ST. LOUIS -- As the succession of rookie pitchers took turns contributing to Wednesday's 6-3 win over the Rockies, Adam Wainwright, watching from the dugout, starting running through the numbers. They all led to one: 24.
Such was the average age of the Cardinals' six pitchers, none of whom has spent a full season on a Major League roster. Luke Weaver, with 40 career starts, was the most experienced. The three relievers who followed him had opened the season in the Triple-A rotation.
For a 36-year-old Wainwright, whose career is winding down, it was both impressive and assuring. Capable arms aren't just coming. They're already here.
"We're in really, really good hands," Wainwright said afterward. "I don't even want to name names, there's so many of them. We have eight or nine young starters that are very qualified. And then our bullpen is made up of a bunch of guys who could be starters on other teams in the big leagues."
Having cleared the way for the kids with a flurry of transactions over the past week, the Cardinals watched that future shine in the present. In addition to the youth on the mound, rookie outfielders Harrison Bader and Tyler O'Neill teamed up to spark the go-ahead rally.
"I think it just goes to show you that this is an incredibly talented system," said Bader, one of eight rookies to appear in the game. "To see guys like that stepping in big situations in tie games and just keep their cool and their poise, I mean it just speaks volumes to not only them as individuals and players, but how the Cardinals handle their farm system so well."
Inefficiency knocked Weaver out with the Cardinals trailing, 2-0, in the third. That's when interim manager Mike Shildt turned the game over to a trio of pitchers, who, 10 days ago, were all pitching in Triple-A Memphis.
Daniel Poncedeleon, Austin Gomber and Dakota Hudson proceeded to cover 4 1/3 innings without allowing a hit. An even younger Jordan Hicks (21) followed with a scoreless frame, and Mike Mayers took the ninth after the Cardinals cushioned their lead with a three-run eighth.
"Youth doesn't change talent," Gomber said after collecting his first big league win. "Coming up with these guys through the organization, this is something we had always talked about internally, hopefully getting the chance together. We're getting it right now and trying to take advantage of it."
The stingy relief bought time for the offense to chip away, first with an RBI single by Paul DeJong on the eve of his 25th birthday and then through a productive Poncedeleon groundout. Consecutive hits by Bader, 24, and O'Neill, 23, off Rockies starter Kyle Freeland put the Cardinals ahead in the sixth.
Bader finished with a three-hit night, one day after the Cardinals' trade of Tommy Pham opened up an opportunity for a timeshare in center with O'Neill. O'Neill has three hits in four at-bats since joining the club Tuesday.
"It's an organizational win tonight," Shildt said. "There should be a lot of confidence in what's going on. It's a bright future."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Yadier Molina had his fingerprints all over the win, not only by helping navigate so many young pitchers through the game, but also in padding a late lead with an RBI double in the eighth. The Cardinals were leading by one when Molina drove a pitch into the left-center-field gap for a two-run double. Marcell Ozuna followed with an RBI single to push the club ahead by four and allow the Cardinals to save closer Bud Norris. Ozuna and Molina both finished with three-hit nights.
Molina became the 13th catcher in Major League history to catch at least 15,000 innings and the most recent to join that group since former teammate A.J. Pierzynski. With 15,004 2/3 innings behind the plate, Molina needs 87 2/3 more to tie former Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons for 12th place on the all-time list.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
On a night when he snapped an 0-for-14 skid at the plate, Bader also utilized his elite speed to help the Cardinals take the lead. Bader turned a flare to right field into a two-base hit by making it from home to second base in 7.49 seconds, the fastest home-to-second time by any Cardinals player since Statcast™ began tracking sprint speed in 2015. It was also the 11th-fastest such time in the Majors this season. Bader then scored from second on a single by racing home in 6.49 seconds. He ranks fifth in the Majors with his sprint speed of 30 feet per second this season.
Asked how many steps it took for him to know he'd turn that hit into a double, Bader responded: "As I jumped out of the box. So I guess the answer to that would be one."
HE SAID IT
"It's interesting because people say, 'The game was long.' I've always said, first of all, we played a great baseball game. It was entertaining. We played clean. And then, 'Where is everybody going after the game?' Me, I'm kind of socially challenged, so let's go talk more about the game." -- Shildt, on the three-hour, 59-minute game
The Cardinals will close out a seven-game homestand with a 12:15 p.m. CT game against the Rockies on Thursday. All-Star Miles Mikolas, who leads the club with 11 wins and 14 quality starts, will be making his first career start against Colorado. He'll be opposed by right-hander Antonio Senzatela. Though he's eligible to come off the disabled list, the Cardinals are expected to play one more game without second baseman Kolten Wong.