Heyward finds redemption at the dish, helps Cards sweep Snakes out of St. Louis

ST. LOUIS — Jason Heyward keeps finding himself at the center of key moments in his first season as a Cardinal.

After one he’d like to forget in the sixth inning, Heyward changed the trajectory of the game a second time with a game-tying homer off Arizona’s Brad Ziegler to lead off the ninth. Peter Bourjos followed with a single and eventually slid into catcher Jordan Pacheco to force an error that gave St. Louis a 4-3 walk-off win to complete a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks on Wednesday night.

"(We) needed somebody to step up and we talk about different characters figuring out how to get it done," manager Mike Matheny said. "We were about out of opportunities and (Heyward) changed the complexion of that game and then Peter Bourjos getting on and making things happen.

"But yeah, it comes down to Jason Heyward not letting things carry over, whether it’s some of his at-bats or defense."

The latter caused a major problem in the sixth, when the two-time Gold Glove winner made a rare mistake on David Peralta’s soft liner with two outs and runners on first and second. Heyward thought he’d be able to make the catch until he realized too late that he couldn’t get there in time and an in-between hop bounced off his body to allow both runners to score.

His outstanding arm might have even given him a chance to gun down second baseman Cliff Pennington at home and preserve the Cardinals’ one-run lead, but his second error in two nights showed that the former Brave hasn’t quite figured out Busch Stadium yet.

"It’s different as far as this stadium’s outfield and what I’m accustomed to playing in all the time as far as calling home," Heyward said. "I’m going to have to adjust to that, but I find myself sometimes trying to go too hard at balls and sometimes I go hard and I find out, ‘Ah, I’m not going to get there.’"

Matheny said Heyward needs to be more aggressive going after balls, since that’s what made him one of baseball’s best outfielders in his first five seasons. He’s still made some spectacular plays with his impressive speed and range, not to mention all the baserunners he’s held at bases thanks to his arm’s well-deserved reputation.

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The struggles have been more evident at the plate, where Heyward’s average fell to .230 after two infield pop-ups in his first two at-bats, including one with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning. But he lined a two-out single to the opposite field in the sixth and left no doubt with a 423-foot blast down the right-field line to fuel yet another late Cardinals comeback.

"This game’s going to beat you up at times, but you’ve got to put it past you," said Heyward, who has five home runs. "It’s not about you. It’s about your team."

For the second straight night, Matheny said St. Louis survived the kinds of mistakes and missed opportunities that are often too difficult to overcome. The Cardinals went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base, most notably two who reached third with just one out.

But starter Lance Lynn worked his way out of jams, the bullpen held Arizona scoreless for three innings and St. Louis clawed its way back for a fourth straight win.

"That’s part of a good team," Lynn said. "You never quit."

Holliday makes history

It’s not often Cardinal fans give out standing ovations for singles that move runners from first to third in the bottom of the fifth in a 2-1 game.

But the reaction encapsulated the rarity of Matt Holliday’s accomplishment when he became the first player in National League history to reach base in 43 consecutive games to start a season. Albert Pujols set the record while playing for St. Louis in 2007, and even Holliday had to humbly admit the mark was something to be proud of.

"There’s some great pitchers out there and we’ve faced a lot of them," Holliday said. "To find your way on base in that many games in a row in the National League is pretty good."

Matheny said it’s the kind of record that makes you stop and think about all the other great players who have come through the franchise, and how rare it is to do something no one else has ever done. The manager continued to praise Holliday’s approach, calling the streak both "ridiculous" and "amazing."

The left fielder set up Jhonny Peralta’s game-winning at-bat when he reached base again, this time on a walk to load the bases, raising his on-base percentage to .433. Holliday was even better in April, when he led the league with a .500 on-base percentage to begin his incredible streak.

"That’s awesome," Lynn said. "You don’t really, with how quiet he goes about his business and he’s professional every day, you don’t really know much about it."

More milestones loom for Holliday, who would need to reach safely in 10 more games to tie Derek Jeter’s record of 53 straight games to start the 1999 season. Ted Williams holds the record for most consecutive games getting on base with 84 in 1949.

You can follow Luke Thompson on Twitter at @FS_LukeT or email him at lukegthompson87@gmail.com.