Thursday’s Game Report: Cardinals 8, Brewers 4
By Rob Rains, STLSportsPage.com
The Cardinals were in dire need of a jolt – and Tyler O’Neill was more than happy to provide it.
A four-run fourth inning had wiped out an early Cardinals lead and they found themselves down 4-2 in the fifth inning on Thursday night, facing the Brewers’ Brandon Woodruff, one of the best pitchers in the National League this season, and another game seemed to be slipping away.
The Cardinals had scored just four runs in the first 23 innings of the series, losing the first two games, and there didn’t seem to be much life in the team’s offense, or in the stands at Busch Stadium.
All of that changed on one swing. O’Neill launched a 450-foot blast to center field for a three-run homer, and when Lars Nootbaar went back-to-back, a five-run inning had swung the momentum and the Cardinals were headed to a much-needed victory.
“I’ve been in a couple of situations where I haven’t been able to come up with the big knock so to get that one today, that was a really good feeling,” O’Neill said. “The boys were able to get on in front of me and I was able to get a curve ball hanging over the middle of the plate and not miss it.”
When Nootbaar homered two pitches later, the Cardinals had matched the total number of home runs Woodruff had allowed in his previous 49 innings. He had allowed only five runs in one of his first 23 starts this season.
“Tough one last night, showed back up, short memory, down 4-1, could have rolled and a big five-run inning, “ said manager Mike Shildt. “Huge, two-strike, three-run homer. That was a big, big blow.”
Here is how Thursday night’s game broke down:
At the plate: The first run of the fifth came on when Andrew Knizner, starting in place of Yadier Molina, scored on a two-out single by Nolan Arenado, who also had the Cardinals’ first RBI in the first with a double. Paul Goldschmid also was on base and scored in front of Arenado on O’Neill’s blast, his 21st homer of the season … Nootbaar’s homer was his third of the year as he is playing in place of the injured Dylan Carlson … The Cardinals added insurance runs in the sixth and seventh, scoring on a two-out double by Tommy Edman and a bases-loaded walk to Paul DeJong, the third consecutive walk issued by the Brewers.
On the mound: The Brewers four runs all came in the fourth off Jon Lester, the biggest hit a two-run single by Kolten Wong. Lester allowed six hits in 4 1/3 innings, walked three, hit a batter and did not record a strikeout … The bullpen combination of Fernandez, Luis Garcia, Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos and T.J. McFarland did not allow a baserunner over the final 4 2/3 innings, getting 14 outs while facing just 13 hitters.
Key stat: Junior Fernandez picked up the victory – his first in the majors – after throwing just two of the 127 pitches thrown by Cardinals pitchers in the game. He got a double play in relief of Lester to end the fifth inning, making him the pitcher of record when the Cardinals scored five in the bottom of the inning.
Worth noting: Kwang Hyun Kim made a rehab start for Memphis on Thursday night. He allowed home runs to two of the first three hitters he faced, but then settled down and completed two innings, throwing 34 pitches … Wong had a nice souvenir to take home after the series. After stealing second base on Tuesday night, the former Cardinal picked up the base when the game was over and sent it over to the Cardinals clubhouse with a request for it to be autographed by Molina so he could put it in a place of honor. “That thing’s mine now,” Wong said.
Looking ahead: Miles Mikolas will make the start on Friday night as he returns from a lengthy rehab in the minors to open the weekend series against the Pirates at Busch Stadium.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains