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DENVER — By the time the Cardinals saw the sixth pitch of the game Thursday they already had as many runs in two swings as they had total in the previous 18 innings at Coors Field.

Dexter Fowler hit the first pitch of the game for a home run, and Kolten Wong followed four pitches later with another homer for a quick lead.

Homer early. Hold on late.

The Cardinals set a club record with a home run to lead off the first four innings of the game and skated from Colorado with a 10-3 victory Thursday at Coors Field. After scoring just two runs in the first two games of the series -- both losses -- the Cardinals got five home runs from five different players to gain a lead the bullpen had to hold.

In the late innings, Andrew Miller piloted out of trouble in the seventh and into it in the eighth before Carlos Martinez got the final two outs of the eighth.

The Cardinals added four runs in the top of the ninth to widen the lead and turn the bottom of the inning over to another reliever, John Brebbia. Martinez did not remain in the game to collect the save for working out of the eighth inning with the tying run at the plate.

Martinez struck out both batters he faced.

Matt Carpenter had a two-run double in the ninth inning, Andrew Knizner an RBI single, and a run was balked home. All of that happened before the Rockies got an out in the ninth inning. 

Fowler and Wong became the first Cardinals since Fowler and Tommy Pham to hit back-to-back homers to lead off a game since April 2018. In order, Fowler, Rangel Ravelo, Marcell Ozuna, and Harrison Bader hit home runs to lead off the first, second, third, and fourth innings, respectively. 

Ravelo's homer traveled an estimated 487 feet to become the longest home run hit by a Cardinal in baseball's Statcast era. Bader's homer traveled an estimated 450 feet.

Miles Mikolas allowed three runs on five hits in his five innings of work. Two of the runs he allowed came on solo homers by Nolan Arenado and Josh Fuentes. The homer was Fuentes' first of his big-league career. Both homres were solo homers, and by the time Arenado's 39th of the season landed the seats the Cardinals still led, 5-3.

Fowler reached base in his first four plate appearances, running his streak to eight consecutive plate appearances on base. The run ended with a strikeout in the eighth inning.

The Cardinals got their 82nd win of the season to assure a winning record for the 12th consecutive season.

The win keeps the Cardinals four games up in the National League Central ahead of both the Cubs and Brewers. While the Cardinals wheezed at Coors, the Cubs lost at San Diego to gain no ground on the first-place rivals. The Brewers have won seven consecutive games to catch the Cubs and come to Busch Stadium this weekend with a chance to slash the Cardinals' lead in the division down to one game.

It would take a sweep to do that.


Ravelo, Knizner join lineup

Having done what no visitor to Coors Field -- or Mile High Stadium, for that matter -- has ever done, the Cardinals seek to salvage a series against Colorado with a getaway-day look to the lineup.

Rangel Ravelo, who had the sharp liner that ended Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Rockies, starts at first base.

Rookie Andrew Knizner gets the nod behind the plate.

The break for Paul Goldschmidt could be the last of the season for the Cardinals' everyday first baseman who is jockeying with shortstop Paul DeJong for the team lead in games played. DeJong moves into Goldschmidt's No. 3 spot in the lineup for the afternoon game at Coors Field, and if Goldschmidt does not appear in the game DeJong will tie him with 144 games played this season. 

Knizner starts as Matt Wieters continues to mend a torn calf. The veteran and backup catcher has not been able to move comfortably from a standstill and that limits him on the bases and breaking from the batter's box. He has not had any trouble catching, and hours before the first pitch Wednesday was able to throw to the bases without trouble. It's the concern that breaking from first or sprinting out of the box would cause a more severe injury.

The Cardinals have been held to two runs in two days at Coors, and Goldschmidt has both RBIs. He brought one home on a groundout and the other on a double, one of the few extra-base hits for the Cardinals at a ballpark that invites damage.

The Cardinals are two-for-18 with runners in scoring position.

DeJong called the team "in between" and a bit "passive" against a Rockies team that has downshifted from testing the Cardinals with fastballs to more off-speed pitches. Wentzville Holt product Tim Melville makes the start Thursday afternoon against the Cardinals, and it will be his first appearance vs. the Cardinals since he started at Busch for the Reds in 2016.

Here's the lineup he'll face:

1. Dexter Fowler, RF

2. Kolten Wong, 2B

3. Paul DeJong, SS

4. Marcell Ozuna, LF

5. Matt Carpenter, 3B

6. Rangel Ravelo, 1B

7. Andrew Knizner, C

8. Harrison Bader, CF

9. Miles Mikolas, P

Coors Field is the only active park in the National League where Matt Carpenter has yet to hit a home run.

Check back throughout the morning, afternoon, and early evening here at C-Beat and StlToday.com for coverage of the series finale. The Cardinals return home Friday to start a three-game series against Milwaukee at Busch Stadium. They have two road series remaining in the regular season -- a visit to Wrigley Field next weekend and then a jaunt back west for a three-game series in Arizona before concluding the regular season at home.

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