ST. LOUIS -- The Dodgers entered the series as the National League’s hottest team, but it was the Cardinals who ended it as such. St. Louis punctuated its first four-game sweep of Los Angeles since 2010 by erasing multiple deficits en route to an 11-7 win on Thursday afternoon at
ST. LOUIS -- The Dodgers entered the series as the National League’s hottest team, but it was the Cardinals who ended it as such. St. Louis punctuated its first four-game sweep of Los Angeles since 2010 by erasing multiple deficits en route to an 11-7 win on Thursday afternoon at Busch Stadium.
With the victory, the Cardinals closed their opening homestand with five straight victories, their longest winning streak since reeling off eight in a row last August. This one came with the added benefit of stealing an extra day off for several of the club’s regulars.
“You need guys who can give those days off where there’s not that much of a drop-off,” Jedd Gyorko said afterward. “The Dodgers were almost unbeatable. That’s what people were saying when they came in here. It took all of us to play good baseball, and we went out and did it.”
Gyorko was one of four bench players to crack Thursday’s lineup against Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler. Jose Martinez, Tyler O'Neill and Matt Wieters did as well. For Gyorko and Wieters, it represented their first starts of the season.
Combined, those four players reached base nine times, scored six runs and drove in five. Martinez matched a career best with his four-hit game and helped spark two four-run rallies. Wieters drove in a game-high three with a sacrifice fly and a go-ahead two-run single, the latter representing his first hit as a Cardinal.
“We had a few of us in there today that had that feeling, like, ‘OK, this feels like Opening Day to us,’” Wieters said. “Crossed off all the firsts. Most importantly, nice to get a first win behind the plate.”
While the Cards rode the bats of their reserves to Thursday’s win, completing the series sweep also required other key contributors:
On a day when the Dodgers pestered starter Michael Wacha for seven runs over 3 2/3 innings, the bullpen followed him with more shutdown relief. Four pitchers combined to cover 5 1/3 scoreless innings and secure the first career Major League win for Giovanny Gallegos.
Bigger picture, the bullpen stepped up all series. Eight relievers combined to allow one run on five hits and seven walks over 15 2/3 innings against Los Angeles. The group notched 20 strikeouts.
“One after another, these guys come in and are aggressive and have great stuff,” said veteran Andrew Miller, who finished Thursday’s win with three strikeouts in the ninth. “That’s the combination you’re looking for. We have a lot of guys who can fit in different roles and win games because of us.”
After a rocky start to the season, the Cardinals have risen to the top of the NL relief ranks in hits-per-nine innings, opponent batting average, opponent slugging percentage and opponent OPS.
“Talk about team, every single guy out there contributed,” Cards manager Mike Shildt said. “The thing I appreciate the most about it is they’re always in attack mode, but they were also [thinking], ‘I’m going to throw strikes. I’m going to make contact happen. I’m going to trust our defense.’”
Offensive contributions came from all sorts of places. Yadier Molina collected consecutive three-RBI games. Marcell Ozuna blasted key home runs. But DeJong provided the steadiest production.
While the two batters ahead of him (Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt) finished a combined 4-for-27, DeJong extended his hitting streak to a career-best 12 games. He tallied multiple hits in every game of the series and has an extra-base hit in each of his last five. DeJong also became the first Cardinal to score eight runs in a three-game span since Ray Lankford in 1996.
“You can put him just about anywhere in the lineup and he’s going to be productive,” Shildt said. “He’s proven that. Of the many things I respect about Paul is he’s very intentional about being the best player he can possibly be. The guy just continues to grow.”
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.