Their ace’s season is over. Their most versatile hitter is back home in St. Louis dealing with a couple of unexpected health issues.
No biggie. The Cardinals keep right on rolling.
Matt Holliday and Kolten Wong hit three-run homers and Michael Wacha remained unbeaten as the St. Louis Cardinals held off the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-5 on Friday night.
Holliday sent a towering shot to left-center off Francisco Liriano (1-2) in the third inning and Wong put it away with a drive over the Clemente Wall in right off Arquimedes Caminero in the seventh. Jhonny Peralta also homered for the Cardinals, who have won 10 of 11.
“It’s nice to not just get the big hits but get the home runs to get us going,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Jhonny’s was a monster shot, Holliday’s was a laser and then Kolten really got into one, too, with two men on base. That was the difference in the game.”
Wong finished with three hits. Trevor Rosenthal worked the ninth for his 11th save as the Cardinals improved to a major-league best 22-7 even with Adam Wainwright out for the year and third baseman Matt Carpenter recuperating with what Matheny described as extreme fatigue.
Wacha (5-0) produced six workmanlike innings, giving up three runs and six hits with one strikeout.
“I felt I was able to keep them off-balance for the most part,” Wacha said. “A couple innings got away from me but I was able to make my pitches for most of the night and really just had my defense right behind me there making great plays.”
Starling Marte had three hits for Pittsburgh and Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Francisco Cervelli added two each. The Pirates have dropped six of seven and eight of 10. Liriano struck out a season-high 10 but also gave up two homers as his ERA rose from 1.93 to 2.79.
“Tough lineup,” Liriano said. “You cannot make mistakes to those guys. They’re ready to swing.”
The Cardinals swept Pittsburgh in three taut games in St. Louis last weekend, winning all three on extra-inning walk-off hits despite managing just seven runs the entire weekend. They topped that number the first seven innings on Friday.
Seven of St. Louis’ 11 hits went for extra bases, including two doubles by Peter Bourjos and doubles by Holliday and Wong, who bumped his batting average to .340.
“Hitting in front of Holliday definitely gives me an opportunity to see more fastballs obviously,” Wong said. “I’m just trying to hold this spot for Carp.”
Wacha’s lone strikeout gave him 19 on the season. His strikeouts per nine innings is a career-low 5.0, though it has hardly stopped the Cardinals from winning his last eight starts dating to last season. Matheny pointed to Wacha’s 2.09 ERA as proof he is becoming more resourceful.
“He’s got the ability to strike somebody out (but) I think he’s getting quicker outs, too,” Matheny said. “I think he’s a better pitcher when he’s using everything. Strikeouts are going to be there I just think it’s really early and I don’t want to change a thing for him.”
Cardinals: Carpenter did not travel with the team to Pittsburgh after feeling rundown and grappling with an elevated heart rate. Carpenter had a scheduled day off on Thursday – the first game he did not start all season – but could return Tuesday when St. Louis begins a series in Cleveland. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we are in a stretch of playing 20 straight games,” Matheny said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve had a lot of tough games recently and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he’s as hard of a worker as there is on this team.”
Pirates: RHP Charlie Morton was dominant during a rehab start with Double-A Altoona on Friday. Morton allowed two hits in seven shutout innings, walking two and striking out five. Morton is recovering from hip surgery. His last major league start was on Sept. 16, 2014.
Cardinals: Carlos Martinez (3-0) will try to stay unbeaten when he makes his seventh start of the season. The 23-year-old has a 1.29 ERA on the road, the fourth-best mark in the National League.
Pirates: Vance Worley starts for the Pirates. He gave up one run in six innings of a no-decision against the Cardinals in his previous start last Sunday.