ST. LOUIS – The Cardinals avoided a sweep and salvaged the final game of their series with the Cubs by beating Chicago 8-4 Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium. With the win, the Redbirds won for just the second time in last seven games of the current home stand.
With two outs and the game tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the sixth, Tony Cruz doubled. Pete Kozma followed with an RBI single to break the tie.
“I was just looking for a pitch to hit,” Kozma said. “Just a pitch to put in play and I fouled the first one off. I thought that was my pitch and he gave me another one.”
“That was a great at bat by Pete,” Cardinals’ skipper Mike Matheny said. “It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Kozma was one of six different Cardinals to drive in a run Sunday.
“The guys did a real good job of situational hitting and getting runs in when they had money on the table,” Matheny said. “We had a couple of big hits. They have been driving the ball hard and had some guys in scoring position with balls right at people, too, which could have added up to quite a bit more, but we will take whatever we can get right now.”
Also driving in runs for St. Louis (67-50) were Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig, Matt Holliday, David Freese, and Jon Jay. Three of the runs came without recording a hit. Jay had a sacrifice fly while Freese had a sacrifice fly and an RBI ground out.
“Sometimes it’s not always about getting the hit with guys in scoring position or guys on third base,” Freese said. “It is just about getting those guys across the plate. Today we did that.”
Leading 5-4 after six full innings, the Cardinals added three more runs before the game ended.
Craig singled with one out in the seventh and moved to second on Holliday’s single. Both runners moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch before a walk to Freese loaded the bases before Jay collected his sac fly.
In the eighth, Daniel Descalso singled with one out and scored on Carpenter’s double. Matt Adams walked to put runners at first and second, but was picked off first by the Cubs’ catcher for the second out while Craig was at the plate.
Craig followed Adams' base running blunder by driving in Carpenter with a double. The RBI was Craig’s 87th of the year while Carpenter scored his MLB leading 87th run.
After an intentional walk to Holliday, closer Edward Mujica came to the plate for his second at bat of the year. Mujica fouled off the first two pitches before striking out to end the inning.
“Mike (Matheny) talked to me before that (at bat),” Mujica said. “(Matheny) told me I don’t care if you want to swing, but remember you have to be able to go back into the ninth inning.”
Mujica, who entered the game in the top of the eighth for a two inning save, returned to the mound in the ninth and quickly retired the side in order to pick up his 31st save of the season.
“It feels pretty good to get the save and to get the win for the team,” Mujica said. “It was fun to have two innings, but we have a day off tomorrow and have to get ready for Tuesday.”
It was the first two-inning save by a Cardinals’ reliever since Fernando Salas accomplished the trick on June 7, 2011, at Houston.
“I was thinking about it early,” Mujica said of throwing a two-inning save. “Rosey (Trevor Rosenthal) threw a lot of pitches yesterday and when the game started I just figured for two.”
Joe Kelly started the game for the Cardinals and threw 96 pitches over 5.1 innings of work. He left with a 4-2 lead, but was responsible for two runners on the bases.
“I made some good pitches and some pitches got away from me,” Kelly said. “Definitely those walks which I don’t like doing. Other than that, I would like to go a little deeper, but I can’t do that when I start walking guys. But, we got a great team win out of it and that’s all I was looking for.”
Matheny was pleased with how Kelly performed.
“Joe is good,” Matheny said. “I thought he threw the ball well (Sunday). He got a little loose later on. He has been really aggressive attacking the zone. He got to some deep counts the later he went. It seemed like he was having trouble locating his fastball and he was using his changeup a lot in some tough counts. But, he has just been such a spark for us.Everything he is doing on the mound has been such a bonus.”
Just like Saturday night, the bullpen was unable to hold the lead. Seth Maness was brought in with one out in the sixth. The appearance by Maness was his fourth game in as many days and his sixth in seven days.
Matheny admitted he was hesitant to use Maness for a fourth straight day.
Maness quickly gave up two hits to tie the game at 4-4. After Maness retired the third batter he faced, Randy Choate was brought in.
Choate got his one and only batter to pop up to short to end the inning. With the Cardinals breaking the tie in the next half inning, that was enough for Choate to earn his second win of the season.
Kevin Siegrist pitched the seventh and like Maness, Siegrist has been called on a lot lately. Siegrist faced five batters. He opened and closed the inning with strikeouts. However, in between he walked two with a pop out sandwiched in between the free passes.
Not wanting to leave anything to chance, Matheny brought his closer in to start the eighth with plans on Mujica pitching a two-inning save.
St. Louis scored first Sunday, plating three runs in the bottom of the first inning.
With one out, Carlos Beltran singled and moved to second when Craig walked. Holliday followed with an RBI single to plate Beltran and send Craig to third. The base hit by Holliday extended his hitting streak to a season-high nine games. Freese then drove a pitch to center for the first sac fly of the night while driving in Craig.
“Holliday and Craig had good AB’s and were working counts,” Freese said. “(Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson) Jacks was trying to run that sinker in and they stayed patient. I got up there and it was nice to get that sac fly.”
Following the Freese sac fly, Holliday quickly swiped second for his team-leading sixth stolen base of the season before Jay followed with another single to drive in Holliday.
The Cubs (52-65) struck back in the top of the third, cutting the Redbirds' lead to 3-1 only to see the Cardinals get the run back in the bottom of the third.
Carpenter opened the inning with a double and took third on a passed ball. With Chicago’s infield playing in, Beltran was unable to drive in Carpenter when he grounded out to third. Craig followed with his second walk of the game before Holliday also drew a free pass to load the bases.
That brought Freese to the plate and while he grounded out to third, it was deep enough to score Carpenter.
“I just did enough with the bases loaded to get that run across,” Freese said.
After walking a batter in the third that eventually came around to score, the free pass hurt Kelly again in the fourth as the Cubs closed the gap to 4-2. Kelly walked just two batters while on the mound, but both walks eventually scored.
The Cardinals banged out 13 hits and drew six walks. Carpenter and Craig led the way, combining for six hits. Carpenter finished the game 3-for-5 with two doubles, two runs scored and an RBI. Craig was 3-for-3 with two runs scored, an RBI and reached twice via the free pass.
“(Carpenter) is swinging the bat great,” Matheny said. “It is hard to keep defending those line drives he keeps throwing out there. He has a real nice feel for his strike zone which makes him real tough to pitch to.”
Holliday had a 2-for-3 night with a run scored, an RBI, and a pair of walks, one of which was intentional. The one time Holliday was retired was on a fifth inning double play, the 26th time Holliday has grounded into a double play this season. Jay was 1-for-3 with two runs batted in while Freese was 0-for-2 with a walk and a pair of RBIs.