PHILADELPHIA -- For weeks as the Cardinals tried to slug their way out of an exceedingly tough stretch, their offense spun itself into an alarming trend. St. Louis swatted its way up the long ball leaderboards, but the typical byproducts of power were scarce to arrive. They rarely walked. Strikeouts mounted disproportionately. Doubles and triples were reduced to an endangered species.
In doing so, the Cardinals largely failed to weather their growing list of other problems: a suddenly stumbling starting rotation, a bullpen famously in flux, etc. They sought rallies to complement the home runs, not supplant them. On Tuesday night, both arrived in unison, when the Cardinals used three homers and a four-run seventh to steal a 7-6 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
"I don't know if relief is the right word, but it feels good to come back when we're down," said Matt Carpenter, the night's offensive star. "Especially after a tough loss, being able to come back in any fashion is a good feeling."
Carpenter was at the center of all of it. Down two runs in the seventh, Carpenter lashed a two-run double to tie the game, before a Jose Martinez two-bagger gave St. Louis a lead two batters later. Then, after Jordan Hicks allowed two inherited runners to score in the eighth, Carpenter cranked an 0-2 Seranthony Dominguez fastball inside the right-field foul pole for the game-winning tally. It marked the first career homer allowed by the hard-throwing rookie Dominguez.
"He has 98 mph with cut," Carpenter said. "It's something where you have to step in the box and be ready to go. Because it's coming at ya."
Carpenter's blast ensured the Cardinals avoided their sixth loss in seven games and capped a second consecutive night they spent continually fighting back against the Phillies. Monday's loss and Tuesday's win featured eerie parallels: in both, two solo homers (from Tommy Pham and Kolten Wong) inched the Cardinals closer after their starter (in Tuesday's case, Luke Weaver) allowed four runs through five. In both, the bullpen coughed up two late runs. And in both, a clutch solo blast put St. Louis ahead.
The difference was their rally in the seventh, pieced together by four balls put in play with authority. Yairo Munoz singled and Wong was hit by a pitch in front of Carpenter, who took Tommy Hunter to the wall in right-center. A Pham single preceded Martinez, who scored Carpenter and Pham with a drive to center. The seventh-inning rally was their first four-run sequence to come without a home run in three full weeks.
"How about it? Here they come," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, of the doubles. "That's the result of guys taking good at-bats and good hitters getting locked in."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Here we go again: The Cardinals' lead evaporated in the eighth, after Jesmuel Valentin walked and Cesar Hernandez singled off reliever Austin Gomber. That set up a marquee matchup: Rhys Hoskins against Hicks, who was summoned to defuse the threat. Hoskins lined a two-strike, 101.3-mph fastball from Hicks to the wall in right-center for a two-out, game-tying double.
But after Carpenter put the Cardinals back on top in the ninth, Hicks earned the win with a 1-2-3 bottom half of the frame.
Statcast™ tracked the Dominguez fastball Carpenter hit out at 98.1 mph, the second-hardest pitch he's homered against in his career. It was also the hardest pitch any Cardinals hitter has homered against this season.
"I wouldn't say I sold out for it," Carpenter said. "But I was ready for it."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Holland returns: Sidelined since May 26 with a hip impingement, Greg Holland impressed in his first appearance back from the disabled list. Originally warming up with the Cardinals down two, Holland instead entered in a high-leverage spot: with St. Louis suddenly holding a two-run lead in the seventh. His command crisp and slider sharp, Holland looked little like the powder keg who'd allowed 14 earned runs over his first 18 games. He retired the side in order, striking out two.
"It wasn't by design. I think we'd rather have thrown him in a different spot, but we got him ready to go," Matheny said. "I want Greg to thrive on any opportunity we get him, and continue to prove to himself, more so than anybody else, that the stuff is right."
HE SAID IT
"To be honest with you, I don't regret it at all because I have a sequence when I pitch. I tried to make a quality pitch. I'm not sure it just stayed hanging in the middle or if it was in and he just made good contact." -- Dominguez, on the home run allowed to Carpenter
Wednesday's series finale will feature a rematch of talented righties, when Michael Wacha (8-2, 3.24) and Jacob Arrieta (5-5, 3.33) oppose each other for the second time this season. Wacha outpitched Arrieta when the Phillies visited Busch Stadium last month by firing six strong innings in a 12-4 Cardinals win. However, Wacha is coming off the worst start of his career, statistically, allowing nine runs (eight earned) against the Cubs. First pitch is slated for 12:05 p.m. CT from Citizens Bank Park.