St. Louis Cardinals: Late Offense Salvages Win vs. Mets

Jul 27, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong (16) reacts after hitting an RBI double during the ninth inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 27, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong (16) reacts after hitting an RBI double during the ninth inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite an all-too familiar instance of starting pitching melting down and managerial incompetence, the St. Louis Cardinals managed to pull out the win on Wednesday night against the New York Mets, in dramatic fashion.

Tuesday was exhausting for the St. Louis Cardinals. A doubleheader, their second of the week. It seemed rain had become their mortal enemy. It puts Saturday’s starting pitcher in doubt, it drains players’ energy, and it won’t always end well.

After taking the first game and losing the second, the Redbirds could use something to perk them up. Something to revitalize a team that still hasn’t seemed to find its footing, a team that hasn’t proven its better than its record shows.

Enter Wednesday, the final game of the series in Citi Field, taking on the Mets. Adam Wainwright took the hill, still on the road back to his status as ace, with a 3.04 ERA and more than a 4:1 strikeout/walk ratio over his last 7 starts.

Waino struggled early, a trend in nearly all of his starts this year, sporting a high pitch count and allowing a few too many hits. He managed to stay out of the run column for the most part, however, excepting an RBI single in the 2nd.

The Cardinals responded in the following frame with a pair of back-to-back doubles by two of the Matts: Holliday and Adams, following a walk to Wainwright.

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Wainwright finally got his signature curveball, the “Uncle Charlie”, working, and was putting down hitters and making the Mets look foolish.

He avoided trouble until the bottom of the 7th, which started with 2 singles by Travis d’Arnaud and Alejandro De Aza, tallying 10 hits allowed on the night. He managed to stay the course, however, striking out the 2 following batters swinging.

It was with 2 outs, nearly out of the jam, when a wild pitch brought the Mets within 1. Up came Yoenis Cespedes, the monster of the New York lineup, arguably the only real offensive threat.

Wainwright had been laboring for quite a few pitches by this point, that much was clear. The counts were deep, the at-bats were long, and each curveball seemed to break less and less.

The at-bat was an epic battle, a nice callback to the days of yore in 2006, the legendary faceoff between a dominant pitcher and a slugger. Wainwright went with the curve on the 9th pitch, hoping to finally get out of the mess.

Unfortunately, history didn’t repeat itself. Cespedes cranked the hanging curve to left-center, giving the Mets a 4-3 lead, on Wainwright’s 117th pitch of the night. Perhaps it would’ve been better to walk him.

Criticism of Mike Matheny‘s poor management of his starters came hard and fast, and they weren’t necessarily unwarranted. Waino was already over 100 pitches, and truth be told, should have been yanked after giving up 2 hits to start the inning.

Whether this displays a bit too much faith in Wainwright or an utter lack of faith in the bullpen by Matheny, it’s hard to know. Neither of them are ideal.

Luckily, Wainwright and Matheny were bailed out by late-game heroics in the top of the 9th.

Mets closer Jeurys Familia came into Wednesday night with a streak of 52 straight saves, the 3rd highest in MLB history. Realistically, the Cardinals weren’t looking like the team that was going to break it.

Until Yadier Molina, hero of that same postseason game in 2006, doubled to center to score Randal Grichuk, a pinch-runner for Jedd Gyorko.

Two batters later, up comes Kolten Wong—a player who has seemed to get almost nothing done at the plate—with a chance to be a hero. He took the chance and ran with it, slapping a double to the opposite field in left and scoring Jeremy Hazelbaker to put the Cardinals on top.

Closer Seung-Hwan Oh entered in the bottom of the 9th to hold the lead, and made quick work to give the Cardinals a relieving win.

This game was one of momentum: momentum for a team that’s struggled to find true momentum all season, as well as momentum for Kolten Wong.

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Can this game be a turning point for both a team struggling to prove themselves as more than a 3-games-over-.500 club? Can Kolten Wong return back to his rookie year glory days of offense? Time will tell.