ST. LOUIS – Pitching for a new team, in a new league, and in the hunt for the postseason, Justin Masterson made his debut for the Cardinals Saturday night and while he was far from masterful, he got the did enough to keep the Cardinals out in front of the slugfest while the Redbirds’ offense put on a show, beating the National League Central leading Milwaukee 9-7 at Busch Stadium.
“The Brewers are a good team,” Masterson said. “They are going to put some runs on and that’s why they are in first right now, but we are battling to get after them.”
“I thought he was kind of as expected,” Cardinals’ skipper Mike Matheny said of his new starting pitcher. “Good when he was in the zone.”
The Cardinals’ offense pushed runs across the plate in several different ways. It blasted two solo home runs, scored four runs with two outs, and used small-ball to score another run. The Cardinals even scored runs before recording an out in multiple innings.
With the Cardinals down 1-0 in the bottom of the first, Kolten Wong hit a one-out home run to center field. The blast was the longest of Wong’s career and traveled an estimated 408-feet.
“It was successful,” Wong said of his night at the plate. “I didn’t strike out once and that was definitely a plus for us. I knew the reason I was striking out as soon as the game finished yesterday. I was swinging way too hard, trying to do way too much and it showed today when I made that adjustment.”
Matheny, who almost choose not to start Wong, was pleased with how Wong performed at the plate.
“That worked out all right for us,” Matheny said. “He had a great night. He has been having a little bit of things he needs to work through, but it is nice to see him bounce back when we talked about that.”
St. Louis (58-51) then took the lead with a home run off the bat of Jhonny Peralta to lead off the bottom of the second.
Following Peralta’s home run, the next two Cardinals’ hitters were quickly retired, but that’s when St. Louis got its rally going. Tony Cruz walked and Masterson singled. A walk to Matt Carpenter then loaded the bases for Wong and the rookie did not disappoint. Wong hit a single that allowed Cruz and Masterson to score. Matt Holliday followed with an RBI single, but thanks to an error, two runs were able to score. In all, the Cardinals sent nine batters to the plate in the second and scored five runs.
“That (hit) worked out to be really great,” Masterson said. “It kept the rally going with two outs and a lot of things happening.”
In the top of the fourth, Milwaukee (61-40) tagged Masterson for three runs. The Cardinals got one back in the bottom of the frame with double, sac-bunt and a sac-fly, but gave it right back in the top of the fifth. St. Louis then scored twice in the bottom of the sixth, taking a 9-5 lead.
“There was a little rust out there in the fourth inning,” Masterson said. “We got out of ourselves there a little bit, but with an intense offense that we tonight and some solid defense, that makes it fun to be out there.”
That was it for Masterson (5-6, 1-0 NL). The Cardinals’ newest starting pitcher threw 90 pitches over six innings of work. He allowed five runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out four.
Masterson did not have one out recorded in the outfield. Of the 18 outs he recorded, 14 came on ground balls, including two double plays. The other four were strikeouts.
“He had some big double play outs, just like we had hoped he would have,” Matheny said. “The runs obviously were not what we were looking for, but overall, we see a guy who has a great chance to be successful for us.”
The Cardinals wouldn’t score again. Milwaukee added two runs in the top of the seventh off relief pitcher Kevin Siegrist to cap the night’s scoring.
All Star reliever Pat Neshek had two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 eighth inning while closer Trevor Rosenthal punched out the final two batters he faced to end the game.
While Rosenthal got his National League leading 33rd save, he wasn’t perfect as Jean Segura doubled on the first pitch of the inning.
“Segura came out and got a good pitch to hit the first pitch and got on base,” Rosenthal said. “Luckily I was able to come back on some counts and get some outs.”
Elian Herrera was then hit by a pitch to put the possibly tying run on base, but Matheny challenged the call. After a 1:51 review, the call was overturned as video replay showed the ball fouled off the nob of the bat.
“It was all kind of fuzzy from our perspective,” Matheny said of the hit by pitch call. “I saw how (Herrera) didn’t react in a way that you typically would when you get hit in the hand. But actually, that was a real quick call from our video room. The video guys did a good terrific job of jumping on that.”
Herrera would eventually move Segura to third on a ground out, but that’s where he stayed as Rosenthal punched out Carlos Gomez and Gerardo Parra swinging to end the game.
The Cardinals banged out 12 hits while drawing four free passes and having one batter hit by a pitch. Every player in the starting lineup reached base safely at least once except Peter Bourjos. St. Louis left eight runners stranded on the bases, five of them in scoring position.
Wong finished the night with three runs batted in and two runs scored. The rookie was 3-for-5 and came up a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
“That is the thing they brought me up for,” Wong said. “To get on base, create some havoc on the base and try to score some runs. That is my main goal.”
“The home run always helps the confidence,” Matheny said. “After that he had some big at bats.”
Oscar Taveras drove in two runs with a bases loaded double. Cruz went 2-for-3 and reached base three times. He extended his hitting streak to four games and scored twice while playing in just his second game since AJ Pierzynski was signed a week ago.
The Cardinals and Brewers will face off today at 1:15 with another new starting pitcher going for the Cardinals, John Lackey. The Brewers are slated to throw Matt Garza.