the bigger hit was a double to dead center field by Ryan Braun that erased the Cardinals' lead and put the walk-off win in motion.

The two teams were scoreless through the regulation seven innings of Game 1. 

Tommy Edman struck with a single to score pinch-runner Tyler O'Neill and give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. 

Kim was in command for the seven innings he pitched. He held the Brewers to three hits and he struck out six, and he got 21 outs on 87 pitches. Without John Gant (groin) or Giovanny Gallegos (groin), the Cardinals went to Ryan Helsley to close the game. Braun tagged Helsley for the game-tying double, and that prompted the machinations that brought Gomber into the game.

Game 2 is set to start at 7:30 p.m. STL time.

The lineups will appear here when available. And here the are:

CARDINALS

1. Wong, 2B

2. Edman, RF

3. Goldschmidt, 1B (update: DH)

4. B. Miller, DH (update: 3B)

5. DeJong, SS

6. Carpenter, 3B (update: 1B)

7. O'Neill, LF

8. Wieters, C

9. Thomas, RF

Update: Cardinals moved their positions around shortly before first pitch. Did not change the order of the hitters.

Starting pitcher: Daniel Ponce de Leon, RHP (0-3, 7.47 ERA)

BREWERS

1. Garcia, CF

2. Hiura, 2B

3. Yelich, LF

4. Braun, RF

5. Vogelbach, DH

6. Gyorko, 1B

7. Urias, SS

8. Peterson, 3B

9. Nottingham, C

Starting pitcher: Corbin Burnes, RHP (3-0, 1.99 ERA)

***

Kim carries scoreless tie into extra innings against fuming, frustrated Brew Crew

The groundball up the middle was probably a foot or so away from ending a frustrating stretch of baseball for the Brew Crew.

Kolten Wong did his part to prolong it.

With a ball bounding up the middle for a chance to bring home the first run of the game, Wong backhanded the ball, flipped to Paul DeJong on his way to second base, and got the forceout to end the sixth inning. Luis Urias slammed his helmet as he arrived at first base and the Cardinals trotted off the field, the scoreless tie intact. Milwaukee has gone 20 innings without scoring a run. They've scored three total since Thursday. 

Kwang Hyun Kim, back on the mound and back from illness, has kept the Brewers frustrated.

The lefty has held Milwaukee to three hits and he's struck out five through six scoreless innings. He retired the Brewers in order in the seventh to send the 0-0 game into extra innings, where a runner will start every half inning at second base.

Kim has been as efficient as his line has been spotless. It took him 50 pitches to get 11 outs, and he worked through the fifth inning on eight pitches. That included the three he slipped by catcher Omar Narvaez for a called strike-3 strikeout.

Kim has thrown 81 pitches as he heads into the seventh inning still holding onto a 0-0 tie.

***

Lefty Kim returns from health scare to start showdown with Brew Crew in Milwaukee

Less than 12 days after he was taken to a Chicago emergency room because of severe abdominal pain, Kwang Hyun Kim returns healthy and ready to join the Cardinals roster and the Cardinals rotation.

The team couldn't have asked for better timing.

Kim will start Game 1 of a doubleheader Monday at Miller Park, and he'll get the first game of a series that pits the second-place Cardinals against the third-place Brewers for five games in around 50 hours. Daniel Ponce de Leon has been added to the roster as the 29th man for the doubleheader, and the Cardinals plan to have him start Game 2.

To make room on the active roster, the Cardinals made a move that was notable for who didn't come off the roster.

John Gant, who left Sunday's game with a sore groin, remained active for the roster as of Monday afternoon. He received treatment at the ballpark and will likely miss at least two days. The Cardinals said this is a soreness he dealt with earlier this season, had three hands-off day and was able to return within that time.

Austin Dean, who left Sunday's game with a sore elbow, was moved to the 10-day injured list with what the team described as a strain.

Dean's departure from the roster opens up left field for the team, and they will station Rangel Ravelo there for Game 1. The ever-shifting Cardinals outfield will be, left to right, Ravelo, Harrison Bader, and Tommy Edman.

The Cardinals have the following players on the taxi squad for Milwaukee and this three-city trip: OF Justin Williams, RHP Junior Fernandez, C Andrew Knizner, and INF Max Schrock.

Some other notes from before Game 1:

• Johan Oviedo's test for the coronavirus from Sunday returned negative, and he continues to be asymptomatic. If he gets another clean test for COVID-19 on Tuesday, he's expected to join the team in Milwaukee on Wednesday and be part of the doubleheader plan that day.

• Cardinals are going to close their alternate-site this camp this weekend.

• The Cardinals are staying in the same hotel where they quarantined for six days earlier this season. They were allowed to leave their rooms today, get breakfast, do some normal things. Within protocols. But no mattress bullpens. 

When he's pitched, Kim has been difficult for teams seeing him for a first or second time. The lefty has an athletic, fluid delivery, but it comes with some natural whip and deception that gives his fastball the feel of greater velocity. He plays off of that with his above average slider, which he manipulates at a variety of speeds.

Kim was diagnosed with a renal infarction — or, a blockage of blood flow to the kidney. He had a stroke almost a decade ago as well.

The concern for Kim and the Cardinals was the medication that he took was a blood thinner. He was unable to be around the team and take part in normal activities out of fear of bruising or any cuts. He had to get medical clearance for that possibility before being able to return to a game.

This is the Cardinals lineup that will back him:

1. Wong, 2B

2. Edman, RF

3. Goldschmidt, 1B

4. B. Miller, DH

5. DeJong, SS

6. Ravelo, LF

7. Carpenter, 3B

8. Molina, C

9. Bader, CF

Starting pitcher: Kim, LHP (2-0, 1 save, 0.82 ERA)

The Milwaukee Brewers will start Josh Lindblom (1-3, 6.06 ERA) in Game 1, and they'll have a familiar face at cleanup vs. the Cardinals. The lineup:

1. Garcia, CF

2. Yelich, DH

3. Braun, RF

4. Gyorko, 1B

5. Hiura, 2B

6. Arcia, SS

7. Urias, 3B

8. Narvaez, C

9. Taylor, LF

Check back throughout the afternoon and evening here at Cardinal Beat and STLtoday.com for coverage between bites of Rocky Rococo pizza from Miller Park. 

Derrick Goold

@dgoold on Twitter

dgoold@post-dispatch.com

This article originally ran on stltoday.com.

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