It seemed like a long wait for St. Louis Cardinals top prospect Oscar Taveras to arrive in Major League Baseball.
But the 21-year-old slugger made Redbirds fans' patience pay off Saturday when he hit the game-winning home run in his debut and helped his club snap a three-game losing streak with a 2-0 win over the San Francisco Giants.
Taveras flied out in his first at bat following his introduction to a standing ovation. He was able to keep his composure through all the hype and in his next plate appearance Taveras broke a scoreless tie by turning on a pitch and driving it over the right field bullpen.
It almost seemed too corny to be true. In a slow-motion instant replay you could see big raindrops fall in the foreground like a scene from an overly-dramatic movie. The Natural comes to life.
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As soon as Taveras rounded the bases and ran the gauntlet of his teammates waiting to congratulate him, the skies really opened up and the game was halted for the first of two rain delays.
Taveras finished the game 1-for-3. He struck out in his final at-bat, chasing a high pitch after working the count full. Still, Taveras hardly seemed overmatched or intimidated at the major-league level. He played loose and was full of smiles before and during the game, an encouraging site to see. I have heard some people compare Taveras to the Redbirds' previous slugging outfield prospect, Colby Rasmus. The biggest difference between the two seems to be that Taveras carry's the burden of expectations with ease while it seemed to drag Rasmus -- and those around him -- down.
Not to be forgotten in the game was starting pitcher Michael Wacha who celebrated his first anniversary in the big leagues by tossing six shutout innings against the potent Giants offense.
Wacha struck out seven and walked none in the game while scattering three hits. He survived the first rain delay and started pitching to the first batter in the seventh when the umpiring crew stopped the game a second time because of a downpour. He couldn't come back a second time. But Wacha's performance was good enough for his fourth win of the season.
The Cardinals could manage only four hits against the Giants, two of them against starter Yusmeiro Petit who entered the game with an ERA over 5.00. Fortunately the hits came at fortunate times. After Taveras made it 1-0 in the fifth, Allen Craig singled in the seventh in front of a Jhonny Peralta double.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Sorry not to go with the flow here, but Wacha made many contributions to the game while Taveras's input came on one big blow.
Cardinals Play of the Game: Taveras' homer.
Lowlight: The Cardinals offense was a disappointment, unable to tally more than one run against a starter who's been beaten around in previous outings. They struck out eight times and had only four hits.