Big weekend: Mujica posts two saves and a win in Cardinals' sweep of Miami

News-DemocratJuly 7, 2013 

— More and more, Edward Mujica's first blown save of the season Thursday appears to be a blip.

Mujica registered two saves and a victory in the St. Louis Cardinals' three-game weekend sweep of the Miami Marlins, retiring all nine hitters he faced.

"Chief" posted his 23rd save in 24 chances Sunday in a 3-2 win. He also saved the Cardinals' 4-1 victory Friday and was the winner Saturday when St. Louis pushed across a ninth-inning run in a 5-4 thriller.

"I've been trying to turn the page because we (always) have a new day and a new game," Mujica said. "I don't try to put too much (thought) into it because we've got a long season to go. You know me: I'm trying to go out there and get outs as quick as possible --and throwing strikes."

Mujica was charged with two of the Los Angeles Angels' three ninth-inning runs Thursday that propelled them to a 6-5 victory and took a win away from Adam Wainwright.

It was a devastating way for the Cardinals to finish a road trip, but perspective was needed. After all, how many people really expected Mujica, a first-year closer, to reach the first week of July before squandering his first save opportunity?

The best closer ever, the New York Yankees' Mariano Rivera, had six blown saves in 2003 and had his second of the season Sunday. Trevor Hoffman, who ranks second all-time to Rivera in saves, blew seven in 2007.

"I think (the weekend) was a great test for him," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Mujica. "He probably didn't even know about it himself --at least as a closer, he didn't. To get back up there and make quality pitches and be very efficient and not try to change anything ... He had one of those days (Thursday). The good closers have very short memories."

Lynn shines

Lance Lynn (11-3) walked one and struck out seven in seven innings, allowing the Marlins' only runs in the second and fourth. Lynn induced key double plays in the fifth and seventh.

"It was good. I felt in control for the most part," Lynn said. "I was able to keep the lead and we were able to win. The bullpen came in and did their job, so it was a good win. I was just trying to stay within myself, let the defense work and throw strikes."

Matheny liked what he saw.

"Lance was good and strong," he said. "It was a hot day (87 degrees) and he kept his good stuff all the way through. He got us right where we needed to be. He stayed with an aggressive approach, working the bottom of the (strike) zone. He had a real good breaking ball today. He was a bulldog."

Lynn struck out Giancarlo Stanton three times, twice on inside fastballs.

"You can't let him eliminate one side of the plate," Lynn said. "He's a guy a lot of people don't want to go in on because of the power. But you have to because if you let him lean out over the plate, he's going to hurt you."

Lynn's victory was in jeopardy in the eighth when the Marlins loaded the bases with two outs against Trevor Rosenthal. But Rosenthal retired pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs on a roller to second.

Gratification

Matheny was pleased that second baseman Matt Carpenter and first baseman-outfielder Allen Craig will be representing the National League in the All-Star game for the first time.

"It's a great story, and the opportunity to share that as a club, the guy were very excited for them. It's very deserving," Matheny said.

Wainwright, catcher Yadier Molina and right fielder Carlos Beltran also will represent the Cardinals in the July 16 game in New York.

Matheny said San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who will lead the NL team, told him there were other Cardinals who deserved recognition on the team.

Mujica, Rosenthal and pitcher Shelby Miller were among the candidates.

"There's a lot of assumptions you can make," Matheny said. "There's a bunch of tough calls. I don't envy (Bochy's) decision that he has to make with the All-Star team. I envy the fact that he's the one making it. But I know it's a tough call and there's a lot of pressure coming from multiple directions --and from his own clubhouse as well.

"I'm very grateful that he realized how valuable Allen Craig is and what he's done. That was a managerial selection. That was a big deal for us."

Kozma back

Shortstop Pete Kozma on Sunday returned to action for the first time since Wednesday. Kozma had yielded the position to Daniel Descalso the last three games.

Kozma had been idled to work on his swing, but he was 0-for-2 with an intentional walk as his average fell to .234.

"He took some great steps," Matheny said of Kozma's time off. "I think we gave him a good amount (of time). He got some good work in and made some great adjustments."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665.

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