'Baseball is fun': O'Neill (2 HR) helps end skid

Wainwright's 7 IP, Carpenter's clutch double pace Cardinals

June 10th, 2021

As the Cardinals continued to steer deeper into their six-game losing streak, they always had knowledge that -- eventually -- some of their old reliables would step up, right the ship and turn the team back onto a course it believes it should be destined for this season.

Help came threefold in Wednesday’s slump-breaking 8-2 win over the Indians at Busch Stadium. With two home runs, continued his absolutely torrid stretch of play since returning from the injured list; -- vaulted to the club’s No. 1 starter due to injuries -- worked through a rough first inning en route to an excellent outing; and did what he does with the bases loaded: he clears them.

It was quite the way to rebound ahead of the club's first series at Wrigley Field this season, coming up this weekend.

“Big sigh of relief there, thankfully,” O’Neill said. “Felt good to shake hands again, that's for sure.”

It should be no surprise that this trio led St. Louis to victory. For O’Neill, his homers in the third and seventh innings gave him seven in 13 games since recovering from his finger fracture. For Wainwright, it was another shutdown outing in a career full of them -- and one sorely needed by the Cards’ ailing pitching staff. And for Carpenter, it was his 88th career plate appearance with the bases juiced … and his 91st career RBI.

With the victory, St. Louis snapped a six-game losing streak that saw the team drop eight of its previous nine games.

The left fielder
O’Neill does two things when he mashes the baseball like he did on Wednesday. He continues to evolve into the exact type of player the Cardinals envisioned was coming to St. Louis when Marco Gonzales headed to Seattle in a 2017 trade. And he continues to catapult himself into the All-Star conversation, his team-leading OPS now up to .974 and his 15 long balls three off the MLB lead.

“I’d like to see him in that Home Run Derby, too,” Wainwright said. “That'd be fun.”

O’Neill’s first shot was his fourth of at least 450 feet this season. No one in baseball has more. His second, two at-bats after Paul Goldschmidt left the yard with a long ball of his own, was a back-breaking blast that quashed any hopes of a Cleveland comeback.

“Baseball is fun,” O’Neill said, “fun sport when you're hitting the ball.”

For good measure, O’Neill also made another one of his highlight-reel snags in left field, sliding to rob Austin Hedges of a base knock in the second inning.

The starter
The Cardinals have uttered some prophetic and ambitious declarations over the past week. In the lead-up to Wainwright’s past two starts -- once when walks were an issue and once when winning was an issue -- the message from the clubhouse, as poised by president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, was this: “We're going to start fresh; Adam Wainwright is on the mound.”

The club’s proclaimed bulldog worked through a rough start, staking Cleveland a 2-0 lead after the first on three hits, but promptly walked off the field and declared to his dugout: “They're not scoring anymore,” he said. “I'm keeping it right there.”

And keep it right there, he did. Wainwright and two relievers combined to retire 26 of the next 27 batters they faced to close out the game, issuing zero walks along the way.

“[Wainwright] had two ‘P’s’ going for him tonight,” said manager Mike Shildt. “He had poise, and he had pace.”

Fully in charge of his evening, Wainwright laced his first hit since 2019 with a fourth-inning single, breaking an 0-for-20 start to the season, spotting the dugout a smile -- and at Yadier Molina, specifically, as Wainwright trotted 90 feet to the first-base bag.

“0-for-20 is ridiculous; that’s embarrassing,” Wainwright laughed. “I didn’t know how to act. You’re supposed to act like you’ve done it before, but I felt like I had not done it before.”

The second baseman
Carpenter is walking -- and hitting -- with all-time greats.

He entered Wednesday’s win already among the Top 10 in Major League history in several bases-loaded categories (minimum 50 at-bats) -- OPS, hits, on-base percentage, as a few examples. So almost to-be-expected was his bases-loaded double in the first -- his second in four days -- but especially important was its ability to hand a lead right back to Wainwright.

And on Wednesday, it came amid a much-welcomed stretch in the box, with a .357 batting average (10-for-28), .455 on-base percentage and OPS north of 1.000 across his last 13 games.

As the cherry on top of Wednesday's festivities, Carpenter also tied Lou Brock with his 681st walk in a St. Louis uniform. Only five other Cardinals have more.