Former UF standout Bader shines in MLB debut with St. Louis

St. Louis Cardinals rookie Harrison Bader
St. Louis Cardinals rookie Harrison Bader, left, and Matt Carpenter celebrate after Bader scored the game-winning run during the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday in St. Louis. The Cardinals won 3-2. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS — Harrison Bader started the day in Memphis and ended it sliding across home plate with the game-winning run for the St. Louis Cardinals in his major league debut.
“I don’t know if I’d say I dreamed about that moment, because that would be a little weird, but definitely just saw the perfect opportunity,” Bader said after doubling to lead off the ninth inning and scoring on Jedd Gyorko’s short sacrifice fly in a 3-2 win over the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night.
“It was awesome,” said Bader, a former standout at the University of Florida. “It was a dream come true, for sure.”
Bader got the news of the surprise call-up on Tuesday morning when the Cardinals decided to place Dexter Fowler on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left wrist. The 23-year-old from Bronxville, New York, taken in the third round of the 2015 amateur draft, made the four-hour drive to St. Louis in a car service with his dad, Louis, who happened to be visiting him at the Triple-A Redbirds.
His mom, Janice Baio, and sister, Sasha, caught a flight from New York’s LaGuardia Airport at about 5 p.m. and got to Busch Stadium in the fifth inning, in time for his third at-bat.
Bader started in center field and hit seventh, and he grounded out, struck out and flied out in his first three times up. He doubled down the left-field line on a 95 mph fastball from lefty Jake McGee (0-1) in the ninth. Bader was batting .403 (29 for 72) with 10 homers against lefties at Triple-A this year.
Greg Garcia sacrificed as Bader took third, and Gyorko hit a fly near the right-field line that Carlos Gonzalez caught 248 feet from the plate. The speedy Bader slid across jubilantly as Gonzalez’s one-hop throw went slightly up the third-base line.
“Game’s on the line,” Bader said, “so kind of do-or-die moment. As soon as you see that ball make any contact with the glove, you just put your head down and run in a straight line.”
Rockies manager Bud Black could not fault Gonzalez.
“CarGo made a strong throw, but the hop just wasn’t right,” Black said.
Cardinals third-base coach Mike Shildt did not hesitate to send Bader.
“We have to take a chance and then trust in the speed,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “Jedd got enough and Bader did the rest. It was, I’m sure, a first game he’ll never forget.”
A 23-year-old from Bronxville, New York, Bader was the 100th overall pick in 2015 and was hitting .297 with 19 home runs and 48 RBIs in 97 games for Memphis this season.
He became only the second player from Horace Mann School in New York to make it to the major leagues after Pedro Alvarez, a third baseman who played for Pittsburgh from 2010-15 and was selected an All-Star in 2013. Converted to first base, Alvarez spent last year with Baltimore and has been with the Orioles’ Triple-A team at Norfolk, Virginia, this season.
Bader’s father, speaking after the game, recalled toughening his son for a possible professional career.
“I threw at him periodically. You got to get used to getting hit,” Louis Bader said. “I never hit him in the head. But he had a helmet on just in case. That’s part of baseball. I knew he was good. I knew he was going to be a potential legitimate player, and so I knew he had to be brought up the right way. Listen, I never wanted to hurt him, obviously, “but you can’t be afraid.”
Trevor Rosenthal (3-4) pitched two scoreless innings.
Major League Baseball experimented with 1-minute, 45-second breaks between innings rather than the usual 2:05 for locally televised games, and the game lasted 3:11 — 6 minutes longer than this year’s big league average for nine-inning games.
Lance Lynn, who may be traded before Monday’s deadline, allowed one run and three hits over six innings. The 30-year-old right-hander is eligible for free agency after this season.
Rockies starter Jon Gray gave up two runs and eight hits in five innings.
Cardinals rookie Paul DeJong hit a two-run homer in the first, his 13th of the season and seventh in July. Gerardo Parra had a sacrifice fly in the seventh off Kevin Siegrist, and Trevor Story tied the score in the eighth against Matt Bowman with his 14th homer.
An inning later, Bader crossed the plate and then jumped into the arms of waiting teammate Matt Carpenter
“He was right there,” Bader said. “So that was pretty cool.”