It wasn’t pretty, but the Cardinals gritted through a near four-hour game on Sunday, snapping their four-game losing streak and avoiding a sweep from the National League Central rival Chicago Cubs with an 8-4 win.
Randy Choate (2-1, 2.45 ERA) gets the win after getting a much needed out in the sixth inning to stop the bleeding, after the bullpen allowed the Cubs to score two runs in the inning to tie the game at 4-4. In the bottom half of the inning, a Pete Kozma RBI single would give the Cardinals the lead for good, while insurance runs in the seventh and eighth innings would give the bullpen some breathing room.
"We’ll take wins any time we can get them, any way we can get them," manager Mike Matheny said. "It definitely helps. It would have been another rough one today, especially having a two-run lead (in the sixth) and watching it go away."
Joe Kelly started the game for the Cardinals, and had yet another solid outing. He lasted 5.1 innings, giving up four runs (3 ER) on five hits, walking two and striking out three. He had left the game in the sixth inning with only 1 ER to his credit and runners on first and second, but Seth Maness gave up two singles that would score both runs, adding to Kelly’s total.
The Cardinals exploded for 13 hits and eight runs during a home stretch in which their offense has struggled. Matt Holliday, David Freese, and Jon Jay got the scoring started in the first inning, when they each contributed RBIs to give the Cardinals an early 3-0 lead.
Freese would add his second RBI in the fourth inning on a bases loaded groundout, and Jay would also add his second in the seventh on a sacrifice fly. Doubles from Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig in the eighth inning would add two more runs, and give each batters three hits on the day.
Edward Mujica got his 31st save of the season by shutting down the Cubs in the eighth and ninth innings, getting his first save since July 25. It’s the first two inning save for the Cardinals since 2011.
"It’s fun to have a save like that," Mujica said.
Carlos Beltran left the game in the sixth inning after fouling a ball off his right foot in the bottom half of the fifth. He finished out the at-bat at the time (striking out) in obvious pain. X-rays were negative, and his injury has been diagnosed as a right-foot contusion. He is day-to-day.
The Cardinals will have the day off on Monday, and will welcome the NL Central leading Pittsburgh Pirates for a three game series on Tuesday.
"These guys, they’re tired," Matheny said. "No question about it. They deserve a half-day today, and a full day tomorrow. We’re locking the clubhouse doors just in case anybody has a stupid idea. But overall, I know that they are pushing. They’re looking forward to this stretch, a stretch of us playing real good baseball. Much, much better baseball than what we’ve been doing lately.
"They know that’s in us, and I think everybody else knows it’s in us too."
Jay RBI gives Cards 6-4 lead in seventh
The way the bullpen pitched in the sixth inning, as well as last night, insurance runs are at a premium.
With one out in the seventh, Allen Craig and Matt Holliday both singled. David Freese then walked to load the bases for Jon Jay, who drove a sacrifice fly to right field to score Craig from third base to make it a 6-4 game.
Closer Edward Mujica is now in to pitch the eighth inning.
Kozma RBI gives Cards 5-4 lead in sixth
A clutch at-bat from Pete Kozma has bailed out the bullpen to put the Cardinals back on top.
With Tony Cruz on second base after a two out double, the Cardinals shortstop drilled a single up the middle, driving in Cruz and advancing to second base on the throw. It was Kozma’s second RBI in the month of August, a huge one that has given the Cardinals a 5-4 lead.
The Cardinals had an opportunity to score more runs, after Cubs third baseman Donnie Murphy extended the inning with an error, but Matt Carpenter popped out to center field with runners on the corners to end the inning.
Kevin Siegrist now comes in to pitch the seventh.
Bullpen coughs up the lead, tied 4-4 in the sixth
The Cubs have once again tied it off of the Cardinals bullpen.
Joe Kelly started the sixth inning by giving up a single to catcher Welington Castillo. After striking out Nate Schierholtz, Kelly gave up another single to Donnie Murphy, prompting manager Mike Matheny to dip into his bullpen for the pitcher who leads the National League with 13 double-plays.
It would be the rookie's fourth straight game appearing from the bullpen, but this time, he wouldn’t have as much luck.
The first batter Maness faced was Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, who fought off a tough inside pitch and flared it to right field for a single to drive in Castillo. Then, with runners still on first and second, Darwin Barney continued his late game heroics, driving a single up the middle to tie the score at 4-4 for the second consecutive game.
The runs weren’t charged to Maness, who was able to get one more out before Randy Choate came in for relief to end the inning.
The final line for Kelly stands at 5.1 innings, four runs (3 ER) on five hits, walking two and striking out three.
It was also announced why Carlos Beltran left the game in the sixth inning. It was due to a right foot contusion after following a ball off his foot in the bottom of the fifth. X-rays were negative, and he is day-to-day.
It’s 4-4 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Beltran leaves game in sixth, Cards still lead 4-2
Carlos Beltran has left the game after fouling a ball off his leg in the fifth inning.
The Cardinals outfielder finished his at-bat, but was taken out of the game at the end of the inning. Allen Craig moves from first base to right field, while Matt Adams takes over at first base.
On the mound, Joe Kelly has pitched very well. Through five innings, he’s only given up two runs (1 ER) on three hits, walking two and striking out two. He’s thrown 86 pitches, so the bullpen should see some action in the next couple of innings.
Hopefully, there is no repeat from last night’s meltdown.
