Muscling up in the pinch has been commonplace this season for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Matt Adams’ pinch-hit two-run homer in the seventh inning Monday tied the game at 3 and set up Randal Grichuk’s game-winning, two-out homer in the ninth that powered the Cardinals past the Chicago Cubs 4-3.
Adams’ home run was the ninth hit this season by Cardinals pinch-hitters. The closest team to the Cardinals in pinch-hit home runs is Washington with six. Adams’ drive to center came against former Cardinal John Lackey, who was sailing along until then.
“He had everything working today,” Adams said of Lackey, who had allowed one run on three hits until the homer. “Off a guy like that, you know you’ve got to take advantage of a pitch up in the zone, especially because he likes to work down. I was able to get the barrel on it.”
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After the Cardinals and Trevor Rosenthal escaped a first-and-third, one-out jam in the ninth by getting an unorthodox 5-3 unassisted double play, Brandon Moss and Yadier Molina were easy outs against Adam Warren.
Grichuk then sat on a 2-2 fastball and drove it into the Cardinals’ bullpen in right field.
The Cardinals for the last few seasons have tried to upgrade their bench, and the mission is accomplished this season. In addition to the nine pinch-hit home runs, one away from tying the club record, St. Louis pinch-hitters are batting .365 (27-for-74).
Adams has two of the Cardinals’ pinch-hit homers.
“I thought it had a chance,” he said of his latest. “I didn’t know for sure if it was gone or not. I saw Dex (Dexter Fowler) going back on it. I thought he might have had a play on it. But once I got to first base, I had a pretty good idea it was gone.
“It was just a good overall team win today to pick up Waino (Adam Wainwright) and the guys.”
Adams said he feels comfortable coming off the bench. Manager Mike Matheny is giving him enough at-bats, meanwhile, in the starting lineup to keep him sharp.
“You’re just making sure you’re getting your work in and making sure your body is ready to go,” said Adams, batting .289 with five homers and 19 RBIs. “You’re making sure you’re getting your swings and paying attention to when the pitcher’s spot does come up.
“You’re just going up and stepping in the box and making sure you’re ready to swing from pitch one because you know you might not get too many good pitches to hit.”
Matheny credited the hitters for staying mentally prepared in a game the Cardinals had little going against Lackey.
“Adams comes up huge, and obviously to say Grichuk came up huge is an understatement,” said Matheny, noting the pinch-hit success. “Good hitters. Good hitters cause good pinch-hit at-bats. We spent all winter talking about depth and the versatility of a bench that we have and have used quite a bit.
“Part of it, too, is giving them some pretty regular at-bats. Matt Adams has been getting at-bats pretty regularly, and to be able to throw him into a game, he feels his timing is right. I think he’s got a better chance that way.”
Wainwright got a no-decision, allowing three runs on seven hits in six innings. Rosenthal registered the win to improve to 2-1.
Wainwright, who walked three and struck out four, considered it another major step forward.
“I had great stuff tonight,” Wainwright said. “I loved my stuff. I’ve just got to attack a little better. But my stuff was very sharp. ... That’s going to play well the rest of the season.”
Cardinals 4, Cubs 3
Matt Adams hit a two-run homer off John Lackey to tie the game in the seventh and Randal Grichuk hit a two-out homer in the ninth against Adam Warren as the St. Louis Cardinals won the opener of a three-game series on Monday against the Chicago Cubs.
By the numbers
Cardinals pinch-hitters are batting .365 (27-for-74) this season. ... Adam Wainwright allowed three runs (earned) on seven hits in six innings. ... Seung Hwan Oh, Kevin Siegrist and Trevor Rosenthal each threw a scoreless inning in relief.
Michael Wacha (2-4, 4.03 ERA) vs. Jason Hammel (5-1, 2.31 ERA), 6:15 p.m. Tuesday