Walk-off wins were the weekend norm for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Kolten Wong’s 14th-inning home run Sunday against Radhames Liz gave the Cardinals a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates and a sweep of the three-game series.
The Cardinals won 2-1 on Matt Adams’ single in the 10th Friday. They won 2-1 on Matt Carpenter’s sacrifice fly in the 11th Saturday before Wong added the finishing touch.
“Any time you can hit a walk-off home run, it’s special,” said Wong, who came into the game in the eighth inning and finished 3-for-4. “Doing it in the fashion that we did, three (times) in a row, it’s definitely something big for us, especially against a team like the Pirates.”
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The Cardinals, who are 18-6 for the first time since 1944, have posted 15 walk-off wins since the start of the 2013 season, and eight have come against the Pirates.
Until Sunday, St. Louis hadn’t won three consecutive extra-inning walk-offs since July 8-10, 1987, against the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. The Cardinals hadn’t enjoyed three straight walk-off wins since Sept. 1-3, 2000, against the New York Mets.
The Cardinals had a 1-0 lead heading into the ninth, thanks to Carpenter’s 409-foot home run to center in the fourth against Vance Worley.
But Trevor Rosenthal allowed a leadoff homer to Jung Ho Kang in the ninth. Pittsburgh took a 2-1 lead in the 12th on Pedro Alvarez’s home run against Sam Tuivailala, but the Cardinals tied it in the 12th on Peter Bourjos’ bases-loaded infield single against Liz.
“He got into a tough spot,” Matheny said. “He gets a 3-2 slider, which is one that he had swung through a couple of times. Just an incredible at-bat by Peter Bourjos right there.”
Miguel Socolovich (1-0) retired the Pirates in order in the 14th. Liz (1-2) fanned Pete Kozma to open the 14th, but Wong followed with his 421-foot blast to right.
“He threw me a split-finger, which I was kind of anticipating,” Wong said. “As soon as I saw it, I tried to put a good swing on it. Luckily, I hit it out.
“I wasn’t looking to hit a single in that at-bat. That late in the game, no one one, I’m trying to drive something to get in scoring position or end the game.”
The game not only was the longest of the season in number of innings played, but also time (4 hours, 28 minutes). Fourteen pitchers combined to make 432 pitches.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny looked exhausted when he met the media after the win, exhaling when he approached the microphone.
“Wow. I think that’s all I’ve got,” said Matheny, who proceeded to offer more. “I love how they keep playing. We would like to, obviously, see more offense. But we’re tougher, that’s for sure. I just love the fight that I’m seeing. ... This Pittsburgh team has been throwing the ball really well all season, too, so we probably shouldn’t be that surprised that we got locked up like we did.
“That was memorable.”
Matheny called Wong an “exciting, impressive kid.”
“We just want to keep working with him to the point where he’s getting that consistency,” he said. “But he can do some pretty impressive things.”
Michael Wacha threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings and lowered his ERA to 1.93, but did not figure in the decision. Wacha walked two and struck out two before handing the ball to Randy Choate, the first of seven relievers. The last three, Mitch Harris, Tuvailala and Socolovich, are rookies.
“They were all spot-on, exactly what we needed,” Matheny said.
Wacha had just returned to the dugout when Wong came through.
“Myself and all the other relievers that had already thrown, we were like, ‘We’ve got to go out there and support those guys out there,’” Wacha said. “Sure enough, Wong comes through with a huge home run and we’re able to go home. It’s a great win.
“(Wong) is a stud. He lives for those kind of moments. He comes through with some big knocks. I knew he was going to do something. He got a pitch he could hit and he ended it.”
The Cardinals led 1-0 in the seventh when Jhonny Peralta led off with a single. Jason Heyward forced Peralta at second, a play that brought Matheny from the dugout. Matheny believed second baseman Josh Harrison’s throw had pulled shortstop Jordy Mercer off the base.
“Apparently, that still constitutes the ‘neighborhood’ play,” Matheny said, indicating that he was told by the umpires that it was not reviewable. “But that makes no sense. It’s another one of those (calls) that needs to be cleared up a little bit. If there’s a wide throw, it needs to be looked at, at least. ... That’s a big play of the game.
“This wasn’t just a middle infielder getting out of the way to keep out of harm’s way. This was a bad throw that drew him off the bag. I think that should be something they take a couple of minutes to look at, because that could have changed the course of the game.”
Carpenter left the game in the eighth inning with dizziness. Matheny said it appeared to be nothing more than dehydration, and that the third baseman should be OK for Monday when the Cardinals open a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs.
Pittsburgh stranded 37 baserunners in the series, including 18 on Saturday, and was 2-for-25 (.080) with men in scoring position. The Pirates batted .235 in the three games (31-for-132), and 24 of their hits were singles against the major league’s best pitching staff.
The Cardinals’ staff ERA is 2.21.
“Just keep going. Believe what you’re seeing. That’s what I tell them,” Matheny said. “They’re all doing the little things they need to get better.”