Cards lead 4-2.
Barney RBI, Cubs cut lead to 4-2 in fourth
You never walk the leadoff hitter.
The Cubs are clawing back into the game, benefitting from Joe Kelly’s breaking of a Cardinal baseball rule.
Catcher Welington Castillo walked to start the fourth inning. Two outs later, he found himself on third base after a single from Starlin Castro. Darwin Barney then hit an infield single to drive in Castillo, making it a 4-2 ballgame heading into the bottom of the fourth.
Freese's second RBI in the third gives Cards 4-1 lead
After Matt Holliday’s error in the third inning gave the Cubs a freebie run, David Freese added one more in the bottom half to once again give the Cardinals a three run lead.
Matt Carpenter started off the inning with a double, and quickly moved to third on a passed ball. Following an out to Carlos Beltran, and walks from Allen Craig and Matt Holliday, Freese was in another bases loaded, RBI situation.
He lined a ground ball down the third base line, where Cubs third baseman Donnie Murphy made a terrific diving stop to not only get to the ball, but was able to throw Freese out.
One run scored on the play, giving the Cardinals a 4-1 lead.
Cubs starter Edwin Jackson has struggled. Through three innings, he’s given up four runs on four hits, walking three and striking out one.
Holliday error, Cubs cut Cards lead to 3-1 in third
It’s a beautiful day at Busch Stadium.
There’s a slight breeze, not a cloud in the sky, but unfortunately for Matt Holliday, that’s why the Cubs have cut the Cardinals lead to 3-1.
With two outs in the third inning, Joe Kelly walked Cubs leadoff hitter David Dejesus. Kelly would then induce Junior Lake to hit a routine pop fly to left field, but Holliday lost the ball in the sun, allowing Dejesus to easily score from first base. The run is unearned for Kelly, who has only given up one hit through three innings.
More to come from sunny Busch.
Cards score three in first, lead 3-0
The bats have jumped on former Cardinals pitcher Edwin Jackson in the first inning, giving the birds a 3-0 lead over the Cubs.
With one out, Carlos Beltran singled to center field and was quickly joined on the base paths by Allen Craig’s walk. Matt Holliday then singled to right field, driving in the first run of the game and giving David Freese runners on the corners with one out.
Freese delivered, hitting a sacrifice fly to center field to score one more run and push the Cardinals lead to 2-0.
But the scoring wasn’t done.
Matt Holliday stole his sixth base of the season during Jon Jay’s at-bat, setting up a single to center field that scored Holliday to make it a 3-0 game.
In two starts this season against the Cardinals, Jackson has perfectly illustrated his inconsistent self. In June against the Cardinals, he gave up four runs on six hits in a loss, but dominated the birds last month at Wrigley by going seven innings of three hit ball.
So far, it’s pretty clear which Jackson showed up today at Busch— the one that the Cardinals like.
Kelly, Cards try to avoid first Cubs sweep since 2010
With four runs of support and a two run lead in the top of the eighth inning, the Cardinals bullpen coughed up the game after Trevor Rosenthal and Michael Blazek gave up four runs combined.
But as manager Mike Matheny said before today's game, the Cardinals were simply one strike away from avoiding the nightmare inning.
"We were one pitch away, one strike away from getting out of that situation," Matheny said. "Many times this year, the same thing. Traffic out there, sticking with the game plan, sticking with strength, sticking with (Rosenthal's) gut feel, and it’s worked out.
"You can’t just throw all that away and say, ‘Now I’ve got to do something completely different.’”
This afternoon, the Cardinals will look to avoid their first sweep by the Cubs since September 2010, when they toss their long-reliever turned starter Joe Kelly onto the hill.
Kelly (3-3, 2.98 ERA) has been a very pleasant surprise for the Cardinals since taking over the fifth spot in the rotation last month. He has the last win for the Cardinals, when the birds snapped the Dodgers 15-game road winning streak on Tuesday with a 5-1 win. He lasted 5.1 innings against the hot hitting Los Angeles lineup, giving up one run on six hits, walking two with one strikeout. In his last four starts (23.0 innings), Kelly has only given up two ER.
"He’s been terrific. It hasn’t been an easy role for him," Matheny said. "He’s handled whatever we’ve given him. He’s been a huge lift."
On the hill for the Cubs will be former Cardinals pitcher Edwin Jackson.
Jackson (7-12, 4.96 ERA) has had two starts against the Cardinals this season— two perfect examples of his inconsistent career. On June 19 at Busch, he gave up four runs on six hits through 5.1 innings in a loss, but last month, held the Cardinals scoreless at Wrigley, lasting 7.0 innings and only giving up three hits.
In other news, Matheny announced the starting pitchers for the upcoming series against the National League Central leading Pittsburgh Pirates.
Adam Wainwright will get the nod on Tuesday, Shelby Miller will make his return to the mound on Wednesday following the 100 MPH line drive that hit his pitching elbow last week, and Lance Lynn will close out the series on Thursday.
Here are the lineups for today’s game…
- Carpenter, 2B
- Beltran, RF
- Craig, 1B
- Holliday, LF
- Freese, 3B
- Jay, CF
- Cruz, C
- Kozma, SS
- Kelly, P
- Dejesus, CF
- Lake, LF
- Rizzo, 1B
- Castillo, C
- Schierholtz, RF
- Murphy, 3B
- Castro, SS
- Barney, 2B
- Jackson, P