One day after long hits by Jedd Gyorko and Matt Carpenter died on the warning track in a one-run loss, the pair crushed cutters far enough to clear the fencing at Dodger Stadium on Monday night. Those ninth-inning blasts -- which came against All-Star closer Kenley Jansen, who was surprisingly
One day after long hits by Jedd Gyorko and Matt Carpenter died on the warning track in a one-run loss, the pair crushed cutters far enough to clear the fencing at Dodger Stadium on Monday night. Those ninth-inning blasts -- which came against All-Star closer Kenley Jansen, who was surprisingly activated from the DL earlier in the day after being sidelined for nearly two weeks with an irregular heartbeat-- coupled with the bullpen work that bookended them, assured the Cardinals a 5-3 victory over the Dodgers at the end of a four-hour, 10-minute affair.
"A four-hour, nine-inning game?" Carpenter said afterward. "Felt like an eternity. Testament to these guys never quitting, found a way to win the game."
The victory kicks off a six-game road trip in which the Cards will play fellow National League Wild Card contenders Los Angeles and Colorado. They put two games of distance between themselves and the Dodgers with Monday's win while also pulling even with the Phillies and Rockies for the second Wild Card spot.
Milwaukee sits a half-game ahead of the trio in that race. The Cubs' lead over the Cardinals is down to 3 1/2 games, representing the slimmest it's been since June 12. The team is 15-4 this month.
It was an evening of attrition for the Cardinals, who outlasted the Dodgers despite walking 10 and allowing at least one baserunner in every inning of their longest nine-inning game since 2000. All that traffic forced interim manager Mike Shildt to walk a perilous line with how far he pushed his late-inning relievers.
"We [had] a really fresh 'pen going into the game," Shildt said, noting that Dakota Hudson, Jordan Hicks and Bud Norris all hadn't pitched since Friday. "So we know we can go. Guys had the appropriate bullets."
Trying to get two innings out of reliever Hudson, Shildt turned to him first after Austin Gomber's five-inning start. Hudson lasted 37 pitches, leaving with two on and two out in the seventh. Hicks followed with a career-high 33 pitches.
Hicks allowed his first inherited run since July 4 - that run evened the game at 3 -- but also notched a couple of key strikeouts with the potential tying run in scoring position. When Shildt felt he had pushed Hicks far enough, he went to reemerging lefty specialist Brett Cecil.
That move worked, too. Cecil won the matchup against Cody Bellinger with a flyout, making left-handed batters 0-for-5 now against him since returning from the disabled list.
"I said it earlier, I think there's three things that make a reliever tick and that's the confidence he has in himself, the situation he pitches in and the manager's confidence in him," said Cecil, who had a 5.70 ERA when he came off the DL last week. "When I first said it, I didn't really have any of those. And now I feel like I have all three."
Norris needed 29 pitches to notch his 25th save, bringing into question how available the team's most trusted three relievers - Hudson, Hicks and Norris - will be for the second game of the series. In the moment, that wasn't a primary concern.
"Some really good young pitching stepping up in some really high-leverage situations," Carpenter said. "That kind of stuff is the reason we won."
With the bend-but-not-break effectiveness from the 'pen, the Cardinals bought time for their offense to strike. After five consecutive batters reached in the fifth to put the Cards ahead, 3-0, the next 12 were set down in order.
Gyorko interrupted that run by sending the third pitch from Jansen over the wall for his 11th home run. Two pitches later, Carpenter went deep, giving the Cardinals their 19th three-homer game this season. Jansen had never allowed multiple home runs in an appearance at home.
"The first two hitters, I wasn't in my comfort zone," Jansen said. "I think I tried to maybe be amped up to be back and try hard and everything flattened out."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Cardinals notched a series of critical strikeouts en route to stranding 16 Dodger baserunners on Monday. Hicks got Yasmani Grandal to go down swinging with the bases loaded in the seventh inning of a tie game. In the eighth, Hicks fanned Justin Turner with a runner on third and one out. Then, after issuing a leadoff walk, Norris closed an 11-pitch battle against Player Page for Max Muncy with the first of three consecutive strikeouts to end the game.
Jansen has given up five runs in 17 career appearances against the Cardinals and all five have come via solo homers. In addition to the two the Cards hit on Monday, Jose Pujols (2011), Lance Berkman ('12) and Gyorko ('16) had all taken him deep previously.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Superb up-the-middle defense from second baseman Kolten Wong and shortstop Paul DeJong was key in helping Gomber limit the damage. In the opening frame, Wong dove to catch a looping liner from Matt Kemp and turned it into an inning-ending double play. That helped Gomber get out of the first unscathed after loading the bases with no outs.
"Man, that's a big play," Gomber said. "That's a game-setting play, a series-changing play, you know what I mean? I know there's not a player in this clubhouse who doesn't think Kolten Wong is the best second baseman in baseball."
DeJong then closed the fifth by making a diving stop on a ground ball and then throwing Enrique Hernandez out from his knees. That play stranded the potential tying run in scoring position and ended a 53-minute fifth inning.
HE SAID IT
"Obviously, we're not oblivious to standings, but we pay attention to that day and that competition of that day and try to win that game. I know we're in a good spot and plan to move forward." -- Shildt, on the Cardinals' move up in the standings
Anaheim native Daniel Poncedeleon will make his second career start on Tuesday when the Cardinals continue their series at Dodger Stadium with a 9:10 p.m. CT game. Poncedeleon, who twirled seven no-hit innings in his Major League debut, slides back into the rotation after making five relief appearances. He'll be opposed by Dodgers right-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu.
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.