Jay saves the day for Cardinals vs. Red Sox
ST. LOUIS -- Manager Mike Matheny has talked often about the grinding at-bats that came to define his offense a year ago, perhaps hopeful that the more it emerged as a topic of discussion, the more his club would find a way to tap into that strength again.
That call has gained some traction lately, with the Cardinals reeling off consecutive comeback wins behind late signs of life from the offense. In Tuesday's 3-2 victory over the Red Sox, the Cardinals rode a pair of two-out runs -- a game-tying run in the seventh and a game-winning run off Jon Jay's bat an inning later -- to keep pace with the division-leading Brewers.
"Guys get in there and fight," Matheny said. "They're fighting off tough pitches, which really wear a pitcher down, and then they're not missing mistakes. Those are things we probably didn't do as well up until this point [and are] what I see us doing moving forward."
For the second straight game, the Cardinals' offense took their starting pitcher off the hook. This time the benefactor was Lance Lynn.
After his own fielding fumble helped the Red Sox score the go-ahead run in the seventh, Lynn kept the deficit at one by freezing pinch-hitter Mike Napoli on a full-count fastball with two runners in scoring position.
"I threw a couple of sinkers in," Lynn said, "and then after that I was going to make him hit my best pitch."
He was referring to his four-seam fastball, though it could be argued that his sinker was just as effective on this 116-pitch night.
The Cardinals' offense, paced by the bottom part of the order, quickly delivered a momentum-shifter. Shane Robinson, in his first plate appearance since rejoining the club on Friday, drew a seven-pitch walk with one out, then evened the score by scampering home from second on Kolten Wong's two-out single to center.
"I saw [Matt] Holliday give me the sign to get down," Robinson said. "I thought the best slide was a headfirst slide, just [to] get my hand in there as soon as I could."
A string of two-out singles in the eighth then gave the Cardinals the win.
It started with A.J. Pierzynski, who dropped a single into left after fouling off Junichi Tazawa's first three pitches. It was his second hit of the night against the team that released him just three weeks ago.
"[Tazawa] threw me three mistakes the first three pitches," Pierzynski said, "and the one good pitch he had was the one I hit."
Oscar Taveras, who had grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases full in the fourth, moved Pierzynski to third. Jay, who hadn't swung a bat in a week, sealed the win by knocking a single to center.
"It was a pitch that was supposed to be outside that sort of leaked back inside," Tazawa said. "The location probably wasn't too bad, but still I wanted to keep the ball on the outside."
A sore wrist had sidelined Jay since last Tuesday. His first swings since then had come just a few hours earlier, in batting practice.
"It felt great being back out there," said Jay, who has 17 two-out RBIs this season. "We've said it all along -- we have a good lineup, we have good depth, we just haven't been able to make things happen sometimes. We feel good about our lineup. We just have to keep battling, like we did tonight. We took advantage of some chances."
The win was credited to Pat Neshek, who struck out the side in a dominant 13-pitch eighth before Trevor Rosenthal notched his Major League-best 35th save.
It was Lynn's effort, though, that in many ways positioned the Cardinals to land the final punch.
Lynn continues to assert himself as a front-line starter, having now allowed two runs or fewer in 17 of 23 starts. He may not have allowed the pair he did on Tuesday if not for some porous defense.
Matt Carpenter's error helped the Red Sox even the score at 1 in the fifth. Lynn's miscue cost him the chance at an inning-ending double play -- or, at the very least, a forceout at home -- in the seventh.
But Matheny's willingness to stick with Lynn, his pitch count already at 109, after the blunder was further confirmation as to how much faith the Cardinals have in his ability to stop the spiraling inning. And again on Tuesday, he did just that.
"We talked about his maturing process, and you're seeing a little more consistency," Matheny said. "He's still intense, [but] I think he's found a way to keep that intensity without it negatively affecting his stuff. I think that's a huge step in his career."