The St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates got together for a Labor Day match up Monday afternoon and labor is just what the Cardinals’ pitcher Lance Lynn did. But, as rough a start as the Cardinals’ starting pitcher had, the Redbirds still managed to send the Busch Stadium crowd home happy with a 5-4 win while also taking over sole possession of first place in the National League Central.
“Early on it seamed like everything was just funneling back over the middle of the plate,” Lynn said. “They are a team that if they get a couple of guys on, they do a good job of grinding out at bats and putting pressure on you. They were able to do that early on.”
With the Cardinals trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh, Pete Kozma got a one out single. The Cardinals then sent Kolten Wong to the plate in a pinch-hitting role and the rookie needed just four pitches to tie the game. On a 1-2 count, Wong sent Gerrit Cole’s pitch over the right field wall for a game-tying, two-run home run.
“I think I got a little more excited than I should have been,” Wong said. “I kind of watched it a little too much, but it was kind of surprising that I hit that ball because Gerrit (Cole) is such a good pitcher.”
Cardinals’ skipper Mike Manthey couldn’t have been happier with Wong’s home run.
“He has got sneaky power,” Matheny said. “It is usually when he is not trying to lift and separate when good things happen for him. It was a great at bat and perfect timing.”
Jon Jay followed with a triple down the left field line before Oscar Taveras walked to put runners on the corners for Matt Holliday. The Cardinals’ left fielder, who has been swinging a hot bat lately, did not disappoint. Holliday singled to left, allowing Jay to score the go-ahead run.
“You typically don’t get triples down the leftfield line,” Jay said. “I was just trying to watch and it took a weird hop, so I took a chance (for third).”
It was the third RBI of the game for Holliday and the 12th run batted in over the past three games.
“That is what Matt (Holliday) does,” Jay said of his teammate. “Even early in the year he was hitting balls hard right at people. He has been consistent like that, hitting the ball hard, which is all you can ask of him.”
“We like (Holliday) in those situations,” Matheny said. “That’s what he loves to do too, come up with the big hit and he got it again.”
The Pirates struck first, scoring twice in the first and adding another run in the second to take a 3-0 lead while the Redbirds didn’t get on the board until the bottom of the third.
Lynn led off the inning with a single and moved to second when Taveras walked with one out. Both base runners scored on Holliday’s double to right center.
Lynn threw 105 pitches over just five innings of work and gave up three runs, but none after the second inning. Lynn walked three and allowed eight hits.
“I would have liked to make some better pitches,” Lynn said. “A lot of balls in the middle (early) and I was able to start making better pitches as the game went on.”
His final inning of work, the sixth, was his best. In that frame, the Cardinals’ starter needed just eight pitches to record three outs and retire the side in order.
“I think we saw similar traits to what we saw with John Lackey (Sunday),” Matheny said. “And similar traits that we are seeing with good pitchers all the way through the league. When they don’t have their stuff, they find a way to get through it. … That is what the good guys do. They figure out a way to get it done when they don’t have their stuff.”
Pittsburgh added a run immediately after Lynn was removed from the game. The first batter relief pitcher Kevin Siegrist faced was Andrew McCutchen. The defending National League MVP crushed Siegrist’s fifth offering 454-feet into the leftfield seats to open the top of the seventh.
The Cardinals’ defense also gets credit in the win as it made some spectacular plays.
Jay came up with a brilliant catch to keep the deficit at 2-0 and end the top of the first. Jay’s catch stranded two Pirates on the bases.
“I was able to get a good read on it and it was able to go in my glove,” Jay said. “I thought I got a pretty good jump on it, but (Starling) Marte has some pop and I was able to make a play with it.”
While Jay was glad to make the play, he wasn’t ready to say it was a momentum shifting play.
“Anytime you can save runs, that’s a good thing,” Jay said. “I don’t know about momentum and all that. I was just playing the game.”
In the top of the fourth, Pete Kozma backed up a play at first base in which Andrew Lambo reached via error. Josh Harrison tried to score on the play, but Kozma fired a strike to Yadier Molina who tagged the Pirates’ leadoff hitter out.
“Those were two very big plays,” Matheny said. “Jon (Jay) had a great jump and he gets such good instinctual jumps. He has a nice knack for being able to get to balls that a lot of guys don’t.
“Pete’s (Kozma) was just a heads up baseball play,” the skipper continued. “I was watching him all day. He is always doing the little things and backing up. He was always in the right place, even in a position (second base) that doesn’t come as second nature to him. He has had more time at short, but he was out there at second base and that is a big play.”
In the top of the eighth, Peter Bourjos and Matt Adams also came up with stellar catches that prevented base hits and kept runners from advancing. Bourjos’ catch almost mirrored Jay’s catch from the first inning.
“That sliding catch over next to the dugout,” Matheny said. “That might get overlooked, but you are adding pitches onto Carlos Martinez and he is in a little bit of trouble. Anything could happen at that point. So, we had some big plays.”
The Cardinals and Pirates will resume action in this three-game series tonight when Adam Wainwright (15-9) takes the hill against Pittsburgh’s Jeff Locke (6-3). First pitch is set for 7:15 p.m.
NOTES: Matt Holliday has 12 RBI in his last three games. … Daniel Descalso’s start at third base Monday earned him the honor of becoming the first Cardinal to start at all four infield positions in four consecutive St. Louis games. The last time the feat was accomplished in MLB was by Michael Young in August of 2012. … Andrew McCutchen’s 454-foot home run Monday is tied for the fifth longest at Busch Stadium III and is the second longest by an opposing battier (Paul Goldschmidt’s 456 footer is the longest). … Wong’s pinch hit home run was the first pinch hit home run hit by the Cardinals this season. … Wong extended his hitting streak to seven games with his pinch hit homer. … Jon Jay has hit in five straight games while Descalso has hit in four straight. Holliday and Yadier Molina have each hit in three straight games. ... Matt Carpenter did not start for the first time since June 17, a span of 65 games.