ST. LOUIS — Cardinals manager Mike Matheny found a way to fire up his team Friday night. He got fired up himself. Way fired up.
Matheny was about as outwardly angry as he has been in his three years as Cardinals manager when he was ejected in the fourth inning by home plate umpire Sean Barber. Matheny had gone out to defend Peter Bourjos, who had been given a quick boot by Barber for voicing his disagreement — fairly reasonably, it appeared from the press box — after striking out for the second time.
In the very next inning, the Cardinals scored three runs on four straight one-out hits to break a 2-2 tie and went on to beat the Atlanta Braves 5-2. The win was the Cardinals’ third straight, only the second time this season they have won more than two in a row.
"He was fighting for one of our players, fighting for our team. When you see him fighting like that, you want to fight for him, too," said rookie Kolten Wong, who had two hits in his first game back after a 19-day stint in the minors. "You want to show him that what he did was for a purpose. It was good that we got a W for him."
The Cardinals also got seven strong innings from Lance Lynn and a 13-hit attack from the lineup, which happened to be the same one they used on Opening Day.
"Tonight was really good. Everybody had that good feeling going that something good was going to happen," said Allen Craig, who swung the bat like it was 2013.
Matheny downplayed how his ire impacted the game but wasn’t disappointed to see his center fielder wear his emotions.
"I love to see the fire and the fight that Peter showed there," Matheny said. "Frustrated knew that a couple of pitches didn’t get called in big situations. You can’t take the emotion out of these guys."
It’s not so bad when the manager shows his fire sometimes, too.
— Allen Craig. He hit the ball hard three times and, for a change, had three hits to show for his efforts. The hits were all singles, but two were line drives to the outfield and one came with runners in scoring position to drive in a run in the Cardinals’ three-run fifth. Craig, who also scored the Cardinals’ first two runs, finished 3 for 4 to lift his batting average to a season-best .231.
— Wong. Back in the lineup for the first time in three weeks after a stint in Memphis (where it was his bobblehead night), the rookie second baseman wasted no time making a contribution. Batting in the two-hole, he singled twice, scored, stole his team-leading fourth base and made a nifty play in the field. His hardest-hit ball came in his first at-bat when he smoked a line drive to the left-center gap, but it was chased down by left fielder Justin Upton.
With the Cardinals scheduled to face right-handers for at least the next three games, look for Wong to stay in the second spot in the batting order.
— Jason Motte. His rehab just about complete, Motte could be activated from the disabled list as soon as Sunday. He was in St. Louis on Friday for a charity appearance and went to Busch Stadium to play catch and have his surgically repaired right elbow checked out.
After passing his latest test — a two-inning outing — on Thursday, Motte has checked off just about all the boxes on his comeback trail. He has said all along that he did not want to return with any limitations on how often he is used. I asked him if he had reached such a point and he said, if he hasn’t, he’s very, very close.
— Opposing base stealers. Yadier Molina showed — yet again — why it’s usually not wise to run on him. After Jason Heyward led off the game with a single, he tried to steal second but was nailed by Molina on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play with Upton batting. The play at second wasn’t even close, either.
Molina now has thrown out six consecutive would-be base stealers, unofficially the longest such streak of his career. For the season, he has caught nine of 18.
— Home-run drought. The Cardinals did nothing to change their standing as the NL team with the fewest homers (23) as they went homer-less for a sixth straight game and the 26th time this season. Of course, when they pound out 13 hits — including three doubles, two by Matt Adams — the long ball isn’t quite as important.
— Joey Butler. Called up a week ago to provide power off the bench, Butler struck out in a pinch-hit appearance to remain hitless after five at-bats. He reached base once, on a walk, in the Cardinals’ 17-5 loss to the Cubs on Monday night.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.