PHILADELPHIA -- The Cardinals needed two home runs Saturday against the Phillies to set a Major League record. But it was the Phillies who used a pair of solo shots to prevail in their 4-2 win at Citizens Bank Park.César Hernández roped his first career leadoff home run into the
PHILADELPHIA -- The Cardinals needed two home runs Saturday against the Phillies to set a Major League record. But it was the Phillies who used a pair of solo shots to prevail in their 4-2 win at Citizens Bank Park.
César Hernández roped his first career leadoff home run into the right-field seats, and Aaron Altherr added another in the sixth.
"Maybe Cesar will become a power hitter," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin joked afterward.
The Cardinals' two runs came on a Jeremy Hazelbaker shot in the third that scored starter Luke Weaver, who collected his first two Major League hits with a pair of singles. Had another Cardinal gone yard, they would have set a record with 10 straight multi-homer games. The Cardinals' loss snapped a five-game winning streak.
"I think there's positives and negatives," Weaver said. "I got in on their bats that didn't go my way, that dropped in. But they also did a good job of fouling off pitches and getting my pitch count up. But I think some positives were just staying with those at-bats and making the pitch to get strikeouts. When you throw in the zone and you do it a lot, you're gonna end up with some hard-hit balls."
Weaver struck out six and walked none over five innings, but he left the game down 3-2. He was outmatched by seven strong innings from Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson. In three starts since the Phillies decided to hold onto him at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Hellickson has tossed 18 2/3 innings and posted a 2.89 ERA. He added eight strikeouts Saturday night.
With the Pirates' loss in Miami, the Cardinals held onto their two-game lead over the Bucs for the second National League Wild Card spot. But Miami overtook Pittsburgh in the standings and now trails the Cardinals by only 1 1/2 games.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hail, Cesar: Hernandez has been on a tear since June, and he continued to swing a hot bat against the Cardinals. To go with his homer, he doubled and scored in the fifth to give the Phillies a one-run lead and finished a triple shy of the cycle. Hernandez has hit .359 (66-for-184) with six doubles, five triples, two home runs, 13 RBIs and 24 walks in his last 50 games.
"I'm just focusing a little bit," Hernandez said about his past 50 games. "I'm trying to see as many pitches as I can see, and that's it." More >
Weaver's second start full of firsts: Weaver, ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Cardinals' No. 2 prospect, lasted only four innings in his debut vs. the Cubs. He turned in a solid effort, but his work on Saturday topped it. Impressively for a pitcher who totaled seven Minor League at-bats, Weaver struck out six while not striking out himself, and he collected his first big league hit with a single in the third. He scored on Hazelbaker's two-run shot, then singled again two innings later.
"I was looking for at least one tonight," Weaver said of his base knocks. "Just try to hit something hard and hope to find a hole. But I'm not mad about two."
Although Weaver considers this start a step forward from his debut against the Cubs, he also took away more lessons.
"Me, just coming on the scene here and stepping in that water a little bit, I might be trying to make too good of pitches," he said. "It kind of pushes the pitch count up a little bit. … It's a matter of getting the ball down and trusting my stuff. Next time, I'll be better." More >
Hellickson comes back strong: Hellickson left his Aug. 10 start against the Dodgers after the fifth inning because he tweaked his back. The Phillies pushed his next start back three days, but he proved Saturday he is fine. He allowed seven hits, two runs, one walk and eight strikeouts in seven innings, making it the first time a Phillies starter had pitched seven innings in a game since Jerad Eickhoff on July 26.
"I was [aware of it]," Hellickson said of the starters' streak. "I heard it and read it. I don't know about the rest of the guys. It's really nothing we think about, though. It was good to save the bullpen a little bit tonight." More >
Bird blasts: Although the Cardinals missed out on the Major League record for consecutive multi-homer games (they tied four other clubs with nine straight), their scoring Saturday night still came exclusively from the long ball. Hazelbaker's shot was his 10th on the season. He became the ninth Cardinal with double-digit homers, tying the 2000 squad for the most on a Cardinals team. The next home run Tommy Pham hits will give this team a new franchise record.
"It's hard to hit one a game for a consistent amount of time," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I thought today might be a day, especially when Hazelbaker hit one early. You could see it the way guys were taking their at-bats there was an opportunity to maybe do it again."
"It was deja vu in that ninth inning. But it turned out a little differently." -- Mackanin, on Phillies closer Jeanmar Gómez facing Jedd Gyorko with a runner on base in the ninth. Gyorko hit a game-tying homer in the ninth Friday, but he grounded into a game-ending double play Saturday.
"If there's one thing I think he's doing, he might be giving hitters at this level too much credit. He's a guy that's been able to work in the zone and the bottom of the zone and trust his stuff and not feel like he has to be perfect. It looks like he's trying to be perfect here. That's something we can tell him, but it's something that he'll have to learn. … But he's got great stuff. I love the way he gets into a bind and continues to make good pitches." -- Matheny, on Weaver
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Phillies have homered in 14 consecutive games, which is their longest streak since they homered in 14 straight games from May 27-June 9, 2013. Entering the game, the Phillies ranked 10th in the big leagues with 19 homers since Aug. 5.
Cardinals: The Cards send Mike Leake (8-9, 4.78 ERA) to the mound in the series finale at 12:35 p.m. CT at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday. He's turned in two straight quality starts after a three-game stretch in which he allowed a total of 20 runs (19 earned).
Phillies: Right-hander Vince Velasquez (8-5, 4.14 ERA) pitches the series finale against the Cardinals on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET. Velasquez was hit hard his past two starts against the Dodgers, allowing 14 earned runs in just 10 1/3 innings.
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Evan Webeck is a reporter for MLB.com and covered the Cardinals on Saturday.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.