Now that could have been an ugly flight home for the Cardinals.
But instead of suffering what would have been their worst loss of the season, they hung on for a 6-5 victory over the Pirates on Sunday night in Pittsburgh and were able to enjoy their trip back to St. Louis.
And this time, they get to stay home for a while.
After playing 26 of their first 38 games on the road, the Cardinals get 19 of their next 22 at Busch Stadium. They will play host to the Cubs, Braves and Diamonbacks on a 10-game home stand that begins Monday. Following a weekend in Cincinnati, they will return on Memorial Day and see the Yankees, Giants and Royals in a nine-game home stand.
While the just-completed 4-5 trip was disappointing, considering their schedule and inconsistent offense, the Cardinals should not feel too bad about their 19-19 record. They should feel a lot better, too, after getting to spend all but three of the next 22 games at home.
— Jhonny Peralta. He comes back to Busch Stadium not looking anything like the guy who was hitting .196 when the Cardinals left. Peralta had at least one hit in every game on the trip and led the club with 13 hits (in 35 at-bats) while raising his batting average to .242. He also hit half of the Cardinals’ four homers and equaled Matt Carpenter with a team-leading six runs on the trip.
— Allen Craig. Returning him to the cleanup spot paid immediate dividends. With two on and one out in the first inning, Craig lined a full-count fastball up the middle for a single that gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead that would grow to 4-0 by the end of the inning. Craig added a single in the fifth and finished the Pittsburgh series 5 for 11 after starting the road trip 2 for 20.
— Seth Maness. The patience the club has shown with the second-year sinkerballer could be paying off. After going more than a week without an appearance, he pitched four times on the trip and did not allow a run in any of the outings. He got two outs Sunday night after working an inning Saturday during which he induced only his second double-play grounder of the season.
— Shelby Miller. Considering how he was dressed down by Yadier Molina one inning and Mike Matheny in another, you would not have guessed that Miller was on his way to his fifth win. But it was that kind of night, mainly because his command was lacking again. Milller walked four and needed 100 pitches to get through 5 1/3 innings, when he was pulled with a 4-2 lead.
— Miller’s rotation security. Not many starters who win 15 games with a 3.06 ERA as a rookie have to be concerned about keeping their place in the rotation. But not many rotations have the depth of the Cardinals. With Jaime Garcia on the mend and Joe Kelly coming back at some point, coupled with how well Tyler Lyons has pitched, Miller needs to straighten out his delivery or he could find himself the odd man out in the coming weeks.
— The young guns. Given a two-run lead to protect, closer Trevor Rosenthal earned his 10th save in 10 chances — but just barely. He allowed the first four Pirates he faced to reach, which cut the Cardinals’ lead to 6-5, but then escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam with a strikeout and game-ending 1-2-3 double play. Rosenthal had not pitched since Monday so he could have been rusty. Second-year setup men Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez couldn’t say the same and also gave up runs, allowing the Pirates to stay close. After a rare night when all three were scored on, their combined ERA is up to 4.38.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.