ST. LOUIS -- The top of the National League Central tightened on Friday as a mighty late-inning stand by reliever Trevor Rosenthal helped preserve the Cardinals' 1-0 victory over the D-backs at Busch Stadium. With the win, the Cards inched to within 3 1/2 games of the division-leading Cubs.Rosenthal entered
ST. LOUIS -- The top of the National League Central tightened on Friday as a mighty late-inning stand by reliever Trevor Rosenthal helped preserve the Cardinals' 1-0 victory over the D-backs at Busch Stadium. With the win, the Cards inched to within 3 1/2 games of the division-leading Cubs.
Rosenthal entered the game in the eighth with no wiggle room. He inherited two runners in scoring position from Brett Cecil and had the most dangerous portion of Arizona's lineup to contend with in a one-run game. Rosenthal struck out A.J. Pollock before a drawn-in infield set up a play at home on David Peralta's grounder to second. Catcher Yadier Molina caught a perfect throw from Kolten Wong and retired the lead runner on a swipe tag. Rosenthal followed with a strikeout of Paul Goldschmidt to leave two D-backs stranded for a third consecutive inning.
"Trevor was amazing right there," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "For Trevor to come in and cover that in the middle of that lineup is really impressive. He made some really good pitches in a high-leverage [situation], as high as it can be. That's the story."
Rosenthal then returned in the ninth to complete his first career six-out save. He struck out a season-high four batters.
"You've got to give Rosenthal some credit," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "He came in and stood on his stuff and got some really good hitters out with runners in scoring position. The more impressive part of it was after having to elevate his game, he goes out in the ninth and does something very similar. You've got to give him credit."
The stingy relief sealed Michael Wacha's eighth victory of the season. Wacha held the D-backs hitless until the fifth and scattered three hits in total over six innings.
The Cardinals' offense ended a 15-inning scoring drought in the sixth. After reaching on a Daniel Descalso error, Tommy Pham stole second and then scored on Jedd Gyorko's RBI single off T.J. McFarland. McFarland was otherwise terrific for the D-backs, who pushed him to throw a season-high 58 pitches over 3 2/3 innings of emergency relief. Arizona starter Robbie Ray was knocked out of the game in the second inning after taking a line drive off his head.
"It's scary," said Cardinals first baseman Luke Voit, who hit the line drive. "Role reversal, that could happen to me when I'm being pitched to. I just hope he can continue pitching for the rest of the year. It's a scary situation. I don't wish that on anyone."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Carted off: Busch Stadium fell silent in the second when a 108.1-mph line drive off the bat of Voit struck Ray on the left side of his head. Ray dropped immediately to the ground, where he remained for several minutes while holding a towel to his head. He eventually sat up and was loaded onto a cart that took him off the field. Ray was alert upon leaving the stadium but was admitted to a local hospital to undergo further testing. A CT scan taken was normal, and Ray returned to the stadium to shower before heading back to the team hotel. He will enter Major League Baseball's concussion protocol.
"It was scary," D-backs third baseman Descalso said. "The guy smashed that ball, and getting hit in the head, you never know what's going to happen. There was blood out there. It seemed like he was talking to the trainers and was responsive, so it was nice to see him get up and get on the cart and get out of there. I'm just glad he's OK."
Left stranded: Wacha's only bit of trouble came near the end of his start when, with two out in the sixth, hits by Descalso and Pollock put a pair of D-backs baserunners in scoring position. Three-hole hitter Peralta worked the count full against Wacha, who then induced a swing and a miss on his curve to end the threat. Wacha pumped his fist as he walked off the mound. It was the first of three consecutive innings in which the D-backs stranded a runner at third.
"Just attacking guys and keeping the ball down in the zone. I feel like that's when I've had the most success," Wacha said. "[I'm] just trying to build off each start right now."
• Healthy Wacha reels off another strong start
"Everybody's thinking about Robbie and hoping he's going to be OK, but during the game you're trying to keep the game close. It's a tough battle to kind of mentally think about both." -- McFarland
"We're going to have to find something to help us get through the seventh and the eighth. And then hopefully keep Rosey healthy so we can throw him in the ninth. But we've still got some work to do. We're almost in August, and we're still trying to figure out that rhythm." -- Matheny, on his continued search for steady late-inning relief
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
According to Statcast™, Friday marked the first appearance of Rosenthal's career in which he notched three strikeouts on off-speed pitches. Rosenthal registered two on sliders and one on a changeup. He then tallied his final strikeout of the night on a 101.2-mph fastball to end the game. It was his fastest pitch for a swinging strike this season, per Statcast™.
With runners on second and third and one out, Peralta hit a grounder to second and St. Louis second baseman Matt Carpenter threw home to try and nab Ketel Marte. Marte slid behind home plate in an attempt to avoid the tag, but was called out by umpire Greg Gibson. The D-backs challenged the play, and after a brief review, the call was confirmed.
"I think he got me at the last second," Marte said of Molina's tag. "I did all I could do."
D-backs:Zack Greinke will take the mound Saturday night as the D-backs battle the Cardinals in the third of a four-game set at Busch Stadium. Game time is 4:15 p.m. MST. Greinke is riding a hot streak, going 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last five starts.
Cardinals: The Cardinals will continue their four-game series against the D-backs with a 6:15 p.m. CT game on Saturday. Mike Leake, who shut out the Rockies over seven innings on Monday, draws the start for St. Louis.
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Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.
Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.