Cardinals manager Mike Matheny preaches that every game is as important as every other game, no matter the time, place or opponent. But he was singing a little different tune after his team pulled out a stirring 7-6, come-from-behind victory at Milwaukee on Friday night.
"Someone asked me if I had a favorite win this year. Nothing even close to this," Matheny said. "The heart the guys showed, being able to keep coming and coming, the intensity, the grit and the fight. Really impressive. I could not be any more proud."
More than impressive, this one bordered on unbelievable considering how their season has gone. Consider:
The Cardinals rallied from a 6-0 deficit for the first time since 2007, and did so a day after an ugly 8-1 loss hours after they learned that their most important position player, Yadier Molina, would be out for at least eight weeks.
After not hitting more than two homers in a game this season, they slugged four, including a ninth-inning, two-out tie-breaker by Matt Holliday off Brewers All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez. Matt Adams started the power show with a two-run blast in the fourth that traveled an estimated 443 feet — the team’s longest this season. In the sixth, Kolten Wong hit his fourth in six games since coming off the disabled list, and three batters later, team leader Jhonny Peralta added a two-run shot.
It was the third time this week the Cardinals, last in the NL in homers, won a game on a ninth-inning home run.
The victory pulled the Cardinals within one game of the slumping Brewers at the top of the NL Central, the closest they have been since April 17. St. Louis will send ace Adam Wainwright to the mound Saturday afternoon with a chance to push the Cardinals into a tie for first place.
Even when the Cardinals fell behind big early, Matheny felt something special could be coming.
"I sensed an edge to our club," he said in remarks televised on the FOX Sports Midwest postgame show. "Man, that was fun to watch."
— Cardinals bullpen. Six scoreless innings by four relievers gave the offense a chance to rally. Rookie lefty Nick Greenwood slowed the Brewers’ momentum with two scoreless innings, Seth Maness followed by getting five outs and All-Star Pat Neshek came in and got the next four. Trevor Rosenthal allowed a leadoff single but then retired the next three Brewers to earn his 28th save, tying Craig Kimbrel for the NL lead.
— Peralta. The way he’s hitting, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll break Edgar Renteria’s club single-season record for homers by a shortstop — by August. Peralta blasted his 14th as a Cardinal to come within two of Renteria’s total in 2000. Peralta also had two singles and made a nice play in the hole to take away a hit.
— Holliday. Holliday was hitting .268 on this date last year but heading for the disabled list with a hamstring injury. After doubling twice in his first four plate appearances Friday, Holliday was hitting .268 but healthy. When he came off the DL last year, Holliday went on a tear to finish the season at .300. He has shown signs this week that another hot second half could be coming. He has reached base 10 times in 19 plate appearances this week with three doubles, five runs and his sixth — and biggest — homer of the season.
— Joe Kelly. At least he looked healthy. The results, however, could not have been much more ugly in his first start since tearing up his hamstring in Milwaukee three months ago. Kelly threw 45 pitches before he got his first out in the second inning. After two innings, he had allowed six runs and six hits, including three for extra bases. He was able to rebound with a scoreless third that included two strikeouts before exiting after 78 pitches. His fastball touched 96 mph, but his command was lacking and his curveball was not effective.
— Kelly in Milwaukee. He’s made four starts at Miller Park and lost all of them. While this was his worst start anywhere, Kelly had a rough outing last September in Milwaukee when he gave up six runs in seven innings. Three of those runs, however, were unearned. Kelly’s 5.31 ERA in Milwaukee, which includes two relief appearances, is his highest of any park in the NL Central by two runs.
— Pace of game. The three-hour, 53-minute affair was two minutes shy of matching the Cardinals’ longest nine-inning game of the season. Eleven pitchers were used and the two teams combined for 23 hits and six walks. Based on the outcome, it probably seemed a lot longer to the Brewers than the Cardinals.