(BaseballStL) -- The sixth inning was a strange one for the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday.
The first three St. Louis batters combined to crush the ball 1,200 feet off Chicago Cubs starter Scott Feldman and the Cardinals had four base runners reach before two outs were recorded in the inning. After all of that only one run had crossed the plate.
If not for the two-out magic the Cardinals have exhibited on an almost nightly basis, Hector Rondon and the Cubs almost came away looking good.
The Cardinals started the inning with a 418-foot solo home run to center from Matt Holliday for a 3-1 lead. Yadier Molina nearly followed it with a home run of his own, but it landed just foul before he sent a double near the Cubs bullpen. Matt Adams also almost had a home run of his own too, but Ryan Sweeney robbed the big bat of his fifth home run in part-time duty this season. Freese then walked which spelled the end of the day for Feldman, who left the inning with runners on first and second and one out.
Rondon entered the game in relief for his first action since June 13. Jon Jay greeted him with an infield single after Starlin Castro’s throw from the seat of his pants wasn’t in-time for the force at second base.
That set up the bases loaded for Pete Kozma, who popped out to third base. Out two. Next up: starter Lance Lynn.
Mike Matheny elected to call it a night for Lynn, who threw 92 pitches in six innings of work. Enter: Allen Craig.
“Not an easy decision,” Matheny said. “I don’t think any of them are, but it’s easy afterwards when it went well. I liked how Lance was throwing the ball right there and I wasn’t actually excited to take him out of the game.”
Craig was scheduled to have the night off, but his first pinch hitting duty of the year was set up perfectly for him: bases loaded and two outs. Craig entered the game tops on the team with the most base hits with the bases full, and he added to that total with a two-RBI single. His fifth hit in eight at-bats with the bases full this year gave the Cardinals a 5-1 lead.
“It was a 3-1 game at the time, but it felt even closer than that. It was a great at-bat by Allen to be able to stay sharp all game and be in a situation he hasn’t been in awhile on the bench...great at-bat.”
Allen’s ability to hit with runners on base isn’t anything more than just getting the hits, he said.
“I don’t think my focus is any less when guys aren’t out there (on base),” Allen said. “I feel like that’s kind of the way it has worked out so far.”
The two RBIs were the 54th and 55th driven in this year for Allen. He leads Beltran, who has 45 RBI this season, for most on the team.
Matt Carpenter followed Craig’s hit with an RBI single of his own for a 6-1 lead before Carlos Beltran popped out to the end the four-run sixth inning.