The St. Louis Cardinals seemed primed for a let down, heading into Cincinnati's nearly vacant ballpark for a game against the Reds while still riding a high from taking three of four games against the Brewers in Milwaukee.
But starting pitcher Shelby Miller was brilliant for the second time in a row, allowing no runs on three hits over seven innings of work. He struck out four and walked none. The performance kept the Redbirds in position to break through and win the game. And that's exactly what his team did.
Usually, when Miller departs it's before the seventh inning. And it's because he's been inefficient, throwing a ton of pitches. But it was just the opposite situation Monday. He threw only 81 pitches when he was pulled. He was lifted not because of his shortcomings, but because the Cardinals needed to score some runs in his support.
Fortunately for Miller, pinch hitter Randal Grichuk started a rally with a double that led to two runs being scored in the inning. The timely outburst earned Miller his ninth win of the season. The Birds would add three more in the top of the ninth when Matt Adams launched a towering homer to salt the game away.
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Grichuk, Kolten Wong, Matt Holliday and Matt Carpenter each collected 2 hits in the game. Wong scored an important run with a heads-up, hustling effort to score from second on a flare to right centerfield. Grichuk also contributed to the win with his glove, making a diving catch near the foul line in right field to end the game.
The Redbirds improved to a season-high 16 games over .500 with the win at 80-64. They'll play Tuesday for their 81st win, guaranteeing they won't suffer their first losing season since 2007. That's the only time they've had a losing record in the 21st century -- the previous time they lost more than they won came in 1999.
In related news, the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Philadelphia Phillies to remain 4 1/2 games back of the Birds in the NL Central. Meanwhile, the Brewers lost their 12th game in 13 tries Monday, this time at the hands of the Miami Marlins, to fall six games back. I wonder if Jonathan Lucroy thinks his team is better than the Fish, too.