With Adam Wainwright and Mike Leake throwing darts Sunday night, runs were at a premium.
The veteran right-handers each threw eight strong innings, but Wainwright and the Cardinals completed a sweep of Cincinnati on a sacrifice fly by Kolten Wong in the eighth.
The game, televised nationally on ESPN, was played in a snappy 2 hours, 2 minutes. It was the Cardinals’ shortest game since April 19, 2013, when they lost 8-2 in Philadelphia in 2:01.
“I would rather our guys go out and score a bunch of runs, but Mike was doing a great job, and he does that,” said Wainwright (2-1). “When he keeps his sinker down in the zone, it’s very hard to lift. He got a ton of ground-ball outs and he was working ahead in the count all night long.
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“Our guys had their work cut out for them. Jon Jay had a huge double there to lead off the eighth. That was a huge play.”
Wainwright allowed one run on seven hits, walked two and struck out four. His scoreless-innings streak against the Reds was snapped at 19 2/3 innings, but that hardly mattered after the Cardinals (8-3) won their fifth straight and finished 5-1 on the homestand.
Jay opened the eighth with a double to center against Leake (0-1), who permitted four hits, walked none and struck out three. Yadier Molina tapped out to third as Jay advanced one base. Wong followed with a deep sacrifice fly to left to make it 2-1.
With Trevor Rosenthal unavailable after throwing 20 pitches Saturday and warming up on previous days, Jordan Walden was summoned from the bullpen.
Walden, acquired with Jason Heyward from Atlanta in November, allowed an infield single to Brennan Boesch, who stole second as Tucker Barnhart struck out. Pinch-hitter Brayan Pena popped out weakly to third before Skip Schumaker grounded out to first.
It was Walden’s first save since July, 2, 2014, against the New York Mets.
“Going into it, I knew ‘Rosey’ was down today,” Walden said. “They told me before the game, ‘Just be ready in the ninth.’ I’m always going to be ready.
“It’s a great feeling. When the fans get into it like that in the ninth inning, there’s nothing else like that. Great fans here. They got on their feet and it was something special.”
Matt Carpenter jumped on a 2-1 fastball from Leake and deposited it over the center-field wall to give St. Louis a quick 1-0 lead in the first. It was Carpenter’s fifth career leadoff homer.
“It’s hard to do,” Carpenter said of his 406-foot drive onto the grassy hitter’s background. “I didn’t know I had that in me. But I got a good swing off and I guess it was carrying a little bit better tonight than usual, because I don’t hit balls up there that often.”
Carpenter has seven consecutive multihit games.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him go up on the grass before - BP or anything else,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “I think it just confirms what kind of hitter he can be. He’s still going to be that guy that’s going to grind through at-bats, but man, that was impressive.
“That’s something the rest of the league is going to be paying attention to when they get into counts where they say, ‘We’ll challenge him here.’ He might jump on you. He’s in a good spot.”
Two batters later, Matt Holliday singled to extend his hitting streak to 11 games, but Leake retired the next 15 hitters. Carpenter stopped the string with a one-out single in the sixth, only to be wiped out when Heyward rapped into a 5-4-3 double play.
Cincinnati struck with two outs in the third as Joey Votto singled, Todd Frazier walked and Brandon Phillips dropped an RBI single into short center field to make it 1-1.
The Reds loaded the bases after two were out in the eighth as Frazier and Phillips singled and Jay Bruce, with the crowd of 40,742 on its feet, walked on a 3-2 pitch.
Zack Cozart then hit a one-hopper to second baseman Wong, who flipped to shortstop Jhonny Peralta to narrowly get the sliding Bruce.
Matheny visited Wainwright before Bruce came to the plate. Left-hander Kevin Siegrist was warm in the pen, but Wainwright remained in the game.
“It comes down to the fact that your ace is on the mound and he’s been throwing very well,” Matheny said. “At that point, he’s the guy we want in the game. I liked the way he went about it. He really knew what he was trying to do with the ball and executed extremely well. It’s hard taking him out of a game like that in that situation.”
Wainwright obviously had no interest in exiting.
“(Matheny) just said, ‘You feel good?’ I said, ‘Yes, sir,’” Wainwright said. “He said, ‘All right, this is your game. Let’s go.’ I said, ‘I already know that.’ No, I didn’t say that, but that’s what I was thinking. I made good, solid eye contact with him and let him know I felt good.”