SAN FRANCISCO — For the fourth consecutive game, a Cardinals starter was unable to record an out in the sixth inning. But for the third game in succession, the Cardinals’ bullpen slammed the door.
And something that hadn’t happened in three weeks occurred when the Cardinals, guilty of not adding on when they did do early damage in a game, scored in five different innings. The result was a third consecutive victory, a 9-4 win over the San Francisco Giants Friday night at Oracle Park.
There was input from every part of the lineup as all eight position player starters hit safely, six of them scored and six drove in at least one run. But none was more a contributor than their 33-year-old center fielder. For Dexter Fowler, it was Throwback Night.
Fowler had three hits, including his 10th homer and a triple, scored three runs, drove in two and made a sterling, lunging catch in deep center and another good play. He also ran the bases brilliantly, knowing when to push and when not to.
“I told the umpire, ‘Hey, man, I’ve still got it,” cracked Fowler after he robbed Mike Yastrzemski of a triple in the third inning. Fowler, who has played mostly right field this year, thought his defense was his favorite accomplishment of the night.
“Any time you can make plays that help the guy on the mound is definitely a plus,” said Fowler.
In this case, it was Dakota Hudson, who after a wobbly start, made it through five for his seventh win before Giovanny Gallegos tossed two perfect innings. Dominic Leone had one perfect frame before surrendering a run in the ninth.
In the last week or so, including when the designated hitter came into play and hot-hitting Jose Martinez filled that role, Fowler is back to playing nearly every day. He wasn't for a while as manager Mike Shildt sought to get some defensive mileage, and hopefully some offensive punch, from Harrison Bader. The latter hasn’t happened.
“You get some more playing time and you get some time to get some rhythm,” said Fowler, who has been on base nine times in the past four games, including homering in back-to-back games.
“(Martinez) deserves to be in there,” said Fowler. “We’ve got four outfielders trying to get some playing time. It’s up to the guy in there (Shildt).
“I’ve been accustomed to playing every day, so it’s a mindset I’ve always had, even from the minor leagues.”
Fowler said he could play center field the rest of the season, if asked. “It keeps me more engaged,” he said. “In right field, you’re out of the action.”
Shildt liked everything he saw from Fowler. “Dexter had a really good overall game,” Shildt said.
The Cardinals, who seem to do most of their damage in the final three innings, flipped the script against San Francisco lefthander Drew Pomeranz and his 6.25 earned run average.
One out into the game, Martinez cracked his eighth homer, a 433-foot bomb to left field. But, after a single by Paul DeJong, Paul Goldschmidt outdistanced Martinez.
Belting a 92 mph fastball, just as Martinez had, Goldschmidt, seven for 13 against Pomeranz, walloped a 449-foot drive to left center for his first homer since June 19.
The Cardinals had a 3-0 lead and their most runs in the first inning since they got four at Chicago on June 8. Former Arizona star Goldschmidt’s homer was his 100th against teams from the National League Western Division, most by an active player. It also marked the first time the Cardinals’ first baseman had had extra-base hits in three consecutive games this season and represented his first runs batted in since June 20.
Goldschmidt’s homer was his 12th, most by a visiting player at this facility which has changed names a couple of times. He also has reached base at least once in his past 16 games here in which he is hitting .383.
“I was definitely taking a few more better swings today,” said Goldschmidt, who also lined out in his final at-bat. “If you hit the ball had and take good swings, the results will come. Even the walks are good.”
But Hudson didn’t exactly lock it down, walking in a run in a two-run Giants first and throwing 37 pitches in the inning. “It just seemed the ball was going all over the place,” Shildt said.
Hudson then allowed a first-pitch homer to Alex Dickerson in the third as the Giants tied the game. San Francisco would have only one hit after the third until the Giants had one in the ninth.
Tommy Edman, who, Shildt jokingly called “our little silent assassin,” before the game, struck again in the fourth. Edman, who has six extra-base hits among 13 hits since being brought up from Memphis, tripled over the right fielder Dickerson to score Kolten Wong, who had doubled for one of his three hits, to put the Cardinals ahead to stay 4-3. It was Edman’s third game-winning RBI in three games.
The Cardinals tacked on two runs against reliever Trevor Gott in the fifth, featuring an 11-pitch leadoff walk to Goldschmidt and singles by Fowler and Matt Wieters, who drove in a run with his hit.
Then, veteran third baseman Evan Longoria made a bad play when Wong hit a skimmer to him with men at first and third. Fowler, wisely did not try to go home, because Longoria would have thrown to the plate. When Fowler hesitated, Longoria took a chance on a round-the-horn double play which Wong beat out easily at the back end and it was 6-3 as Fowler trotted in.
“You don’t want to run into an out right there,” said Fowler. “At least give (Longoria) a little bit of hesitation.”
“Savvy play by Dex,” Shildt said.
Fowler contributed again in a two-run seventh. His triple to deep right centerdrove in Tyler O’Neill, who had singled, and Fowler came home on a single by Wong. Fowler’s triple was the Cardinals’ ninth of the season, matching their total for all last season.
The Cardinals’ victory evened the teams’ career all-time record at 347-347 since the Giants moved to San Francisco 61 years ago. And it kept them 1 ½ games out of first place in the National League Central Division, despite the roller-coaster ride their season has taken.