DETROIT -- There was no final-inning drama Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park. After losing on Tigers walk-offs in the first two games of the series, the Cardinals pushed across five runs in the seventh inning and John Gant kept the Tigers at bay to salvage the series finale, 5-2.
After Matt Adams struck out for the first out of the seventh inning, six straight Cardinals hitters reached base. St. Louis ran into a little luck along the way, as three of their five singles in the inning didn't leave the infield. Tigers right fielder Niko Goodrum also helped by dropping a fly ball from Munoz, scoring Paul DeJong.
"We faced some guys that were pretty tough the last couple days," manager Mike Shildt said. "Guys were mindful of the fact that we struck out a little more than we want to. It was just getting back to good approaches, putting the ball in play, putting pressure on the defense."
It was a divergence from the Cardinals' two losses to the Tigers, during which St. Louis struck out a combined 26 times and most of the big breaks went in Detroit's favor.
As Matt Carpenter put it, "It's a funny game."
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After Sunday's win, the Cardinals are 4 1/2 games behind the Cubs for the lead in the National League Central, and they're 1 1/2 games in front of the Dodgers for the second NL Wild Card spot.
Despite catching a few breaks and scoring five runs in an inning for the 13th time this season, the Cardinals spent most of the afternoon trying to crack Tigers starter Michael Fulmer, who was perfect through five innings.
"He's pretty tough," Shildt said of Fulmer. "He's bringing it, throwing a lot of quality strikes. He started to finally get behind in the count a little bit and give us something to hit. We were able to put the ball in play, which is something that clearly can benefit us."
The Cardinals got their first baserunner in the sixth inning when Yairo Munoz drew a leadoff walk, though he was easily caught trying to steal second base on a pitchout. Carson Kelly ended Fulmer's no-hit bid with a one-out single to right field in the same frame.
While Fulmer flirted with perfection and a no-hitter, Gant was throwing a gem of his own. Through six innings, Gant had allowed just two hits, one of which was a bunt single, and a walk. The Tigers got to Gant in the seventh inning with two runs on three doubles. It was the second time in his three-year career that Gant allowed four extra-base hits.
"Going into last night, I had [it] in my mind that I really just needed to bear down," Gant said. "We really needed to take this game. I had to go out there with my best effort."
Important developments for the Cardinals came in the eighth and ninth innings, after Gant's day ended and St. Louis had to go to the back-end of its bullpen. That's when the Cards had encountered trouble the past two nights.
After giving up a two-run walk-off home run Friday night, Jordan Hicks threw a scoreless eighth inning, yielding just one walk. Carlos Martinez, now the Cardinals' closer, became the third St. Louis pitcher to throw the ninth inning against the Tigers this weekend, tossing a perfect frame.
SHILDT, CARP EJECTED
Carpenter and Shildt were both ejected after the top of the ninth inning for arguing with home-plate umpire Lance Barrett. Carpenter made the last out of the inning on a called third strike. He stuck around to argue the call, then walked back to the dugout.
"He just told me to stop yelling, and I didn't stop," Carpenter said, holding up a screenshot on his phone showing where the ball crossed the plate.
Shildt wouldn't specify what he said to Barrett to get ejected, though he didn't appear to become very animated on the field.
"As polite as it may have seemed, it was appropriate," Shildt said. "… When one of our guys gets out of there, I have to follow his back."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the midst of a pitchers' duel, DeJong made a leaping play at short to rob JaCoby Jones of a hit to lead off the sixth inning.
Adam Wainwright (1-3, 4.00 ERA) makes his highly anticipated return to the mound when the Cardinals start a three-game series against the Pirates with a 7:15 p.m. CT first pitch Monday in St. Louis. Wainwright spent more than three months on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation. His last start was on May 13. The Pirates will counter with Trevor Williams (12-9, 3.15 ERA), who has a 0.72 ERA in eight starts since the All-Star break.