ST. LOUIS — Have a game, Jon Jay. Better yet, have a homestand. Even better, have an August.
Jay wrapped up a superb homestand and continued a scorching August by reaching base four times for the second night in a row to lead the Cardinals to a 7-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday night.
His night started, not surprisingly, when he was hit on the right leg by the first pitch he saw from Reds All-Star Johnny Cueto. He singled and scored the game’s first run his next time up and singled and scored again on Jhonny Peralta’s three-run double in the fifth. Jay finished his night at the plate with a single that brought in the Cardinals’ final run in the eighth. Only an error in the ninth that scored two of the Reds’ runs marred his night.
Jay finished the homestand 11 for 19 with eight runs and six hit by pitches while extending a hitting streak to 12 games. His month has been even more impressive. Jay leads the majors in August with a .447 batting average and .557 on-base percentage. And, oh yeah, he has passed Matt Adams for the team batting lead, .313-.309.
Not bad for a guy who missed the first four games with a sore wrist. Not bad for a guy who didn’t have a job when the season opened. He’s done just about everything but gloat.
Asked about his .579 homestand, Jay shrugged. "I don’t look at that," he said. "I’m just trying to help this team win games."
"He just continues to put together tough at-bats," said manager Mike Matheny, who moved Jay into the two-hole while giving Kolten Wong a night off.
Will it be difficult to take Jay out of the spot after a night like that?
"We take the batting order every day and compare it to who we’re facing, but Jon had a very good day for us," Matheny said.
Jay’s play sparked a strong homestand for his team, too. The Cardinals swept the Reds — their third sweep of the season and first against a division rival — and won three of four against the Padres to move a season-high 12 games over .500.
"It doesn’t ever hurt to go 6-1 on a homestand," said starter and winner Lance Lynn. "There was a lot of come-from-behind wins and things like that. It’s a good homestand."
For Jay, it was even better than that.
— Lynn keeps rolling. He added to a strong second-half run with seven shutout innings, allowing only one runner to reach second base. With his fastball regularly touching 95 mph, Lynn gave up four hits, walked two and struck out five. He has allowed as many as three runs only once in his past nine starts while dropping his ERA to 2.78. Lynn was at 94 pitches when a 58-minute rain delay ended his night as well as his chance at pitching his second shutout. At this point last season, Lynn’s ERA was 3.97 and trending up.
On a night when he was matched against one of the NL’s leading starters, Lynn was the better pitcher.
"It didn’t hurt my feelings one bit, beating him," said Lynn, with a smirk. "You see all the leader boards and you see his name up at the top, and I out-pitched him tonight."
— Matt Holliday. Grinding through the dog days with a sore left knee, Holliday still contributed with the bat and glove. He made a nice running catch just shy of the left-field wall in foul ground, smoked a double to the wall in right-center to drive home the first run, and walked and scored in the fifth.
— Oscar Taveras. Talk about a turnaround on the homestand. He was benched for the start of the first two games but wound up with a hit in every game he played but one. With a 1 for 3 plus a walk and a run in the finale, Taveras finished the homestand 7 for 20 (.350). And yes, he looked much better running from first to third on a double by Daniel Descalso than he did last week in Miami.
— Jay’s legs. On the first pitch he saw, he was plunked yet again, this time in the right leg by a 90-mph fastball. Jay was hit on the last pitch of Tuesday night’s game, resulting in a walk-off win for the Cardinals. In the past eight games, Jay has been hit six times; the rest of the Cardinals have been hit for once.
"He’s tough," Matheny said. "But I don’t care where you get hit, it hurts."
Jay leads the majors with 16 HBPs.
— Adams’ luck. As hard as he hit the ball in his first two at-bats, he should not have been 0 for 2. In the first, with two on and one out, he was robbed of extra bases by Billy Hamilton, who earned an extra star on the play by doubling Jay off first. In the third, Adams hit a fly to deep right that Jay Bruce jumped and caught at the wall.
— Getaway games. For the second straight homestand, the Cardinals started the last game an hour early to give the teams heading out of town a head start. It didn’t quite work either time. The delay Wednesday came after the seventh inning with the Cardinals up 5-0. At least the Cardinals were not leaving for Philadelphia until Thursday afternoon and don’t play until Friday.
Pity the Reds. Theirs was not a very happy flight home after they suffered their fifth straight loss. They got a late start to their trip home and must host the Braves on Thursday night. This was after the Reds arrived in their St. Louis hotel at 4 a.m. Monday after getting swept in a doubleheader in Denver on Sunday.