Cardinals use small ball to grab late victory
LOS ANGELES -- The Cardinals never really did solve Dodgers starter Brett Anderson on Friday. But with some perfect placement, an executed bunt and effective situational hitting, they scored the necessary runs to steal a come-from-behind, 2-1 victory over the Dodgers.
"Weird inning," Kolten Wong described it as afterward.
It started with a walk to Yadier Molina, who was promptly replaced by Pete Kozma, the Cardinals' best baserunner.
"There are some different schools of thought," manager Mike Matheny said of yanking Molina as quickly as he did. "Sometimes you want to wait, maybe, until they get into scoring position. But just how this game was moving, we had to steal every potential base that we could."
Matheny's aggressive move to insert the pinch-runner paid off immediately as Kozma's speed rushed shortstop Jimmy Rollins as he tried to flip for a force out after going at Jason Heyward's grounder up the middle. Both runners were safe.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time, I go to first," Rollins later explained. "But in crossing [behind the base], [second baseman] Kiké [Hernandez] yelled for it, I changed my mind."
Matheny then plucked reserve catcher Tony Cruz off the bench, seeking a successful sacrifice. Cruz laid it down on the first try.
"[Anderson] was in there for a while, and I had been watching him the whole game," Cruz said. "I'm just trying to get it down -- not necessarily to third. You want to get it down somewhere where it can advance Pete."
Over the team's first 54 games, the Cardinals had just one sacrifice bunt from a position player, that being Molina.
"That bunt is something that we haven't been great at doing this year," Matheny said. "I throw to [Cruz] every day [in batting practice], and I make it tough on him. He works hard at it, and it paid off today."
The lineup turned over to Wong, who, cognizant of Kozma's speed, aimed to hit something on the ground that would allow the tying run to score. Wong did even better. His grounder to first not only plated Kozma, but froze the Dodgers, who recorded nary an out on the play.
Anderson never broke to cover first as first baseman Adrian Gonzalez fielded the ball. Gonzalez passed on a footrace with Wong and turned around to see his second baseman covering the base behind him.
"Just kept running and luckily got the RBI with it, too," Wong said. "Luckily, I hit it to the right person."
The Dodgers' inability to record an out sunk them as Matt Carpenter, hitting the first ball out of the infield in the inning, then lofted a go-ahead sacrifice fly. St. Louis' three relievers held the one-run lead from there, giving the Cardinals their fourth win when trailing after seven innings.
Last season, the Cardinals won only three such games.