Tuesday’s Game Report: Cardinals 7, Dodgers 6
By Rob Rains
Packy Naughton only threw 14 pitches in Tuesday night’s game, but what happened on those pitches, or could have happened, was the difference between the Cardinals winning or losing the game against the Dodgers at Busch Stadium.
Naughton was called in from the bullpen with the Cardinals clinging to a one-run lead in the seventh inning. The Dodgers already had scored one run in the inning and had the bases loaded with nobody out.
All Naughton did was retire the next three batters on a fly ball to center, a fly ball to left and striking out Cody Bellinger to get out of the inning and keep it a 6-5 game.
That Houdini act, and an extra run in the eighth, helped the Cardinals withstand a home run by Freddie Freeman leading off the ninth, his fourth hit of the game, to win the opener of the three-game series.
Here is how the game broke down:
At the plate: The Cardinals got home runs from Albert Pujols and Nolan Gorman, but Andrew Knizner had the best night at the plate, collecting three hits, each of which drove in a run. He had been 3-of-26 in his last 14 games with only one RBI and tied his season highs for hits and RBIs, both of which came in seperate games in the first week of the season … Pujols’ homer was the 685th of his career and second in the last three games while Gorman hit his eighth of the year and first since July 2 … Corey Dickerson doubled twice and twice scored on a single by Knizner … What turned out to be the winning run scored in the eighth when Lars Nootbaar led off the inning with a double, went to third on a groundout and scored on Knizner’s third single.
On the mound: The Cardinals elected to have Jordan Hicks start the game, the first of seven pitchers they used, none of whom threw more than 2 1/3 innings (Matthew Liberatore) who allowed three runs … Johan Oviedo was credited with the win after he followed the 1 2/3 innings pitched by Hicks … Ryan Helsley was used in the eighth, retiring all three batters he faced, leaving the ninth to Giovanny Gallegos. He gave up the homer to Freeman before getting two strikeouts, then walking a batter and a fly to center that ended the game.
Key stat: This was the first game this season in which the Cardinals’ ninth-place hitter collected three hits. It was the third time they had three RBIs from their starter in the ninth spot, with Harrison Bader having done it on May 22 and Knizner with a three-run homer on April 12.
Worth noting: Steven Matz made what is expected to be his final rehab start for Memphis. Pitching at Nashville, he worked 4 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and walking two while striking out seven. He threw 81 pitches. It’s likely he will be activated from the IL and start on Sunday, the final game before the All-Star break … Tyler O’Neill could be activated as early as Wednesday … The Cardinals finally have an idea when Yadier Molina will return. Molina, who turns 40 on Wednesday, is scheduled to go out on a rehab assignment in late July following the All-Star break and then rejoin the team in early August. He has been out since June 15 because of sore knees.
Looking ahead: Adam Wainwright will get the start on Wednesday night in the second game of the series.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains