With Trevor Rosenthal and Kevin Siegrist unavailable Saturday, the St. Louis Cardinals turned over a save situation to the graybeard of their pitching staff.
Randy Choate, 39, entered the game with one out in the ninth and the Cardinals leading 1-0. He allowed a single to Nick Markakis, but induced a 6-4-3 double play from A.J. Pierzynski.
It was the Cardinals’ fourth double play of the game and Choate’s first save since May 26, 2012, against the San Francisco Giants, while he was pitching for the Miami (then Florida) Marlins. Choate has seven career saves.
“I don’t get that opportunity very often,” said Choate, who recalled his most recent save. “I struck out (Gregor) Blanco with a slider. I just came in for one out and got Blanco out. That was three years ago and that’s not really my job, but if those guys (Rosenthal and Siegrist) need to be down and my situation comes up, I just try to go out there and get them out.”
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Seth Maness retired the Braves’ first hitter, Cameron Maybin, on a grounder to shortstop. Choate was summoned to face Markakis, Pierzynski and, if necessary, Freddie Freeman – all left-handed hitters. Freeman, activated before the game, never got a chance to swing the bat.
“I tried not to make it any more than it is and treat it like it’s the sixth, seventh or eighth,” said Choate, the longtime lefty specialist. “I was able to keep the ball on the ground, even though I missed Markakis’ ground ball. I was able to do that again to A.J. and we were able to roll it up.”
Choate said getting ready to pitch in the ninth inning had a different feel to it. But once he entered the game, it didn’t take long to become comfortable.
“The first (warmup pitch) I threw, I felt like I was overthrowing,” Choate said. “I had to be cautious of that, because my ball flattens out and I don’t get the same ground ball when it flattens out. I would rather sit at 83, 84, 85 (mph) with some sink and get ground balls like that rather than pump it all the way up to 86 and give up line drives.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Rosenthal, who has appeared in 45 games, and Siegrist (50 games) are expected to be available in the series finale at 1:15 p.m. Sunday.
“This isn’t like a physical issue,” Matheny said of the reasons for Rosenthal and Siegrist being idled Saturday. “It’s kind of what we’ve been talking about –lots of use.”
The Cardinals had just two hits, both against former teammate Shelby Miller. Kolten Wong had a leadoff double in the first and Yadier Molina had a single in the eighth that led to Stephen Piscotty’s pinch-hit sacrifice fly that proved to be the game-winner. Carlos Martinez was the beneficiary as he improved to 11-4 in what he considered his best game of the season.
“He had real good sink today,” Matheny said. “It was 96 (mph) and it was moving down. That’s going to get you the ground balls, and our guys made plays behind him. He had everything else in the tank when he wanted. Just a phenomenal start for him.”
It was the first time the Cardinals won a game in which they had two hits since Sept. 4, 2004, against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Busch Stadium. It was the first time the Cardinals won 1-0 on a sacrifice fly since July 21, 2004, against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium. Edgar Renteria came through with the RBI in the seventh inning.