ST. LOUIS - St. Louis finally found some power in its bats, but the offense came on a day when it was least needed as Adam Wainwright was on the hill. Regardless, the Cardinals blasted a pair of home runs combined with Wainwright’s eight innings of shutout ball on the way to a 7-0 win over the Pirates Sunday afternoon in front of 41,986 fans at Busch Stadium.
“Waino was the same guy we have seen all season,” Cardinals’ skipper Mike Matheny said. “He is an absolute joy to watch. We got him some big hits today and gave him a little room to breathe.”
Wainwright was appreciative of the offense.
“It’s a tricky thing to look at the season and know that you have plenty of season left,” Wainwright said. “There is no time to panic, but walk that line of urgency and panic. You have to be urgent every day and that’s what we have been talking about in here. We want to show up and play every game like it is our last. Today we played against a very good team and we played urgent. We scored some runs and pitched a good game. That is the total game that the Cardinals can play.”
The Cardinals got on the board really quick in the first inning.
Matt Carpenter opened the home half of the first with a double down the right field line. Jon Jay sacrificed Carpenter to third and the Cardinals’ third baseman then scored on a sacrifice fly from Matt Holliday to give the Redbirds an early 1-0 lead.
As the game went on, the Cardinals continued to add more hits and more runs.
Following two days of scoring just one run against the Pirates, Jhonny Peralta was a big part of the Cardinals’ offense explosion.
“It was good to have a good offense today,” Peralta said. “I think after one day aside, you never know after that what will be coming. I know it’s not easy right now, but we are trying to focus on the field and try to win the games.”
Already leading 1-0, St. Louis doubled its lead in the bottom of the fifth when Jhonny Peralta hit his fifth home run of the season. The blast tied a Cardinals’ record with Edgar Renteria for most home runs in the month of April. Peralta’s homer went into the third deck and came on a 1-1 count. Peralta’s homer traveled an estimated 427 feet.
“I hit a ball before pretty good,” Peralta said. “But today I feel pretty good and I hit the ball pretty good. … I feel pretty good at home plate.”
The homer was also the Redbirds’ first in 366 at bats (10 full games and then some), dating back to the final game of the Milwaukee series on April 16. It was also Peralta’s first home run at Busch Stadium this year.
Matheny joked during his post game press conference that he gave Peralta the green-light to swing for the fences today.
“We took a different philosophy,” Matheny said. “We told Jhonny he can try for home runs today.”
Peralta said he doesn’t swing for the fences, but they just come.
“My approach today was to hit the ball to the middle of the field,” Peralta said. “I tried to make good contact with the ball. I don’t try to hit home runs, but the home runs come by themselves.”
The home run was only the second Pirates’ starting pitcher Edinson Volquez (1-2) had allowed this season.
St. Louis (14-12) added another run in the sixth, with the help of replay. With one out, Holliday singled and moved to second on Matt Adams’ single. Holliday went to third when Yadier Molina reached on a fielder’s choice with Adams being out at second. Pittsburgh challenged that Molina was out on what would have been an inning-ending double play. However, after a 2:57 delay, the call stood and Molina was safe.
“I didn’t see the replay on how (Molina’s) reaction was,” Matheny said. “It didn’t look right to any of us. So, what a huge play that is. That is a huge swing. But, from his initial reaction, and from (first base coach James) Maloney too, it seemed like that was going to be to call.”
The next batter was Allen Craig and the Cardinals’ right fielder dropped a bloop single into right field that enabled Holliday to score, giving the Cardinals a 3-0 lead. Peralta then doubled the score for the second time when he launched his second home run of the game, a three-run blast into the Pirates' bullpen over the left field fence.
The homer by Peralta traveled 396 feet. It was the eighth career multi-homer game of Peralta’s career and the first since July 29, 2012, at Toronto.
Peralta’s second blast sent Volquez to the showers. The Pirates’ hurler was charged with six runs over his 5.2 innings of work. The Cardinals collected seven hits and one walk off Volquez and struck out just twice.
St. Louis added one more run in the eighth. Matt Adams tripled and scored on Yadier Molina’s sacrifice fly.
Peralta drove in four runs and reached base in all three at bats. Aside from his two home runs, he also walked once. Carpenter had a pair of hits and scored once. Also collecting RBIs were Holliday, who now has a team-leading 14, Molina (12 on the year) and Craig (six on the season).
“That’s the first time that situation that (Craig) has done so well in,” Matheny said. “He kind of hit it off his back there. … He has got as many hard outs as anybody I have seen and he continues to get better.”
Pittsburgh (10-16) got two runners on in each of the third and sixth innings, but Wainwright stranded them on the bases.
“I was having fun kind of tinkering with speeds out there,” Wainwright said. “I changed speeds on my curveball throughout the game and my cutter too. I threw a couple of slow ones to see the reactions. The best way to know if things are going to work is to throw them at game speed and luckily things were working.”
Wainwright (5-1), earned his league-leading fifth win of the year while throwing 99 pitches over eight innings of work. He allowed three hits and walked two while hitting one batter. The Cardinals’ ace also struck out seven. Wainwright has now thrown 25 consecutive scoreless innings dating back to April 12.
“I would like to say so,” Wainwright said when asked if his performance in April has been the best start of his career. “I am getting results, obviously. But, I am really having more fun right now than I have ever had. It is such a chess match with me right now and I feel I am right where I need to be so I am going to work extra hard to stay there and not get complacent about it.”
Matheny’s decision to replace Wainwright with reliever Carlos Martinez for the ninth did not sit well with the starter.
(He lobbied to go back out), but it didn’t go well,” Matheny said. “It didn’t go well at all, but he gets it, especially for a guy who we are still keeping an eye on that knee. Obviously it didn’t keep him from doing what he needed to do today, but his pitch count was right where he needed to be and we have got guys who can throw down in the pen.”
“I didn’t throw a fit about it or anything,” Wainwright said. “But, I made him work to shake my hand.”
Martinez had no problems maintaining the Cardinals’ sixth shutout of the season. Martinez struck out the Pirates No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 hitters on 15 pitches.