PITTSBURGH -- The Cardinals came to Pittsburgh fresh off the heels of a series loss to the Brewers, which featured three losses determined by fewer than two runs each. They left Monday's series opener with a 6-5 win in extra innings over the Pirates at PNC Park, but they had
PITTSBURGH -- The Cardinals came to Pittsburgh fresh off the heels of a series loss to the Brewers, which featured three losses determined by fewer than two runs each. They left Monday's series opener with a 6-5 win in extra innings over the Pirates at PNC Park, but they had to pull out all the stops to do so during a nearly five-hour contest.
In a wild game that featured low temps, a unique defensive change and the extension of a great hitting streak, the ending could only be wild. In the 11th inning, a bases-loaded passed ball by Francisco Cervelli hit home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza and eluded the Bucs catcher briefly, allowing Paul DeJong to score from third base with two outs.
But the route to that was only possible thanks to a full team effort that dug the Cards out of an early four-run hole.
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“The offense scratched and clawed,” manager Mike Shildt said. “I mean, what do you say about that kind of game? It’s crazy.”
The Cardinals got on the board for the first time in the seventh inning, when Kolten Wong, who has rarely been regarded as a power hitter, swatted his third homer of the short season. His slugging tear -- and his streak of safely reaching base -- extended to five games with a two-run homer.
However, Wong is just as happy with contributions like his game-ending double play, among other little successes he had in the Cards' opening series in Milwaukee, as he is the long ball.
“That’s my game,” he said. “Things like home runs are just icing on the cake, but I pride myself on being able to do everything on the field.”
Some of the usual slugging suspects had quiet contributions to ekeing out a win. Soon after Wong’s knock, the Cardinals loaded the bases for Paul Goldschmidt, the new addition with four homers. He drew an RBI walk that at-bat to cut Pittsburgh's lead to one run.
Pinch-hitters were the run providers in the eighth and ninth. Tyler O’Neill, who struck out three times in a hitless start on Saturday, knocked a two-out RBI double off the bench in the eigth to score Yairo Munoz and knot the score at 4. Then Jose Martinez doubled in DeJong off Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez in the ninth to give the Cards new life.
“That’s what this team does,” Shildt said. “It speaks to the competitiveness of this team and the desire of this team. This is a good team with a lot of character and a lot of fight to it.”
Cardinals' batters struck out 17 times over the course of the 11-inning game, including eight times against Bucs starter Chris Archer. Strikeouts were a big emphasis heading into the game after the Cards’ bats were rung up 12 times by Corbin Burnes on Sunday, but Shildt said the offense made enough contact in the right situations to grind out the win.
“Put the balls in play and good things happen,” he said. “We did that today, and it paid off for sure.”
• After Matt Carpenter was quickly tossed from the game by Carapazza in the top of the 11th inning for arguing a failed checked swing for strike three, Yadier Molina made his first career appearance at third base. Only five other players have played 1,800-plus games before making their first appearance at third base or shortstop.
“When you start running out of players, you start thinking of different scenarios,” Shildt said. “So we came back [to the dugout], and Yadi had this big smile on his face.”
Carpenter, however, stayed in the game in one sense: Molina sported his teammate’s glove at the hot corner.
“He needed it,” Wong said. “When you’ve only got catcher’s gloves, you can’t really take that to third base.”
• Adam Wainwright’s season debut got off to a slow start, as he walked three batters and allowed three runs in the first inning to put the Cardinals in an early deficit.
“When you’re pitching like you’re supposed to, just holding them to singles, that doesn’t happen,” Wainwright said. “It’s just bad pitching on my part.”
The four-inning start came after a September surge last season, a productive offseason and a strong spring camp, in which Wainwright posted a 2.51 ERA across 14 1/3 innings with only three walks.
“The plate is the same size as it’s been all spring, my whole career, and I can make pitches. I’ve just got to simplify the game,” he said. “Falling behind 2-0 to every batter [and] 3-1 to every batter is a good way not to have success.”
A veteran leader on the team, Wainwright is expected to help anchor the back of the Cards’ relatively young starting rotation. Despite lasting just four innings, Shildt thought Wainwright got to a good place by the end of his day.
“We ride with him a little bit for a variety of reasons,” Shildt said. “One, he’s a pitchmaker, and so he weathered the storm, he settled in and got us through four, which ended up being big innings. And he got better as he went. Not enough quality pitches early, but it was enough after four.”
Jake Crouse is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter @JakeCrouseMLB.