Miller deals, offense wakes up to give Cardinals a much-needed Happy Flight home

The Cardinals head back to St. Louis after an eventful 3-3 road trip. 

Jake Roth/Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe Thursday morning’s trade shook up the Cardinals. Maybe it was hitting in the San Diego sunshine rather than the heavy marine layer that moves in after dark. Maybe they were embarrassed by their performance Wednesday night.

Whatever the reason, the Cardinals played like a different team Thursday afternoon in a 6-1 victory over the Padres. The victory averted a sweep in San Diego and lifted their spirits on a day they lost two longtime teammates when Allen Craig and Joe Kelly were traded to the Red Sox for John Lackey.

"These days prove the toughness we’ve talked about these guys developing through this season," manager Mike Matheny said on FOX Sports Midwest’s postgame show. "There’s been different kinds of adversity with injuries and struggles. This is a different kind but when it gets down to it, they put things aside and get the job done. We needed this win."

Starter Shelby Miller set the tone. Throwing strikes and looking crisp, Miller worked six efficient innings for his first win since June 6. Miller gave up two homers in the second inning but allowed only one other hit and did not walk anyone. It was Miller’s second straight start without a walk — and his second straight working with A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate.

The offense did its share, too, after being limited to just one run in each of the past three games. Everyone in the lineup reached base at least once and they came through with three hits in five at-bats with runners in scoring position.

St. Louis returns home Friday to begin a three-game series against the first-place Brewers with Adam Wainwright, newcomer Justin Masterson and Lance Lynn scheduled to start.

3 UP

— Picking up your teammate. The Cardinals had the bases loaded for Oscar Taveras in the sixth inning when he stepped up and promptly lined into a double play, jeopardizing a potential rally. But no problem. Peter Bourjos singled to score one run, Miller singled to re-load the bases and Matt Carpenter worked a run-scoring walk after he had fallen behind in the count 0-2. And the Cardinals had a 6-2 lead they would not lose.

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— Typical Carp. Just another day at the office for the All-Star third baseman, who had two hits and a run to go with his RBI walk in four plate appearances. While many Cardinals hitters struggled on the trip, Carpenter went 10 for 24 (.417) and walked four times to give him a .500 OBP.

— Oscar. The rookie didn’t do much in his final three at-bats, but he sure boosted the Birds his first time up. He took a changeup from Odrisamer Despaigne and deposited it into the right-field seats for a two-run homer that gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead. It was his first homer since his first game in the big leagues and gave the team hope that he could break out now that he figures to be playing every day.

3 DOWN

— Carlos Martinez’s opportunities. After adding Lackey and Masterson before the trade deadline, Baby Pedro might have to wait until next year for his next shot at starting. The way Pat Neshek is pitching, Martinez doesn’t figure to return to his eighth-inning role anytime soon, either.

— Depth at first base. With Craig gone to Boston, the 25-man roster is down to one first baseman. Of course, Matt Adams doesn’t need much down time. But if Adams were to be out of the lineup, the Cardinals would be reaching for a first baseman. Catcher Tony Cruz could slip into the spot without anyone else having to change positions. Or they could move Carpenter over and put Mark Ellis or Daniel Descalso at third base. Another option would be to promote a first baseman such as Xavier Scruggs from the minors. 

— Scoring something besides one or six runs. There was no in-between on this six-game trip. The Cardinals either scored six runs — a number especially meaningful to fans of the 50-cent drink promotion — or one run. The outcome was a 3-3 trip during which they lost no ground in the standings. 

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @StanMcNeal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.