ST. LOUIS -- And with that, May is over.
After a horrible month in which wins were rare and losses were ugly, the Cardinals ended May with a breath of fresh air: a 2-1 walk-off win in 10 innings against the rival and division-leading Cubs at Busch Stadium on Friday night.
With the bases loaded and one out, Matt Carpenter belted one to left field, just out of reach of a sprinting Albert Almora Jr. for the game-winning single. He’s now hitting .510 with the bases loaded in his career, which is the best mark in Major League history (min. 60 plate appearances).
The knock gave the Cardinals their first walk-off win this year and their first win while scoring two or fewer runs. They hadn’t won back-to-back games since their five-game winning streak ended on May 2.
“It’s always fun, especially against a team like the Cubs, our rival and a good team we’re chasing down in the division,” Carpenter said. “A good team that you can have good games against.”
The Cardinals hadn’t gone this late in May without winning consecutive games since 1919, and they hadn't won any one-run games this month.
“It was an ugly month,” Carpenter said. “We did some things well, but the most important thing is to win games, and we didn’t do it consistently. We got a good team, and we got good players. There are a lot of guys not performing as well as they would like, myself included, and I have a feeling that we’re all going to get going at the same time. Hopefully tonight was the start of it.”
With each loss in May, it seemed that either the pitching struggled or the offense unplugged. But on Friday, right-hander Miles Mikolas kept the game tied, the bullpen played its part and the offense put together the at-bats it needed in the 10th inning.
Mikolas allowed six hits and one run while walking two and striking out three over seven innings. He pitched his way out of multiple binds, leaving the Cubs 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. The one run came on Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish’s sac fly in the second, but Mikolas struck out Kyle Schwarber in the next at-bat to end the inning.
“They came out swinging,” Mikolas said. “I was in the middle of the zone, worked around that, made some frustrating two-strike pitches early in the game. But cleaned it up as the game went on and found my groove in the later innings.”
Carlos Martinez retired the Cubs in order in the eighth, and Jordan Hicks fired two scoreless innings without allowing a hit and issuing just two walks. He also threw MLB’s fastest pitch this season -- 104.3 mph -- to send the game to extras.
As the Cardinals slumped in May, the team maintained it was ready to go on a streak. Friday proved that the Cardinals can still compete within the division -- they’re 3 1/2 games out of first place.
“There’s still four months left and 100 games left,” manager Mike Shildt said. “The reality of it is, if we won five games and another team didn’t, we’d be in first place. Five games. That’s plenty of time to play. There’s a lot of baseball to be played. We’re not in first place, and it only matters when the dust is settled. I’m comfortable with where we’ll be when the dust settles.”