Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, facing a difficult decision in the top of the sixth inning in a tie game at Arizona on Wednesday night, had it made a little easier for him when he considered starter Kyle Lohse’s tight hamstring.
Catcher Tony Cruz, relieving Yadier Molina for a night while Molina rested a bruised left hand, singled to keep the inning alive and give the Cardinals runners at first and second with two outs. Lohse had thrown just 73 pitches in the first five innings but had tweaked his left hamstring turning second base and heading for third in the previous inning.
Lohse, who pitched a scoreless fifth, said he was good enough to continue, but Matheny pulled the plug. He called on left-handed-hitting rookie Matt Carpenter to pinch-hit, even though Arizona had a left-hander, Wade Miley, on the mound.
Carpenter made Matheny look wise, doubling over the head of left fielder Jason Kubel to drive in the go-ahead runs in what became a 7-2 win, providing the Cardinals with their first three-game series sweep of the season. St. Louis, nine games over .500 for the first time, finally scored a series sweep on its fifth try.
Matheny said he thought Lohse would be OK but decided not to push him for another inning, especially with the Cardinals having an off day Thursday. Lohse gets an extra day of rest before his next start, Tuesday against the Cubs in St. Louis.
Carpenter, meanwhile, knocked his fifth and sixth runs as a pinch hitter. He has 16 RBI for the season, the highest total for a rookie.
But the game wasn’t decided until the ninth when Rafael Furcal, the top leadoff man in the league, singled with two outs for his fourth hit. The score was 3-2 at the time. Carlos Beltran singled, Matt Holliday doubled home two runs, and Allen Craig cracked a two-run homer, his third home run since he came off the disabled list just more than a week ago.
Craig has 11 RBI in his six starts, but he now may have to go the outfield for some of his time with first baseman Lance Berkman (strained left calf) due to come off the disabled list Friday.
— C Yadier Molina’s left hand isn’t broken, only bruised. Molina, hit by a pitch from RHP Mitchell Boggs, who crossed up Molina on Tuesday, said he expected to play Friday at home against Atlanta. “It’s a lot better today, a lot better,” Molina said Wednesday.
Manager Mike Matheny said, “I was very concerned.”
— 1B Lance Berkman (strained left calf) took ground balls at first base and ran in the outfield before Wednesday’s game. He has not played since aggravating his leg April 18. “The way we’re playing, it’s probably not that big of a deal,” Berkman said. “It’s not like we’ve been struggling to score or anything like that.” He could be activated as soon as Friday.
— RHP Kyle Lohse became the Cardinals’ second five-game winner, joining RHP Lance Lynn, although he lasted just five innings. Lohse left with a tight left hamstring, as he felt something coming around second as he advanced on SS Rafael Furcal’s fifth-inning single. He lunged awkwardly into third base instead of sliding but said he had hurt his leg before that. “I feel like if I had slid, something bad would have happened,” Lohse said.
— SS Rafael Furcal, with four hits, had his seventh game of three hits or more, giving him a league-high 44 hits. He clearly has been the catalyst to the Cardinals’ 20-11 start with a .423 on-base percentage. He’s hit safely in his last nine games at 18-for-39 (.462).
— Cardinals starting pitching, in the form of RHPs Kyle Lohse, Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook, had a 0.53 ERA for the three-game series at Arizona.
— The Cardinals failed to score in the first inning Wednesday for the first time in nine games. The eight-game run tied a mark they had set in 1996.
— CF Shane Robinson, giving Jon Jay a day off, ranged deep near the track to make a couple of good catches and also threw out a runner at the plate. He went 1-for-4, dropping his average to .318.
BY THE NUMBERS: 6— Saves for RHP Jason Motte, who pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-out spot in the ninth inning Wednesday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think he pulled his forgot-to-slide muscle.” — Manager Mike Matheny, on the hamstring injury suffered by RHP Kyle Lohse while the latter was running the bases in the fifth inning.