ST. LOUIS — Thursday night at Busch Stadium was TJ Friedl’s big adventure.
The Reds’ left fielder and leadoff hitter crashed into the side wall down the third-base line with his right knee (bottom of the first), jammed his left shoulder into the ground in the process of making a diving catch (bottom of the fourth), and absorbed a hard foul ball off his left knee (top of the fifth).
In between all of that, he also lined a double to start a rally (top of the third) and initiated a perfect relay to the plate (bottom of the third) to lead Cincinnati to a 3-2 win to open a series of five games in four days.
Is it worth mentioning that he also was caught stealing in the top of the third — at home plate?
Chase Anderson allowed only one run on one hit and two walks in what was easily his most effective start of the season for the Reds. He struck out three and hit a batter, but Friedl’s third-inning defense in left helped minimize the damage and squash the closest thing the Cardinals mustered to a rally against him.
Anderson (1-3) recorded his first win as a Red and his first in the Majors since notching a victory for the Phillies in Washington on May 11, 2021.
“I think tonight was just a total team effort,” Anderson said. “Coming off a sweep is always tough. My goal is just to set the tone for the team. We got a run early; just try to make it a shutdown inning. I was able to do that.”
It was the third-inning relay initiated by Friedl, though, that loomed largest as a point at which momentum could’ve swung away from the Reds. Instead, it stayed firmly pointed in their direction.
After Paul Goldschmidt doubled past the bag at third with two outs, Lars Nootbaar came around to score the first St. Louis run. Sensing an opportunity to tie, Brendan Donovan, who runs well — an average of 27.2 feet/second, according to Statcast — turned the corner and bolted for home.
His headfirst slide was cut down after Friedl dug the ball out of the corner and relayed to Kyle Farmer, who threw it to Austin Romine to tag out Donovan on his outstretched arm.
“Got a good kick off the wall and tried to get it to Farm just as soon as I could,” Friedl said. “He made an unbelievable one-hop throw to cut the runner down. His transition, his throw is what kept us in the game right there.”
That throw immediately preceded a stretch of 16 consecutive Cardinals hitters retired by Reds pitching. Anderson didn’t allow a baserunner in his final two innings of the night, and Ian Gibaut (sixth) and Buck Farmer (seventh and eighth) threw hitless frames as well.
“The momentum is really important,” manager David Bell said. “It just shows the importance of defense when it happens. And when it doesn’t happen, it leads to runners and it can change an entire game, right from the beginning of a game.”
“That was huge,” Anderson said. “That was a game changer right there.”
Alexis Díaz, who didn’t know until he arrived at Busch Stadium that he would have the opportunity to wear Roberto Clemente’s No. 21 on the day celebrating the late legend, pitched the ninth to secure the save. It was the seventh of the season for the native of Humacao, Puerto Rico, tying Hunter Strickland for the team lead.
Aristides Aquino and Nick Senzel each contributed a solo home run for the Reds off Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas to similar spots over the visitors’ bullpen in left field. Aquino’s shot traveled a Statcast-projected 411 feet; Senzel’s, 421.
Friedl emerged in the Reds’ clubhouse somewhat later than his teammates bearing the unmistakable signs of someone who’d spent a good amount of time being patched up in the training room. With rips in the knees of his sliding pants and a large scrape from where his right knee hit the wall, he summed up his physical condition with, “I’m good, surprisingly.”
Bell, a veteran of 12 Major League seasons as a player, saw definite virtue in one of his own being willing to so enthusiastically sacrifice his body for the team.
“Sometimes when you’re really feeling sore after a game, or injured, you know it was a good game,” Bell said. “So hopefully he at least has something to show for it.”
The Reds, at last check of the scoreboard, did.