ST. LOUIS — There’s a reason the Cardinals’ 5-4 victory over the Reds on Tuesday night felt like their 6-5 victory Monday night. That’s because it was quite similar — and for several reasons, actually.
Start with the obvious. The Cardinals walked off with a win for the second night in a row. Both times, Matt Holliday started the winning rally and both times Matt Adams singled to move him from first to third.
This time, however, the winning run scored when Jon Jay was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Though Jhonny Peralta delivered the winner with a single Monday, the Cardinals had won on a walk-off HBP earlier this season. That was when Greg Garcia was hit by the Cubs on May 13, and then was sent back to the minors immediately after the game. Coincidentally, Garcia was back at Busch Stadium on Tuesday for the first time since May 13 after being called up when Mark Ellis went on the disabled list.
For the second night in a row, Daniel Descalso delivered a pinch-hit double that scored the tying run late in the game. For the second night in a row, Jay scored that run after reaching base with one out. This time, though, Descalso came through with two out in the eighth.
For the second night in a row, A.J. Pierzynski also came through with a key hit. Called on to pinch-hit with two outs in the eighth, he singled to move Jay into scoring position for Descalso.
For the second night in a row, the Cardinals had to come from behind after taking an early lead. This time, they trailed 4-1 before scoring two in the bottom of the sixth and tying the game in the eighth.
As thrilled as the Cardinals should be to win another tight game, the Reds have to be demoralized by now. They suffered their fourth straight loss, and in each game they led following the sixth inning. In both games in St. Louis, the Reds led 4-3 going into the seventh.
A season full of playing close games has started to benefit the Cardinals. They have won six of their past seven games, and only one of the victories was decided by more than one run. It was by two runs.
"That absolutely gives you that confidence to just keep your nose down and keep playing," manager Mike Matheny said. "It toughens a team up. It doesn’t make things easier for you because it beats you up, but that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to win games, and guys are figuring out ways to get it done."
Sometimes, those ways can be pretty similar.
3 UP — Here’s Jon/John/Jhonny version
— John Lackey. He made his fourth start for St. Louis a good one, and with better defense it would have been even better. Lackey did not allow a Red to reach in the first three innings, striking out five and needing just 32 pitches. He made his only real mistake in the fourth when he hung a curve that Todd Frazier deposited 424 feet over the center-field fence for a two-run homer. Lackey allowed two unearned runs in the sixth but still finished with his third quality start in four outings for the Cardinals.
Almost as impressively, he contributed two singles and tallied the game’s first run when he scored from second on a Holliday single. "Not bad for a 35-year-old," Lackey said. "I can still run all right."
— Jhonny Peralta. As soon as he connected with a splitter from Alfredo Simon that stayed up, you knew the Cardinals had a new single-season home-run leader for shortstops. The 438-foot no-doubter landed in Big Mac Land, giving Peralta his team-leading 17th homer and breaking a tie with Edgar Renteria for the season record.
— Jon Jay. With two more hits, he extended his hitting streak to 11 games and continued to challenge Matt Adams for the team batting lead. Jay has upped his batting average to a season-best .307, four points behind Adams, who went 1-for-4 to stay at .311.
— Defense. Errors by Holliday and Matt Carpenter resulted in the Reds scoring two unearned runs in the sixth inning. Holliday went a long way on a fly down the left-field line to get to the ball, but then it bounced out of his glove for a two-base error. Carpenter was able to knock down a hard grounder to third but could not convert it into an out. The next batter, Ryan Ludwick, lined a two-run double on the first pitch to give the Reds a 4-1 lead. It was the second time this season the Cardinals made two errors in an inning against the Reds.
— Backup first basemen. With Ellis (oblique) landing on the disabled list, Adams isn’t likely to get a day off anytime soon. The options are limited to play first since Allen Craig was traded. If the need arises, Descalso would be the first one called on, Matheny indicated before the game. He also mentioned Tony Cruz as well as Carpenter, though previously the manager said he sees no need to mess with third base.
— Booing Brandon Phillips. Enough, already. It’s been more than four years since his antics led to a benches-clearing brawl in Cincinnati. Those who keep booing Phillips every time he steps into the batter’s box at Busch Stadium are giving him more credibility than he warrants. He’s not that important to the Cardinals. Besides, if he were on your side, you know he would be one of your favorites.