Cardinals pummel streaking Angels
Carpenter, Jay drive in six as Miller wins ninth
ANAHEIM -- Shelby Miller tweaked his routine leading up to Wednesday night's start, opting to throw more pitches during his side session in an attempt to rediscover his rhythm and the life on his fastball. A video session he had a day before he pitched was also critical, as it was during that sit down that Miller identified something else he wanted to correct.
Manager Mike Matheny did some tinkering, too, fiddling with his batting order in hopes of kick-starting a unit that has recently lacked much timely hitting.
The adjustments -- both individual and collective -- all proved fruitful, with Miller delivering six strong innings and the offense backing him with an early burst of production. With their 12-2 win over the Angels in front of 35,025 at Angel Stadium, the Cardinals kept alive their chances of snagging one series win on this three-city trip.
The trip concludes Thursday with ace Adam Wainwright on the mound.
"It was nice to get that offense rolling today," said Matt Carpenter, who reached base four times and fell a triple short of the cycle. "We have been through a little bit of a rough patch, and this is the kind of game that will jump-start an offense and get back on a winning streak."
The Cardinals produced their second seven-run inning in seven games to race ahead early. Angels starter Jerome Williams wouldn't make it out of the second, an inning in which the Cardinals sent 12 hitters to the plate. A single sandwiched between a pair of walks loaded the bases for designated hitter David Freese, who drove home one on a productive out.
Daniel Descalso, inserted into the lineup because of Matt Holliday's unavailability with a pinched nerve in his neck, plated two more when he followed with a double. After driving in 26 runs in 374 at-bats last year, Descalso upped his 2013 RBI total to 25 with the two-run hit.
"Whenever I do get a chance to start, whenever it may be," Descalso said, "I just try to be ready and take good at-bats."
The piling on continued with two outs. Carpenter laced an RBI single. Jon Jay's shot to deep center went in and out of the glove of Angels center fielder Mike Trout, landing over the wall for a two-run homer.
"I got lucky that it bounced out of his glove," Jay said. "I didn't know what was going on out there, but I was happy that I caught a break."
Yadier Molina capped the inning with an RBI single in his return to the fifth spot in the order.
After a string of games in which he batted second, Molina gave up that spot to Jay, who finished the night with two hits and three RBIs.
"Jon Jay, it was real nice to see some real nice at-bats and hard outs there," Matheny said. "We need to get him going, and today was a real good indicator that's on the right path."
The outpouring of run support took some pressure off Miller, who was making his first start since enduring his own second-inning battering. After retiring just five batters on Friday, Miller handled an Angels team that entered the night riding a seven-game winning streak.
The foundation for his bounce-back performance, though, came in the days leading up to it. Of particular importance, Miller said, was what he spotted during a film session on Tuesday. While comparing video of himself pitching early in the year to his recent starts, Miller noticed that his glove positioning had been creeping higher.
The change had been inadvertent, so Miller went out and intentionally kept it lower and stayed more relaxed. He found that his command was better, his rhythm was sounder and his fastball was actually faster.
"I felt like it got a little bit of life back [on the fastball] compared to the starts that I've had," Miller said. "I feel like it was a little bit stronger tonight. I felt like I had control of the game out there and it felt better."
According to the stadium radar gun, Miller, who averaged a fastball velocity of 93.5 mph entering the night, reached 96 and 97 multiple times.
The rookie right-hander scattered five hits, one of which came on a hanging curveball that catcher Hank Conger sent into the right-field seats for a two-run homer. After the second-inning blast, Miller allowed only one other baserunner to reach scoring position. He improved to 9-6 and snapped a personal two-game losing streak.
"[Pitching coach] Derek [Lilliquist] and I were talking about that during the game today, that some of the things we watch him do and the adjustments he makes, he's ahead of the curve for where he should be at his age," Matheny said of the 22-year-old Miller. "The ability to make adjustments, that doesn't always come at that early of an age. You have to be very excited about the little things he's doing right now."
"He's got a different rhythm but he's always seemed to be able to put the ball where he wanted to with good stuff," added Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "You can see why they're excited about him, just a young powerful arm."
As Miller held the opposing offense in place, the Cardinals poured on the problems for the Angels pitching staff. Carpenter drove home a run on a two-out double in the fifth and connected for his eighth homer in the seventh. Carpenter and Molina each finished with three hits.
Everyone in the Cardinals' lineup except nine-hole hitter Pete Kozma reached and scored at least once. The club went 6-for-15 with runners in scoring position after having one hit in its previous 16 such chances.
"A lot of good things happened today with Shelby getting back on the horse and making some real good pitches," Matheny said. "I know that was a big day for him. And for all of us. It's something that can, hopefully, set the tone for what's to come."