Thursday’s Game Report: Cardinals 2, Dodgers 1

Thursday’s Game Report: Cardinals 2, Dodgers 1

By Rob Rains, STLSportsPage.com

Fans who crave a lot of action in a baseball game might have gotten in a nice nap on Thursday afternoon.

The Cardinals and Dodgers, combined, produced just three hits after the third inning on a sun-drenched day at Busch Stadium, but for the Cardinals, one was all they needed.

Tyler O’Neill’s second homer in as many games, and his 25th of the season, broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning and the bullpen protected that lead to give the Cardinals a split of the four-game series against the Dodgers.

“He’s such a strong kid as we know but he is just taking good at-bats,” said manager Mike Shildt. “He’s really grown into the consistent player that he wanted to be and is capable of. The thing I’ve always been impressed by with Tyler is he is prepared for every at-bat. This is a sharp kid. He does his homework, he takes his notes.

“He knows what he’s looking for, and he’s been able to stay within the moment and stay within himself and take a good swing. The thing I’ve been pleased about him is that if he doesn’t have a good at-bat there’s not a big carryover. He gets back to what he needs to do. He’s definitely a clear presence in our lineup.”

The only other hit for the Cardinals after the second inning was a leadoff single by Andrew Knizner in the seventh. The Dodgers’ only hit after the third was a single by Mookie Betts in the fifth.

With the win, the Cardinals gained a half-game in the race for the second wild-card spot. Both of the teams ahead of them, the Padres and Reds, had the day off on Thursday. The Cardinals are now three games behind San Diego and two games behind the Reds.

Here is how Thursday’s game broke down:

At the plate: Dylan Carlson scored the first run for the Cardinals after leading off the second inning with a double. He went to third on a ground out and scored on a double by Knizner … O’Neill’s homer came with two outs in the fifth, landing on the top of the left-field wall and staying there … It was O’Neill’s team-leading fourth homer in September. He also leads the team with 11 hits (11-of-32, a .344 average) and also has a team-high 14 strikeouts, including two on Thursday … Nolan Arenado was hitless in four at-bats and finished the series 1-of-11 … It was only the eighth win in 48 games this season for the Cardinals when they scored two runs.

On the mound: Jake Woodford allowed three hits over his four innings, with the Dodgers’ only run scoring on a single by Trea Turner in the third. With two outs, Mookie Betts walked, went to third on a double by Max Muncy and scored on the hit by Turner. The Cardinals avoided further damage even after a walk to Justin Turner loaded the bases, when Woodford got Cody Bellinger to fly to right to end the inning … Alex Reyes allowed one hit in two innings before T.J. McFarland, Luis Garcia and Giovanny Gallegos combined to record the last nine outs. The only baserunner for the Dodgers over those last three innings came when McFarland walked Albert Pujols, who was pinch-hitting, with two outs in the seventh.

Key stat: In the Cardinals 68 games since June 20, they have had only one starter other than Adam Wainwright, Kwang Hyun Kim, pitch at least seven innings in a game. Wainwright has done it 10 times in his last 15 starts. For the season, the Cardinals have had 23 games when the starter worked at least seven innings, 16 of them coming from Wainwright. No other starter has done it more than three times (Carlos Martinez).

Worth noting: Matt Carpenter pinch-hit for Woodford in the fifth inning and struck out, extending his hitless streak to 27 at-bats. His last hit came on Aug. 7. He has struck out in 12 of those at-bats … Wade LeBlanc will not pitch again this season as he continues to have discomfort in his left elbow. He plans to seek treatment that will allow him to be ready to pitch again by spring training. LeBlanc will be a free agent after the season.

Looking ahead: One of the teams the Cardinals are chasing in the wild-card standings, the Reds, arrive Friday night for the start of a three-game series. Jon Lester will get the start in the opener.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

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For the latest news and features in St. Louis Sports check out STLSportsPage.com. Rob Rains, Editor.