ST. LOUIS -- Having been brought up from Triple-A Memphis on Aug. 17 as a replacement for the injured Adam Wainwright, Luke Weaver's spot in the Cardinals' starting rotation wasn't considered permanent. The rookie, however, proved once again on Friday why he has earned the role, winning his fifth straight start as the Cardinals defeated the Pirates, 4-1, at Busch Stadium.
"It's just real fun to watch him take advantage of an opportunity like this, this time of season," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
The win kept the Cardinals three games behind Colorado for an NL Wild Card spot and within four games of the Cubs in the National League Central.
Weaver held the Pirates scoreless through 5 2/3 innings, despite allowing seven hits. He finished with seven strikeouts and has now struck out at least seven in his past five starts. He has also thrown 13 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings at Busch Stadium dating back to July 27. The right-hander also helped himself with a strong performance at the plate, hitting a single and earning an RBI.
"Same. Just like we've seen," Matheny said of Weaver's start. "Just real good job of controlling the zone, with the fastball. I thought the changeup was very good. Didn't even have to use the cutter or the breaking ball too much. I think he was just putting the ball where he wanted to."
Weaver said the members of the rotation have been feeding off each other's starts.
"Carlos [Martinez] had that big start," Weaver said. "It was just awesome to see that. We go out there and we want to try and one-up each other in a friendly way, but that just means we're pitching well. Just try to keep that momentum going and just see if we can keep feeding off each other."
The Cardinals scored one run in the third and fourth innings, but it was Martinez's two-RBI single, with two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth that gave them a substantial lead. The first baseman extended his hitting streak to 10 games, a career high, with two singles, including the key hit that ended Trevor Williams' night. The right-hander allowed four runs on four hits with four walks and five strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. He had allowed just two runs in his previous three starts combined.
"It was lack of execution on some pitches," Williams said. "My slider kept missing down and they weren't really biting, I didn't make the adjustment to throw for strikes. I walked too many guys today, it was just unacceptable pitch execution today."
Josh Bell continued his recent success, hitting a single to end reliever Ryan Sherriff's night. Bell went 3-for-4, his second three-hit night in five games, and leads all NL rookies with 127 hits.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Get it going: After Williams faced the minimum through the first two innings, Greg Garcia started the third with a leadoff double. Following a groundout by Alex Mejia that moved Garcia to third, Weaver helped his own cause by hitting a soft groundout to third baseman David Freese. The former Cardinal threw the ball to first, allowing Garcia to score the first run of the game and giving Weaver his first Major League RBI.
"Just a real nice job, plus helping himself out at the plate," Matheny said. "Just doing a lot of little things right."
What an entrance: With two outs in the eighth and a runner at first, Juan Nicasio was called in to make his Cardinals debut. Freese fouled off multiple pitches before hitting a soft grounder to the left infield. Nicasio ran to the ball and made an impressive barehanded play to first base to end the inning. Nicasio remained in the game in the ninth to earn his fourth career save.
"It's situations like this I prepare for," Nicasio said through an interpreter. "I saw [Matt Carpenter] was kind of playing behind third base, and I said it's going to be difficult for him so let me just try to step in, and I was able to complete it." More >>
"Just a great shot for us right now, for this part of the season, to be able to step into that spot, in cleanup or wherever it is, and put together the type of offense that he has." -- Matheny, on Martinez's contributions to the lineup
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Weaver has 97 strikeouts, which ties him with Shelby Miller for the most by a Cardinals pitcher through 18 games.
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW
With two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth inning, Martinez slammed a single to right field. After Weaver made it across the plate safely, a second runner, Matt Carpenter, slid across the plate just as catcher Elias Diaz attempted to tag him out. The Pirates challenged the call that Carpenter was safe, however, after a review, the call stood, giving the Cardinals a four-run lead.
Pirates:Chad Kuhl (7-10, 4.32 ERA) will take the mound on Saturday for the second game of the series in St. Louis at 7:15 pm ET. The right-hander is coming off a dominant outing in which he held the Cubs scoreless through seven innings, giving up just four hits and striking out a career-high eight batters.
Cardinals:Carlos Martinez (11-10, 3.34) will take on the visiting Pirates on Saturday in his 29th start of the season. First pitch is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. CT. Martinez is coming off a three-hit shutout against the Padres in his last start. Preview >>
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