ST. LOUIS – The Cardinals were hoping Oscar Taveras would provide a spark to the struggling St. Louis lineup and the rookie right fielder sure did his part Saturday. After flying out to left field in his first at bat, Taveras crushed the second pitch he saw, sending the ball 418 feet into the Cardinals’ bullpen for his first major league hit as the Cardinals went on to beat San Francisco 2-0.
The blast was the first run of the game as it gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning.
“I am so happy right now,” Taveras said. “I take a good swing and take a good at bat and that helps the team win.”
Cardinals’ skipper Mike Matheny was also pleased to see his rookie excel in his first game with the team.
“What a great day for him, one I am sure he will never forget,” Matheny said. “It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Taveras was not shy when asked what he thought when he made contact.
“Everybody knew it was gone,” Taveras said. “That was a good swing right there and I am just so happy right now.”
Following Taveras’ homer, the sellout crowd of 44,426 continued to cheer for the Cardinals’ newest star, begging for a curtain call. The young player finally stepped out and acknowledged the crowd at Busch Stadium.
“That curtain call was pretty special,” Matheny said. “You could see he was beaming after that.
“I pointed him (to go),” the Cardinals’ skipper continued. “Jhonny (Peralta) was wanting to hit up there and I don’t think (the fans) were going to stop until (Taveras) came out.”
The Cardinals’ rookie almost didn’t get to have the at bat though as a heavy rainstorm started during the at bat. Matheny could see that a delay was coming.
“I think they were starting to make motions on the other side right before he hit that too,” Matheny said. “The rain was coming. I could see the grounds crew starting to rustle and they almost didn’t let him get that at bat. I am glad it worked out.”
Taveras got to relish that home run a bit longer than most players would though. Just one pitch after his home run, the skies above Busch Stadium opened up and a heavy rainstorm ensued.
“When I hit the home run, everybody joked and said, OK the game is over,” Taveras said. “They said the game is over and we win 1-0.”
Of course, as soon as the game went into delay at 2:21 p.m., the rain suddenly halted just as the grounds crew began to bring out the tarp. The crew stood around dumbfounded, not sure what to do, however, after a minute or two, the heavy rain resumed and the grounds crew quickly put the tarp on the field.
The Cardinals (30-26) should have known rain was coming Saturday when St. Louis started Michael Wacha on the mound. The Cardinals’ starting pitcher entered play with seven games influenced by rain in his first 11 starts. Those numbers are now eight games influenced by rain in 12 starts. Additionally, of those eight games, five games have actually been delayed six times, either prior to the start or during the game.
“I felt good going out there and felt good going back out there after the rain delay as well,” Wacha said. “It is pretty crazy how much it actually rains, but I am pretty used to it and used to the routine, so it wasn’t too bad.”
Saturday’s first delay lasted 47 minutes. The teams were able to finish the bottom of the fifth and play all of the sixth inning before more rain came.
In the top of the seventh, as Wacha made his way back to the mound, more rain came and the game was placed in its second rain delay of the afternoon two pitches into the inning. The second delay was a bit longer than the first, lasting 51 minutes, giving Wacha a total delay of 1 hour and 38 minutes on Saturday. That ran Wacha’s season total to 6 hours and 30 minutes in rain delays on the season.
At this point, Matheny believes Wacha can handle just about whatever is put in his path.
“This guy is going to be as tough as nails, if he is not already,” Matheny said. “With all the different tests he has been thrown through and he just keeps coming back and you can’t put a young pitcher through much more than what he has been put through. … He was very, very impressive. He has done a great job.”
Wacha (4-3) did not return following the second delay. He finished the afternoon allowing three hits over six innings of work. He walked none and struck out seven, but did hit a batter while throwing 94 pitches.
“I felt good,” Wacha said. “It is kind of frustrating, but it’s baseball and you can’t do anything really when it rains. You just got to let it rain and it’s nothing new to me. It’s just something you have to deal with.”
The Giants had just one extra base hit off Wacha, a leadoff double in the second off the bat of Michael Morse. But, Morse was left stranded. San Francisco (36-20) got two hits in the sixth, and put a runner on third, but that was as close as the Giants came to getting a run.
St. Louis added its insurance run in the seventh. Allen Craig singled to open the frame and stole second. Following a pair of strike outs, Jhonny Peralta doubled to left center to drive in Craig.
The Cardinals’ bullpen was perfect, retiring all nine hitters it faced, striking out six of them.
“Once I came out and the bullpen took over, they did an excellent job,” Wacha said. “I think they faced the minimum, nine up and nine down. You don’t see that very often. They did a good job of preserving that win for sure.”
Sam Freeman pitched a scoreless seventh inning, striking out two while Pat Neshek handled the eighth inning duties. Neshek retired all three hitters he faced, striking out one.
Matheny had nothing but praise for Freeman and Neshek.
“What a great job by Sam Freeman and Pat Neshek,” Matheny said. “Stepping in in different kinds of roles and doing the job and doing it well.”
Trevor Rosenthal struck out the side in the ninth as he recorded his 16thsave in 18 chances. Before this one, Rosenthal’s last save came on May 24 against the Reds in Cincinnati.
“Very good right out of the box,” Matheny said of Rosenthal. “His first pitch had a lot of life and it was nice to see.”
Matt Carpenter singled in the fourth to extend his hitting streak to 13 games while Craig’s single in the seventh pushed his streak to seven games. Matt Holliday’s free pass in the eight extended his streak of reach base in games at Busch Stadium to 27 straight.
The Cardinals will try to earn a split when they close out the four-game set Sunday. Lance Lynn (6-2) will face off against Tim Hudson (5-2) with first pitch coming at 1:15 p.m.