St. Louis Cardinals

Cooney comes through with first big-league win

The Cardinals' Yadier Molina, congratulates Randal Grichuk after he hit a two-run home run during the second inning against the Braves on Friday at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals won 4-2.
The Cardinals' Yadier Molina, congratulates Randal Grichuk after he hit a two-run home run during the second inning against the Braves on Friday at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals won 4-2. Associated Press

After six starts, Tim Cooney finally got the result for which he was looking.

The St. Louis Cardinals left-hander collected his first career win Friday night, defeating the Atlanta Braves 4-2 at Busch Stadium.

Cooney permitted two runs (earned) on five hits in seven innings, with no walks and five strikeouts. Fifty-three of his 74 pitches were strikes.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said the 24-year-old Cooney (1-0). “Before the game ended, I really just wanted us to win the game. When it ended and I saw my name in the win column, it was pretty cool. I will definitely remember it. It was an awesome day.”

Cooney, whose five no-decisions in his first five starts were a franchise record, had his consecutive scoreless-innings streak snapped at 12 in the sixth. That’s when the Braves struck for two runs, but the Cardinals still led 4-2 thanks to a two-run homer by Randal Grichuk in the second and RBI singles by Jhonny Peralta in the third and Mark Reynolds in the fourth.

That was all the support needed by Cooney.

“Cooney was great. What more could you ask?” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “It would have been nice to maybe hold them down completely. We had a couple of opportunities where we could have scored a few more and let him keep pitching.

“But he was deeper into a big-league game than he’s been. You can see why he’s been able to throw complete games, and he was on a great track to do it today.”

Matheny said Cooney’s unpredicability flummoxed the Braves.

“His curveball was very good, his changeup in hitter’s counts (was good),” Matheny said. “It was just a great outing. Tim had a real nice feel for everything today.”

Cooney was especially proud of his control. In his previous start against the New York Mets on Sunday, he walked four in a game the Cardinals eventually lost 3-1 in 18 innings.

“My command has been getting a little bit better each start,” Cooney said. “This was definitely my best fastball command as well as off-speed pitches (command). When you’re able to locate the ball, good things are going to happen. I was on today and I feel like I’ve been getting just a little bit better each start.

“(Control) is one of my strengths – at least it has been. I don’t walk guys. Having a start like today where I don’t walk anyone, I’m definitely happy about. The last start, I walked four, which is a high number for me. I wanted to come back this game and command the ball better.”

Cooney has made sizeable gains since his April 30 debut against Philadelphia at Busch Stadium. In that game, he allowed three runs (earned) on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings, although the Cardinals won 9-3.

Since then, Cooney’s been able to slow down the game, exhibiting a more mature mental approach and working in better unison with All-Star catcher Yadier Molina.

“The first start is a little bit different than your next one,” Cooney said. “The first one’s got all that buildup of being your first time in the big leagues. Now, it’s just more competing, trying to get a little better each day and help the team win. I’m definitely more comfortable when I go out there.”

Molina has noticed the difference.

“He’s getting better each start,” Molina said. “He’s doing a good job for us. It’s always good to have that first win. He deserved it. He pitched a great game for us and I’m happy for him.

“He was pitching. It was not only the fastball. The changeup was there for him and the curveball, too. He was pitching tonight.”

Cooney doesn’t know when his next big-league start will be. Jaime Garcia is returning soon and could be plugged into the rotation.

“I know that’s why I came up here in the first place – to fill in for him,” Cooney said. “I try not to worry about anything like that. I feel like if I pitch well, things will open up for me. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 618-239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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