Even a season-worst pitching performance wasn’t enough to stop the surging St. Louis Cardinals on Monday.
St. Louis overcame a five-run deficit and tripped the Chicago Cubs 10-9 before 41,981 fans at Busch Stadium. The 10 runs were a season-high for the Cardinals, as were the nine runs allowed.
The latter hardly mattered, however, as the Cardinals extended their season-high winning streak to seven while moving to 19-6 for the first time in the modern era, which began in 1900. The St. Louis Perfectos, led by shortstop Bobby Wallace, opened the season 19-6 in 1899.
“I think I said (Sunday) that ‘wow’ was my explanation,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, referencing his team’s 3-2 win in 14 innings over Pittsburgh. “I don’t even know what to give you today. To me, that’s a sign of a tough team, a mentally tough team. They’re going to be relentless, and I hope that’s something we never lose.”
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The Cardinals, who are 12-2 at home, stretched their first-place lead over the Cubs (13-11) to 5 1/2 games. It’s the biggest lead St. Louis has had in the NL Central since the final day of the 2009 season, when it led by 7 1/2 games. It’s the Cardinals’ longest winning streak since they won eight straight in 2010.
Miguel Socolovich (2-0) pitched a scoreless seventh for the victory. Socolovich also was the winning pitcher Sunday against the Pirates. Will he go for three in a row Tuesday?
“Yeah, why not?” Socolovich said. “I just want to put zeroes on the board and give a chance to the team to win. It feels great to do your job.”
With Trevor Rosenthal unavailable, Seth Maness pitched the ninth for his second save of the season and the sixth of his career. Maness allowed a two-out homer to rookie Addison Russell, but retired Dexter Fowler on a line drive to first baseman Mark Reynolds to end the game.
The game was a far cry from the weekend series against the Pirates in which the Cardinals won all three games by one run in extra innings. The Cardinals and Pittsburgh combined for 11 runs in the series. St. Louis and the Cubs had that many after 3 1/2 innings.
A four-run seventh in which the Cardinals sent eight hitters to the plate against relievers Pedro Strop (0-2) and Zac Rosscup gave them their two-run lead.
Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta singled and Reynolds walked to load the bases against Strop, bringing in Rosscup. Jason Heyward hit into a fielder’s choice to make it 8-7 and Kolten Wong lined a single to center to make it 8-8.
Tony Cruz, starting at catcher for Yadier Molina, then delivered the biggest blow of the game for the Cardinals, a two-run double past third that scored Heyward and Wong to make it 10-8.
“It’s just a team full of guys that grind out every inning, every pitch,” Cruz said. “I can’t pinpoint one thing. It’s all just a team effort. We all believed we could come back.”
Cruz watched Molina catch all 35 innings of the Pirates series, so he acknowledged it was exciting to be able to contribute a two-run double to the most memorable win of the season.
“It was on the ground, but I thought I hit it pretty good,” Cruz said. “A lot had to happen before I came up in that situation and got the knock. To not play every day and get in there and be able to contribute to a win, which is the most important thing, is nice.”
The Cubs were riding high in the first as they scored five runs against Carlos Martinez, who walked three of the first four hitters before Miguel Montero’s single made it 2-0.
Starlin Castro, Chris Denorfia and pitcher Travis Wood followed with consecutive run-scoring singles before Martinez finally recorded the final two outs.
“We had a lot of game left,” Matheny said. “We hadn’t had the bat in our hands yet. ... We just talked about chipping away, taking our at-bats and seeing what we could get. The next thing you know, we get into a great spot.”
The Cardinals cut deeply into the Cubs’ lead in their first as Jon Jay was hit by a pitch and went to third on Matt Holliday’s double one out later. Peralta walked before Reynolds hit his fourth career grand slam, a 407-foot shot into the Chicago bullpen in left.
“That was fun,” Reynolds said. “It takes it from a 5-0 game to a 1-0 game real quick. At that point, we knew we were back in it. We felt like we would just keep chipping away and eventually we would get there. There was never any quit. Guys keep playing. We feel like we’re never out of it. Win or lose, we’re having fun.”
The first inning lasted 40 minutes and every starter for both teams batted.
Anthony Rizzo’s home run put the Cubs ahead 6-4 in the second, and Montero’s RBI double made it 7-4 in the fourth and ended Martinez’s outing. Martinez allowed nine hits, walked four and struck out four in 3 2/3 innings as his ERA soared from 1.73 to 3.64.
“He was a little too amped up for the game,” Cruz said. “It happens. Young guy. He really wanted to go out there and show what he had.”
Matheny spoke with Martinez for a few seconds before Martinez exited the mound.
“We had some things we needed to cover real quick,” Matheny said. “Today was, to me, a flashback of things we saw last year and what we celebrated that he’s been able to fix in the last year. He’s a young pitcher. He’s going to have relapses.
“I’m going to highly suggest he watch this all over again from our eyes and sees his mannerisms, see how he was approaching the game and see how he let it speed up and he let his emotions take him too far in the wrong direction. Make this something to move forward from.”
The Cubs stretched their lead to 8-4 sixth with an unearned run against Carlos Villanueva.
Chris Coghlan tripled off center fielder Jay’s glove with one out. The Cardinals’ infield came in, and Rizzo hit a high popup into short left-center. Peralta drifted out and was in position to make the catch, but the ball glanced off his glove for an error as Coghlan scored.
The Cardinals inched within 8-6 in the sixth. Three straight singles by Reynolds, Heyward and Wong ended Wood’s evening, with Wong’s hit making it 8-5.
Former Cardinals closer Jason Motte relieved and allowed pinch-hitter Peter Bourjos’ sacrifice fly that made it 8-6. The run was charged to Wood, who walked two and struck out five in five-plus innings.
The Cardinals will go for two in a row over the Cubs when Tyler Lyons pitches at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday. Lyons could take the spot on the roster of pitcher Sam Tuivailala, who cleaned out his locker and said good-bye to a few teammates after the game Monday.
St. Louis also could make another move, as Matheny could opt to go back to a 12-man pitching staff and a five-man bench.