The St. Louis Cardinals’ bats finally came alive Wednesday afternoon as the Redbirds closed out their six-game home stand with a 4-2 win over Cincinnati. The Cardinals collected 10 hits in the game and every starter (including the starting pitcher) had at least one hit in the game with the exception of Jon Jay and Matt Holliday.
The Cardinals used a huge sixth inning, during which they scored three times off four hits and a walk while sending eight batters to the plate to take control of the game.
“From top to bottom, I thought we did a great job as a team just battling through,” Matt Carpenter said. “We were finally able to get to him in that inning and I could tell he wore down because we battled him so well.”
But, before they got to the sixth inning, Carlos Beltran got things started in the fourth.
“Carlos, obviously getting us on the board and getting something going,” Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny said. “But, after that, we just piled on a couple of tough at bats and the guys grinded him a little bit. (Reds’ pitcher Homer) Bailey was good today too and they just kind of fought through some tough ones to get a few more runs across the board. It was big. It was a good day and we will certainly take that as a tough series.”
St. Louis took a 1-0 lead when Beltran led off the bottom of the fourth with his seventh homer of the year. Beltran tagged a 1-1 pitch from Reds’ starter Homer Bailey and drove the ball an estimated 419 feet into the right field seats. It was the fourth home run of the year given up by Bailey.
“He just missed a couple of others,” Matheny said. “You can tell his timing is right. He feels good.”
The Cardinals had two more hits in the fourth when Yadier Molina singled and Carpenter doubled, but both were left stranded when Pete Kozma grounded out to end the inning.
Cincinnati tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the sixth when Brandon Phillips doubled to score Joey Votto with one out. That was all though as Lynn struck out Bruce and Frazier to end the inning.
The Cardinals quickly got the run back and more in the bottom half of the sixth.
With one out, five straight Cardinals’ batters reached base.
“That was big,” Carpenter said. “That is what we know we are capable of doing, is putting together consistent quality at bats, back-to-back-back and that was a great example of it.”
Allen Craig worked a walk to start things off and was followed by a Molina single. Carpenter then picked up his third hit of the day, a single up the middle to score Craig while Kozma followed with his first hit of the day, a single, to score Molina.
Page 2 of 3 - “Craig had the big walk,” Carpenter said. “And then Yadier got the big hit to put a runner in scoring position. We know what kind of offense we have and I know people are wondering what’s the matter, but we know we are going to keep running into things that are going to work out for us.”
After Daniel Descalso plated Carpenter to put the Cardinals up 4-1, Reds’ manager Dusty Baker pulled Bailey.
“For us to win and not be clicking on all cylinders offensively,” Carpenter said, “it should be a fun summer.”
The run by Carpenter was his 22nd of the season and put him into a tie for the National League runs scored lead with Justin Upton (Atlanta) and Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado).
The Reds added a run in the top of the ninth when Phillips drilled closer Edward Mujica’s first offering 379 into the left field bullpen.
It wasn’t just the offense though. Playing behind Lance Lynn, the Cardinals’ defense made some great plays.
In the top of the fifth, with one out, Bailey singled to left. However, he didn’t stay on the bases long as he tried to stretch the hit into a double and was thrown out at second on a great throw by Beltran.
Then in the sixth, Reds’ shortstop Zack Cozart drilled one back to Allen Craig at first. The ball took a bad hop on Craig, but the Cardinals’ first baseman stayed with the ball and flipped it to Lynn just in time to record the out.
The only blemishs for St. Louis’ defense was when Holliday dove for a ball and missed it in the second inning and a Descalso error in the top of the ninth.
Holliday turned a one-out Jay Bruce single into a triple by diving and missing the ball. Lynn then hit Todd Frazier with a pitch and after a fly out he walked Corky Miller to load the bases. But, when the inning ended, Bruce was still standing on third.
“I knew what I was doing,” Lynn said. “You never want to get into a situation like that, but choose the pitches I did and I was able to get him out.”
Descalso’s error was erased when Mujica induced a 5-4-3 double play on the next batter.
Lynn earned his team-leading fifth win of the year against zero losses while lowering his ERA to 2.75. Lynn struck out five batters and allowed five hits while walking two and hitting one.
“To be able to go out there and pitch like that and win games,” Lynn said. “That is what it is all about. It feels good and I just have to try to keep improving every day and that is what I am going to do.”
Page 3 of 3 - The Cardinals’ skipper was pleased with his starters’ performance.
“Lance is throwing the ball really well right now,” Matheny said. “Today was a very good day for him. He was in control the entire time and did a nice job.”
Trevor Rosenthal relieved Lynn in the top of the eighth and was very effective. Rosenthal struck out one and threw a total of seven pitches to record a 1-2-3 inning.
“I thought last night and tonight he was much sharper,” Matheny said. “He just looks comfortable on the mound and he looks like the same guy we saw at the end of last season.”
Other than the homer Mujica allowed, it was a quick ninth inning as Mujica picked up his sixth save of the season.
Carpenter led the St. Louis hitters with a 3-for-4 day at the plate. Carpenter collected two doubles, drove in a run and scored once. The only other batter was with a multi-hit game was Molina who finished the day 2-for-4.
“I still say he could, and he will, hit at the top of the lineup,” Matheny said. “When Jon Jay is going like Jon Jay can, he is real nice up there, but Matt Carpenter can fit there too. But, he can also drive in runs – hitting two doubles today and dropping another one in for a big RBI. Those are big at bats. He has the ability to hit in the middle of the order when guys are on base, but he is versatile and he is getting into a good swing right now, so we want to see how long he can keep it.”
The Cardinals will now head out on an eight-day, two-city road trip. First up is a four-game set in Milwaukee before the Cardinals close it out with a two-game series against the Cubs. Jake Westbrook will open the Milwaukee series as he goes for his 100th career win.