After winning two of out three against the Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis looked to win their third straight, going up against another AL East foe, the Tampa Bay Rays in the first of their two game series.
The series is also notable for being the battle of the brothers: Yadier Molina and Rays catcher Jose Molina, two out of three Molina brothers.
With their ace Adam Wainwright, looking for his ninth win of the season, on the mound against Tampa’s Jake Odorizzi, it was a fast game with little hitting action, but a big pitching performance by the two starters and one offensive spark to help the Cardinals out.
The action was slow early on in the game, with both pitchers delivering a solid first inning, spearheaded by an impressive double play by Jhonny Peralta and Wainwright in the bottom of the first. Wainwright did allow multiple base-runners, but he was able to overcome the situation.
Through the first three innings, it was a back-and-forth pitching duel between the two star pitchers.
But in the bottom of the fourth inning, Tampa Bay appeared to strike first. With runners at second and third with one out, Kolten Wong caught a fast line out to make it two outs. A walk loaded the bases, where another line out forced Wong to reach high for the catch, and Wainwright got out of the inning unscathed.
Despite that, the Cardinals’ bats continued to be silenced by Odorizzi, who through four innings, had only allowed one base-runner. The bats had heated up in the past two games against the Blue Jays, but once again were held in check halfway through the game.
It wasn’t until two outs in the fifth inning that St. Louis finally got a hit, off the bat of Peralta, who has improved a lot at the plate in the past few weeks. That was followed by a single by Jon Jay, which was off the glove of Evan Longoria. With two runners on, Peter Bourjos hit a fly ball caught in center-field, stranding the runners, an issue that has plagued the Cardinals this season.
Wainwright continued to play his part in keeping the Cardinals in the game, but the offense still needed a spark.
Enter Matt Holliday.
With two outs in the sixth, Holliday crushed a ball for his fourth home run of the season, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. It was his first home run in 134 at-bats, and it came at a perfect time.
It was all the pitching staff needed.
Wainwright was on full lockdown mode after the home run, but Mike Matheny made the decision to take him out before the start of the bottom half of the eighth inning.
Odorizzi was taken out in the top half of the eighth inning, allowing the one run, but otherwise still having a good pitching performance.
In the eighth, Pat Neshek, one of the most impressive pitchers in the Cardinals’ bullpen, came onto the mound in relief of Wainwright, and pitched poorly, allowing a ground rule double, followed by hitting Longoria. Matheny wasted little time taking him out, putting in Sam Freeman, to try and hold the slim 1-0 Cardinals’ lead. Freeman did his part, getting two out before Trevor Rosenthal was called in. Despite hitting a batter (despite challenging the call), Rosenthal was able to get out of the jam.
In the ninth inning, Rosenthal finished off the Rays, as St. Louis won their third straight, all of them being shutouts, and improve to 34-31 (18-17 on the road). Tampa Bay dropped to 24-42 on the season, and once again failed to score a single run in the game.
It wasn’t a perfect performance by St. Louis, but solid pitching and a clutch hit at the plate sealed the deal.
The Cardinals will look to win their fourth straight on Wednesday.
(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)