They were smiling in the Cardinals’ dugout at Baltimore on Sunday afternoon, for numerous reasons:
— They beat the Orioles, 8-3, to stop a two-game slide and give them a good vibe as they headed to Miami for a three-game series against the Marlins. The Cardinals had been routed 22-5 in the first two games.
— They collected a season-high 17 hits, and though the first 13 were singles, their 7-for-16 showing with runners in scoring position more than compensated for the lack of power. Rookie second baseman Kolten Wong, 1 for 9 in the first two games, finished with four hits to lead the way and match his season high.
— They got a huge two-inning outing out of righty reliever Pat Neshek, a performance that manager Mike Matheny said was the right-hander’s best of the season.
Entering in the seventh with the Cardinals clinging to a two-run lead, Neshek went through the heart of the Orioles’ order in 14 pitches, striking out Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz, and getting Chris Davis to ground out. Neshek struck out two more in a three-up, three-down eighth. He needed 25 pitches for the multi-inning outing that dropped his ERA to 0.73.
"Pat got on a roll and it was not possible to take him out when he’s throwing the ball the way he was," Matheny said in the postgame show on FOX Sports Midwest. "Just a great day. We needed it. We were running on fumes a little bit down in the bullpen."
— Lance Lynn. He failed to meet standards for a quality start for the first time in seven starts but impressed nonetheless, especially when you consider how St. Louis starters fared in the previous two games. Dialing his fastball up to 97 mph on occasion, the big right-hander did not serve up a home run after the Orioles went for nine in the first two games. Lynn gave up nine hits, but only a few were well struck. He left one out shy of a quality start but finished with his 12th win and his ERA at 2.97.
— Jon Jay. Matheny’s decision to move him into the No. 6 spot ahead of Oscar Taveras paid off. Jay was on base all day, singling in a run in the third and scoring another in the seventh. Hitting one place behind him, Taveras ended two innings when he flew into a bases-loaded double play in the first and struck out with runners on second and third in the third.
— Peter Bourjos. Of all the Cardinals’ hits, none was bigger than the three-run homer Bourjos hit to the opposite field in the eighth inning. Two reasons: It was the only homer of the game for either team, and it gave the Cardinals a five-run lead that turned the ninth inning into a game-day workout for closer Trevor Rosenthal. He put the practice to good use, retiring the Orioles in order on 14 pitches in the ninth.
— Interleague. Even after their sweep-averting victory, the Cardinals finished with an 8-12 record in games against the American League this season. It marks the first time since 2008 that the Cardinals finished interleague play with a losing record.
— Baserunning. Matheny wants the Cardinals to be aggressive and force the defense to make plays, but their eagerness to run cost two outs on the bases. One was costly: In the first, they had the bases loaded with one out when Taveras flied out to fairly shallow center field and Matt Adams was sent home from third but was called out, ending the inning and killing a potential big inning.
— Tony Cruz. He was the only player in the Cardinals’ lineup who did not get a hit, finishing 0 for 5 with three strikeouts. His batting average is down to .216.