MILWAUKEE - Just one month ago, the St. Louis Cardinals were 34-32, five and a half games out of first and seemed to be going nowhere.
Given where his club was, Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny – in his usual reserved manner – played down the standings this early, but did allow that it was “nice to be able to make up some ground.”
The always-cautious skipper said he was more impressed that the Cardinals came back after Friday’s big come back win and attacked the fading Milwaukee Brewers Saturday afternoon.
“We went about this the right way. After the big comeback Friday, Waino went out there and took control right away and the guys kept playing. That’s what I like to see.”
The Cards, 18-6 under Matheny at Miller Park, finish the series and wrap up the first half of the season against the Brewers at 1:10 p.m. The clubs are tied for first place in the tight National League Central Division. Carlos Martinez will throw for the Cards and Wily Peralta for the Brewers.
The Cardinals don’t have a large sample size against Peralta, but Matt Holliday is 4-10, John Jay 5-15, Against Peralta lifetime, Matt Carpenter 5-9 and Allen Craig is 4-7. He is 2-3 with a career 6.26 ERA against the Redbirds, but beat them in his only start against them this year, 5-1 on April 16.
The Cards have taken the pivotal first two games in the series without the normally hot bat of Matt Adams, who is just 1-8 in the series. But that blow was a monstrous two-run homer that started Friday’s comeback.
The hottest hitter right now is Jhonny Peralta who has torn up Miller Park over the years, hitting over .500 here. He is 5-7 this series with a three-run homer that drew the Cards close Friday night before homers by Kolten Wong and Matt Holliday put them over the top. Wong is 2-10 in the series, but both hits were homers.
Matheny was asked if he was concerned that Wong might start looking for the home runs to the detriment of his average.
“No, I don’t think so. He’s got a nice base and good bat speed. You don’t see him take any half swings. When he commits, he swings through.”
Cards back up catcher Tony Cruz also drew heavy praise from his manager and Wainwright. Cruz had a single and a double for three RBIs in his first two at bats, pushing the Cardinals out to an early lead.
“Tony’s offense yesterday was huge,” Matheny said. “He’s done a great job. He fought hard in all of his at bats. It’s more important to be a good catcher than a good hitter, there’s no question about that. But he’s doing a really nice job (all the way around.)”
Wainwright, who was more talkative about his 100th career hit than he was about his masterful pitching performance, said the team has great faith in Cruz.
“I honestly don’t think we could have gone out and gotten any better than Tony Cruz,” he said. “He’s been in all the (hitters) meetings and he works very hard.”