By Rob Rains
When the trading deadline passed on Tuesday, the Cardinals were three games out of first place in the NL Central and talked about the two starting pitchers they acquired would help them try to close that gap.
Just 53 hours later, the Cardinals moved into a tie for the division lead with the Brewers – before one of their new pitchers, Jordan Montgomery, had even set foot on the mound.
The other, Jose Quintana, made his Cardinals debut on Thursday night and left a strong first impression, allowing just one hit over six innings before Tyler O’Neill’s three-run homer in the seventh sent the Cardinals to a 7-2 victory over the Cubs at Busch Stadium.
That win, combined with a 4-3 walkoff win in the afternoon, gave the Cardinals a sweep of the doubleheader, a sweep of the three-game series and a four-game winning streak, matching their longest streak of the season.
The streak came at the same time the Brewers, who traded away closer Josh Hader at the deadline, were losing four games in a row, including losing three to the Pirates.
Here is how the doubleheader broke down:
At the plate: The Cardinals trailed 3-0 in the first game before back-to-back homers from Nolan Gorman and Paul Goldschmidt in the seventh ignited the offense, which had been held to only two hits, both by Brendan Donovan, in the first six innings. Nolan Arenado followed the homers with a double and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Lars Nootbaar that tied the game … In the ninth Arenado and Paul DeJong walked with one out before Nootbaar’s single to right gave the Cardinals their fourth walkoff win of the season … In the night game, Arenado gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead with a home run in the first inning and after the Cubs tied the game, O’Neill’s blast into the visitor’s bullpen got the lead back … Tommy Edman drove in two insurance runs in the eighth with a double, his third hit of the game.
On the mound: The only hit allowed by Quintana was a first-inning home run by Patrick Wisdom. He struck out seven and walked two, one of whom was erased in a double play … Back-to-back walks to open the seventh by Jordan Hicks led to the Cubs scoring the tying run … In the day game, Miles Mikolas allowed three runs over 6 1/3 innings. He left with two runners on base but James Naile, recalled as the 27th man for the DH, got two ground balls to keep it a 3-0 game and set the stage for the Cardinals’ comeback … Giovanny Gallegos pitched around a leadoff error in the eighth and Ryan Helsley a two-out hit in the ninth to keep the score tied.
Key stat: The two homers in each game extended the Cardinals’ streak to 13 consecutive games with at least one home run and seven games in a row with at least two homers.
Worth noting: O’Neill’s home run was his first at Busch Stadium since opening day, a span of 90 at-bats … The Cardinals announced that Drew VerHagen will undergo hip surgery and won’t pitch again this season … Between games the Cardinals activated Montgomery even though he won’t start until Saturday and optioned Zack Thompson to Memphis … This was the Cardinals’ first doubleheader sweep of the Cubs in St. Louis since Aug. 10, 1979.
Looking ahead: Dakota Hudson will get the start on Friday night in the opener of the three-game series as the Yankees come to Busch Stadium.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains