Offense finally breaks through with late rally
The Cardinals nearly wasted another outstanding effort by a starting pitcher — their best of the four games they’ve played in the second half. But some control issues by Milwaukee closer John Axford and some seeing-eye hits by the Cardinals conspired for a three-run ninth-inning rally and a 3-2 win Monday that snapped a three-game slide.
Lance Lynn fanned 10 and walked nobody but left after seven innings trailing 1-0. Brewers first baseman Corey Hart turned around a 1-1 cutter for his 17th home run in the seventh.
Reliever Jason Motte, who hadn’t pitched in nine days, came in, unusually, with his club losing and permitted a run-scoring double by Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun in the eighth. It seemed as if the Cardinals would follow the same format they had practiced in Cincinnati.
But two key walks on full counts by Matt Carpenter and Skip Schumaker and a high-hopping infield hit by Rafael Furcal loaded the bases with two out in the ninth inning.
Then Matt Holliday, who had extended his hitting streak to 15 games but had been struggling with runners in scoring position, bounced a two-strike single into right field to tie the game, and Allen Craig looped a single in front of Braun to win the game.
“We’ve had runners out there the last three or four games, but we haven’t been able to get the big hit,” said Holliday.
Against Axford, who has having trouble with his fastball command, Holliday said he was aiming to keep his swing under control.
“I was just trying to be short, trying to hit a groundball or a line drive back through the middle,” Holliday said. “I got to two strikes and I was just battling trying to put something in play.”
Manager Mike Matheny said, “You’re not going to be able to keep this offense down. Sooner or later, it’s going to take off on you.”
Matheny praised his team’s refusal to quit and some “great at-bats” in the ninth inning. But he said, half-jokingly, “There’s nothing wrong with fighting hard in the first inning.”
— RHP Lance Lynn still is 11-4 but was very strong after 10 days’ rest. He fanned 10 and walked nobody but got a no-decision though he allowed just a solo homer by 1B Corey Hart in the seventh inning. “I made one bad pitch (a cutter), but it cost me,” said Lynn. “It caught a lot of the plate and he did a lot with it.” It was the fourth straight game a Cardinals starter had allowed two runs or fewer through six innings, but none of them won. “They’ve pitched well enough for us to win all four games (after the All-Star break) we’ve played so far,” said LF Matt Holliday. Manager Mike Matheny said Lynn “did absolutely everything he could.”
— RHP Trevor Rosenthal, 22, was purchased from Class AA Springfield to add some punch to a staggering bullpen even though Rosenthal, impressive in spring training this year, had been a starter in the minors. Rosenthal will pitch in middle relief at first. “When you look at our problems in the sixth and seventh innings,” said general manager John Mozeliak, “we needed a guy who could give us those innings.” Mozeliak praised the young right-hander for pitching ahead in the count and added, “The fact the throws 97 to 99 (miles an hour) doesn’t hurt, either.” Rosenthal said, “I’ll just listen to Yadi (All-Star catcher Yadier Molina).”
— LHP Brian Fuentes has reported to the Gulf Coast League club in Jupiter, Fla., and is throwing side sessions until this weekend. General manager John Mozeliak said he foresees Fuentes joining the big club in late July, if all goes well. “I’m not afraid to have three left-handers, if we have to,” said Mozeliak.
— Having signed LHP Brian Fuentes and having promoted hard-throwing RHP Trevor Rosenthal from the minors, the Cardinals might have their bullpen improvements, but general manager John Mozeliak is still working the phones. “If there’s an additional piece to do, we should consider it,” said Mozeliak.
— The Cardinals managed a rare comeback victory when they had three key regulars on the bench at the start of the game — 1B Lance Berkman, CF Jon Jay and RF Carlos Beltran. All three did get in the game, though.
— RHP Jason Motte, though he allowed an inherited runner to score in the eighth, worked a scoreless ninth, fanning two, to get his fourth victory. Motte hadn’t pitched in nine days, so manager Mike Matheny brought him in with the Cardinals behind a run. “We needed to get him in there,” said Matheny.
— RHP Maikel Cleto was sent to Class AAA Memphis to make room for RHP Trevor Rosenthal, brought up from Class AA Springfield. LHP Jaime Garcia (strained shoulder) was moved to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Rosenthal on the 40-man roster.
BY THE NUMBERS: 4 for 32 — Cardinals’ record with men in scoring position on this four-game trip before delivering two key singles in the ninth inning.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “These guys demand to come through in those situations. They’re not content and happy whey they don’t. We’ve had Gatorade coolers and broken bats all over the place.” — Manager Mike Matheny, on the Cardinals’ recent offensive struggles.