Saturday’s Game Report: Cardinals 3, Pirates 1
By Rob Rains
The formula is simple – score enough runs, and get a good enough performance from the starting pitcher, to turn a lead over to the back end of the bullpen for the final three innings of the game.
It’s been the execution of that plan – until Saturday – that has been a problem this month for the Cardinals.
The game against the Pirates at Busch Stadium was actually the first in their 23 games in June that they pulled off the plan exactly as it was drawn up.
Adam Wainwright carried a 3-1 lead into the seventh before Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos and Alex Reyes each worked a scoreless inning to bring an end to the Cardinals’ five-game losing streak.
It was only the third time this month that those three relievers had appeared in the same game – the other two times it came in games that were tied after six innings.
“It was nice, very nice,” said manager Mike Shildt. “We can talk about this and kick it around and figure it out, and it’s really a simple thing. If your starter can carry you at least into the sixth inning on a consistent basis it sets your bullpen up for success. Otherwise it gets your bullpen way out of whack and it means you are down typically.
“The numbers are clear. They are not absolute, there’s nothing foolproof but you get a guy in Waino, you feel good about him. You trust him. You get to the seventh and you go with guys who are in the right spots and they bring it home. The more we can do that the better off we are going to be, plain and simple.”
Including the final three games in May, Wainwright has all of the wins – four – that have come from a Cardinals starting pitcher since May 27.
There does seem to be a different level of confidence in his teammates on the days Wainwright starts.
“It always seems that Waino pitches on a day we need a win,” said Paul DeJong. “We need a win every game but especially when Waino pitches he’s just been a staple in this organization for so long that we rely on him and he steps up every time. He owns that responsibility.”
Wainwright this month has started games when the Cardinals stopped losing streaks of six games, three games, two games and now five games.
“I think we’ve got a few talented guys that are really going to pick up the slack here,” Wainwright said. “I like competing, I like having something on the line, usually seem to excel in those situations. I like those spots. I know our team is a lot better than we have played.”
Here is how Saturday’s game broke down:
At the plate: Wainwright was staked to the early lead on a two-out RBI single by Yadier Molina in the first, driving in Dylan Carlson, who walked to lead off the inning; and home runs from DeJong in the second and Paul Goldschmidt in the fifth … Goldschmidt also had a single and a walk, reaching base three times, and was retired only on a fly out to the warning track in center in the third … Molina also reached base three times on two singles and a walk … DeJong’s homer wad his ninth of the season but only his second at home, the other coming on May 5 against the Mets.
On the mound: The Pirates’ only run off Wainwright came on a homer by Gregory Polanco leading off the fourth. Wainwright allowed six hits, walked one and struck out eight … Cabrera came in with a runner on first in the seventh but got two ground balls, including a double play … Gallegos pitched around a one-out double in the eighth, thanks to a great catch by Nolan Arenado on a popup in short left field, running with his back to the infield, to end the inning and save a run … Reyes, in only his third save opportunity this month, needed only eight pitches to retire the Pirates in order in the ninth. He is now 18-of-18 in save opportunities this season.
Key stat: Wainwright has a 2.45 ERA in five games in June, allowing nine earned runs in 33 innings. The other four starters this month have combined to allow 65 earned runs in 76 innings, an ERA of 7.70.
Worth noting: Goldschmidt’s homer to dead center hit above the grass and was measured at 470 feet, the fourth longest homer in the 16-season history of Busch Stadium 3 … After scoring four runs on Friday night, this was the first time the Cardinals scored three or more runs in consecutive games since June 9 and 11, when they scored eight runs against Cleveland and five against the Cubs.
Looking ahead: Johan Oviedo will make his 14th career start, still looking for his first win, in the final game of the four-game series on Sunday.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains