Thursday’s Game Report: Cardinals 17, Pirates 4
By Rob Rains
There was one easy way to tell what kind of night it was on Thursday night for the Cardinals’ offense.
Yadier Molina was their sixth-place hitter. And when he came up to bat for the fourth time, it was still the fifth inning. When his turn came up again, Matt Wieters pinch-hit for him. That was in the sixth inning.
Molina had a double in a four-run second inning, singled in a two-run third and singled again – this time off the wall with the bases loaded – in a five-run fourth as the Cardinals rolled past the Pirates at Busch Stadium.
The two RBIs, which would have been more had the baserunners not held up on his 380-foot blast in the fourth, increased Molina’s total for the year to 27, just three behind team leader and cleanup hitter Marcell Ozuna – until Ozuna had the biggest hit in a five-run sixth, a three-run double, the third inning in which the Cardinals sent at least nine batters to the plate.
Ozuna batted three times with the bases loaded and added his fourth RBI on a fielder’s choice grounder in the eighth.
The Cardinals, who had lost six of their previous seven games, also got two hits and three RBIs from Dexter Fowler and two RBIs from Paul Goldschmidt and two from Kolten Wong, back in the lineup after resting on Wednesday. The Cardinals took advantage of eight walks, seven of which came around to score.
The 17 runs were the most the Cardinals scored without hitting a home run since they scored 18 against the Braves on Aug. 22, 2008.
Here is how the game broke down:
At the plate: In the second inning alone, the Cardinals had more hits – two – with a runner in scoring position than they had total – one – in their previous three games. They sent nine batters to the plate in the second and the inning was capped by a run-producing single by Goldschmidt, snapping his streak of 55 at-bats without an RBI … After increasing the lead to 6-2 in the third, they sent 10 batters to the plate in the fourth, blowing the game open. After Molina’s long single, a slow dribbler by Fowler resulted in an error that let two runs score even though the ball barely made it out of the infield … Goldschmidt’s double, which produced another run in the sixth, was his first extra-base hit in 53 at-bats … Seven of the eight position players in the starting lineup had at lease one RBI, all except Paul DeJong, who had one hit, walked twice and scored two runs … The 17 runs were the most for the Cardinals against the Pirates since they scored 19 on May 20, 2000 and equaled their second highest run total ever against the Pirates, which they had done twice previously, since 1931.
On the mound: Michael Wacha gave up nine hits and four runs in 5 2/3 innings but was the beneficiary of the big night from the offense. Since the start of the 2016 season, he had been 3-13 with 10 no-decisions in starts in which he allowed four or more runs … John Gant got the final out in the sixth, stranding two runners, before Dominic Leone, who has struggled recently, worked two scoreless innings with four strikeouts and John Brebbia pitched the ninth.
Key stat: Before the offense started rolling, the Cardinals were retired in order in the first inning, dropping the team’s combined average in that inning this season to .191 (26-of-136). They have scored in six of their 38 first innings, a total of 15 runs. It’s their fewest runs in any inning except the ninth, when they have scored six. They trailed 1-0 and have only led once after the first inning in their last 22 games … Over the last eight games, they are 1-of-24 in the first inning, and after the only hit, Goldschmidt was thrown out trying to steal second.
Worth noting: Top prospect Nolan Gorman will celebrate his 19th birthday on Friday. In 93 games as an 18-year-old, Gorman hit .282 with 24 homers and 66 RBIs … The Cardinals received good reports on Carlos Martinez’s rehab appearance on Wednesday in Memphis and actually were glad he faced a little adversity, throwing 23 pitches and needing to get an out to escape a bases-loaded jam. “It was good to get extended and get tested,” said manager Mike Shildt. Martinez will pitch again on Friday and the plan, which Shildt admits could change, is to have Martinez continue to pitch in the minors for 10 to 14 more days … The Cardinals promoted shortstop Kramer Robertson from Springfield to Memphis on Thursday to replace infielder Max Schrock who went on the seven-day injured list.
Looking ahead: Adam Wainwright will get the start on Friday night in the second game of the series.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains