CHICAGO - On a day when Shelby Miller flashed the brilliance the Cardinals believe he has, Redbird bats came alive late as they stopped a four-game losing streak, beating the Chicago Cubs 6-3 before 41,000+, the largest Wrigley Field crowd of the year.
Miller’s line read Wainwright-esque; 5.2 innings, 87 pitches, 56 strikes, two earned runs, three hits, three strikeouts and no walks, the last stat being one of the most impressive for a guy who had been struggling with his command lately. He threw 74 fastballs and just one change, using his curveball as his most effective off-speed pitch.
“The ball was jumping out of his hand. It was effortless,” Mike Matheny said. “It was controlled effort on the mound which makes it repeatable.”
Miller retired the first nine batters, gave up a bunt single, and then seven more Cubs in a row with the lone base runner scoring on an infield out. As he tired in the sixth, Nate Schierholtz touched him for a 355-foot home run down the line to tie the score 2-2. After a bloop double to Emilio Bonifacio, he retired the next hitter before letting Randy Choate fan Anthony Rizzo to end the inning.
“When you just get in that groove and you’re feeling good, you kind of have a rhythm. You just keep going and you’re pitching more than throwing,” Miller said.
Just like Friday, the Cards took an early lead when Matt Adams scorched a ball down the line, chasing home Matt Carpenter (walk) and Kolten Wong (single).
Newest Cardinal A.J. Pierzynski banged out three hits for his new club, a welcome sight for a team that had been largely quiet at the plate in the four-game losing streak. Seemingly inspired by almost frenzied booing, Pierzynski sprayed hits all over Wrigley to the delight of the thousands of Cardinal fans in attendance.
He looked a little rusty early after a multi-state trip to join the Cards today, but shook off the effects of recent inactivity nicely.
“He did a nice job coming in and obviously making an impact with the bat, but I felt he had a nice feel for what Shelby was doing,” Matheny said, complimenting Pierzynski’s ability to get up to speed so quickly. “That’s just kind of a relief for our guys that the guy behind the plate has a good feel for the game calling.
But the hitting star was Big City Matt Adams whose four RBIs was the difference on Saturday. Adams had a double and a triple and joined Wong and Pierzynski with multi-hit games.
The Cards were again quiet at the plate until they unloaded in the seventh inning. A wide throw by Anthony Rizzo on Carpenter’s grounder allowed Jon Jay to squeeze past Wellington Castillo’s tag, giving them a 3-2 lead. A walk to Matt Holliday followed and Big City smashed a gap triple to increase the lead to 5-2. Pierzynski followed with a single to make it 6-2.
“He’s a tough lefty,” Adams said of reliever James Russell. “He challenges guys with that fastball, so I fought off some good sliders that he threw and he went back to a fastball that was middle in that I was able to get the barrel on.”
After a shaky first inning, the Cubs did not play like a team 17 games under the break-even mark. Starter Jake Arietta settled in to limit the Cards to a handful of singles and weathered no serious threats, finishing the day with 107 pitches and no decision. Ryan Sweeney again tormented the Cardinals with another home run but brilliant defense and no Cardinal walks limited the damage.
Strikeouts continued to plague the Cards, as 11 more fanned, including three each by Carpenter and Wong.
Still, Adams’ bat has proven it can handle the load. Hitting .320, he continues to torment defenses and drive in runs.
“You gotta have that guy who’s having that kind of year. Matt Adams is having a big season and we needed him,” he said. “When we were able to start gaining some traction in our pision is when Matt started to go.”
The Cardinals pulled to within two games of the Brewers with the victory, and have one more remaining with the Northsiders before heading to San Diego.