Sunday’s Game Report: Cardinals 10, Dodgers 5
By Rob Rains
The competition for playing time in the Cardinals’ outfield might be heating up again.
Taking advantage of Dylan Carlson’s sprained ankle, Oscar Mercado made his third start for the Cardinals on Sunday – and matched his career high by driving in five runs, three of them coming on a single and double off Clayton Kershaw, to lead the Cardinals to the win over the Dodgers at Busch Stadium.
In his three starts, Mercado has six hits in 11 at-bats with three runs scored.
“He just continues to find a way to create havoc one way or the other,” said manager Oli Marmol.
Including primary infielders Brendan Donovan and Tommy Edman, the Cardinals have used nine starters in the outfield so far this season, including top prospect Jordan Walker, who began the year in right field before being sent down to Memphis. Tyler O’Neill is also injured, but Carlson likely will be coming off the injured list sometime in the coming week.
Mercado is a former second-round draft pick by the Cardinals in 2013 who later was traded to Cleveland before coming back to the Cardinals’ organization this winter as a minor-league free agent.
“It’s fun to watch Mercado come back to where it all started and be able to contribute immediately to the team that drafted him,” Marmol said. “You’ve got a good team when somebody different is contributing every night.”
Sunday’s win was the third in the four-game series against the Dodgers and gave the Cardinals a 5-2 record on the homestand. They have gone 11-3 since May 7, when they snapped their eight-game losing streak that had left them with a 10-24 record for the season.
Here is how Sunday’s game broke down:
At the plate: Paul DeJong also had a big day as he drove in four runs, three coming on his seventh homer of the season, in the seventh inning. He also scored four runs … Mercado’s double in the second was the third double off Kershaw in the inning when the Cardinals scored their first three runs … His single in the fourth drove in another run as the Cardinals knocked Kershaw out of the game … They added three more runs in the fifth, highlighted by the two-run single from Mercado, matching his career high of five RBIs set on April 10, 2022 for Cleveland at Kansas City … Nolan Arenado had three hits and scored three runs, extending his hitting streak to 12 games … Edman also had three hits, including the first hit in his career off Kershaw, a double in the second, in 10 at-bats … The top three hitters in the lineup – Lars Nootbaar, Paul Goldschmidt and Willson Contreras – were a combined 0-of-14.
On the mound: Jack Flaherty was pulled after 4 2/3 innings, one out shy of qualifying for the win, with the Cardinals leading 4-2. He left with the bases loaded and one of the inherited runners scored on a balk by Drew VerHagen. Flaherty walked four in the game, including three in the fifth inning … VerHagen retired all seven hitters he faced and was credited with the victory … Matthew Liberatore allowed the final two runs for the Dodgers in the eighth.
Key stat: Mercado’s five RBIs were the most by a Cardinals’ hitter batting ninth in the order since pitcher Chris Carpenter drove in six runs on Oct. 1, 2009 at Cincinnati.
Worth noting: Marmol thought about putting Nolan Gorman into the starting lineup against Kershaw after his big home run Saturday night but instead decided to go ahead with a planned day off for Gorman. The Cardinals are in the middle of a streak of 19 games in 19 days … Liberatore will get another start on the upcoming road trip, but which game it will be has not been determined … O’Neill, who has been out since May 5 because of back tightness, will begin to ramp-up baseball activities on Monday but the team still does not have a timetable for his return to the lineup … Dakota Hudson made his first start for Memphis since April 19 on Sunday and needed 48 pitches to get through two innings. He allowed three runs, but two of them were unearned.
Looking ahead: The Cardinals begin a seven-game trip to Ohio on Monday night with the first of four games against the Reds in Cincinnati, which will be followed by three games in Cleveland. Jordan Montgomery is the scheduled starter. The game also starts a stretch that will see the Cardinals play 15 of their next 17 games on the road.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains