Cardinals strike early then hang on late en route to win over D-backs
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals know they can came come from behind, thanks to an offense that never quits and the National League's best bullpen.
But lately, St. Louis has found success by scoring early and holding on, often with the help of long outings by starting pitchers. The Cardinals followed that formula again Tuesday night to beat Arizona 6-4 for their third straight win, and the first for Jaime Garcia in more than 11 months.
"It probably wasn't my best," Garcia said. "But I was out there competing and trying to keep us in the ballgame and give us a chance to win."
An early mistake cost him two runs, when he broke to first late and never got a throw from Matt Adams after he cleanly fielded a grounder from Mark Trumbo. Arizona took advantage with a pair of RBI doubles by A.J. Pollock and Yasmany Tomas to take a 2-0 lead.
St. Louis' offense wasted no time in responding. Kolten Wong drew a leadoff walk to reach base for the fourth time in seven games since moving to the top of the order. Each time he came around to score and the Cardinals never trailed after the first inning.
This time, Wong moved to second on Matt Carpenter's walk on five pitches from Diamondbacks starter Archie Bradley. Matt Holliday put St. Louis on the board with an RBI single through the hole on the left side, tying Albert Pujols' franchise record by reaching base for the 42nd straight game to start the season.
Jhonny Peralta drove home two more with a double into the gap in right-center and a throw home allowed him to move to third. That proved crucial when Tomas made a diving stop at third to rob Yadier Molina of a single, but he still got the RBI to put the Cardinals ahead 4-2.
"(To) come right back right after they dropped two on us, even just getting the one, when Holliday gets the good base hit and we get on the board at all, that's always real positive and puts us right back into it with some momentum," Matheny said. "Then they just kept adding on."
Randal Grichuk answered Nick Ahmed's solo home run with one of his own in the second inning to provide some cushion, which would prove important after Wong's fielding error led to an unearned run for Arizona in the fourth. Garcia labored through three innings with 60 pitches and Matheny wondered if he might have to go to his bullpen early.
The group that leads the NL with a 2.24 ERA had thrown only 10 2/3 innings in the last six days, largely thanks to great starting pitching. Other than the first inning in two home wins over the Diamondbacks, St. Louis starters pitched all 33 1/3 innings with a lead in the Cardinals' last five wins.
"I think our record shows what a job our pitching and our offense have been doing all year," Garcia said. "They've been doing an unbelievable job. We as pitchers take pride in going deep in games and keeping us in ballgames."
But they struggled to do that at times earlier this month, and the offense failed to take a first-inning lead in the first 14 games of May. Matheny said the constant efforts to come from behind put more of a strain on the bullpen, a formula that simply wasn't sustainable for an entire season.
The Cardinals' relievers are a perfect 23-0 this season when given a lead in the eighth inning, despite giving up a 2-0 advantage to Arizona on Monday. Matt Belisle made sure that didn't happen in Game 2 with 2 2/3 scoreless innings before Seth Maness recorded the final out for his third save.
Belisle says his mentality doesn't change regardless of whether he's protecting the lead or trying to hold down a deficit to give the offense a chance to come back. St. Louis became the first team in the National League to reach 30 wins this season, and in the end, it doesn't really matter how it gets there.
"We're not worried about what situations we're put in," Belisle said. "We're not worried how we get it done and we expect that we will get it done, so I think it's fun. There's no egos involved and it's just a good group of ballplayers that wants to win."