The St. Louis Cardinals started joking as Randy Choate put on Randal Grichuk’s batting gloves in the ninth inning. The fun in the dugout increased as he took Michael Wacha’s bat and headed to home plate for the first time in more than a decade, and there was lots laughter when the reliever drew a walk.
With an eight-run lead, it’s pretty easy to kid around.
Grichuk had three extra-base hits and drove in three runs a night after striking out five times, Mark Reynolds homered among his three hits and the Cardinals teed off on Mets starter Jonathon Niese for a 10-2 victory over New York on Tuesday night.
“I just don’t want to get hit,” Choate said after his first plate appearance since April 26, 2004, with Arizona. “I’m not a good hitter.”
He didn’t need to be.
After his team went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position in a 2-1, 14-inning loss Monday night, Cardinals manager Matheny loaded his lineup with right-handers to face the lefty Niese, leaving Jason Heyward, Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams on the bench.
The new look order broke out to match the Cardinals’ season high for hits, set on April 28 against Philadelphia – Wacha was the recipient of that largess, too. The NL Central leaders upped the majors best record to 26-13 with their fourth win in 10 games.
Every starter had a hit except for Matt Holliday, who added a sacrifice fly, and the Cardinals went 6 for 14 with runners in scoring position. Wacha contributed a safety squeeze in the second to give St. Louis a 2-0 lead, and he bunted for a single in the six-run sixth, when second baseman Daniel Murphy failed to cover first.
“Just good, tough at-bats all the way through,” Matheny said.
Wacha (6-0) gave up a two-run homer to Murphy in seven innings of four-hit ball to join the Mets’ Bartolo Colon and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez for most wins in the majors. The six wins are a career high for the 23-year-old right-hander.
“It’s always good whenever you’re on the mound with that kind of run support,” Wacha said.
In a matchup between two of the NL’s top 10 ERA leaders only Wacha lived up to the billing.
Niese (3-4) had his second straight rough outing. After giving up six runs to the Cubs on Thursday, he was off from the first batter, a single by Peter Bourjos.
“He didn’t have his two-seam fastball,” manager Terry Collins said. “Every time he called it, or it was called for, it either went straight or he cut it and a lot of them, instead of cutting away from the barrel, came into the barrel.”
Grichuk followed with an RBI double off the wall in left. Grichuk tripled off the glove of center fielder Juan Lagares leading off the third and added a two-run double in the sixth.
“Definitely try to flush it,” Grichuk said of Monday’s five-K performance. “It’s not easy to forget about it period, but after that first knock in the first I got to relax a little bit.”
The first four batters in the sixth reached on hits, with Kolton Wong’s two-run double chasing Niese.
Niese allowed a career high-tying eight runs and 11 hits.
Cardinals: OF Jon Jay (left wrist tendinitis), out since May 10, swung a bat indoors and made some throws on the field.
Mets: Closer Bobby Parnell (Tommy John surgery) pitched 1 1/3 innings in an extended spring game at Port St. Lucie, Florida. He allowed four hits, three runs – two earned – and struck out two. He did not walk a batter.
Cardinals: Carlos Martinez has not been able to finish the sixth in any of his three starts in May. He’s allowed 16 runs in those starts and is 0-2 this month.
Mets: Colon has gone 45 1/3 innings without walking a batter, 2 1/3 innings off Brett Saberhagen’s club record. The right-hander, who turns 42 on Sunday, is 4-0 in six starts against the Cardinals.