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Wong's slam stirs offense but KC storms back

Royals rattle Garcia with six-run fifth; bullpen stung late

ST. LOUIS -- Much frustration disappeared and a slumbering offense awoke with one grand swing of the bat.

But if it isn't one thing for St. Louis lately, it's been another. Tuesday night it was pitching.

A second-inning grand slam from Kolten Wong sparked a stagnant Cardinals offense, but the Royals didn't go quietly, putting up six runs in the fifth and battling for runs in the final two innings for an 8-7 victory to sweep the first two games of the I-70 Series in front of 41,192 at Busch Stadium.

"Tough one, very tough," manager Mike Matheny said. "Had a good start and just had an inning that blew up."

The Cardinals' 20-inning scoreless streak turned to 21 in the first, when a one-out screamer up the middle from Yadier Molina was turned for two. Molina slammed his helmet down at first as the offensive frustrations continued to mount.

An inning later, with the bases loaded and two out, the Cardinals' luck would change. Wong turned on an 0-1 changeup from James Shields, sending it 402 feet into the Cardinals' bullpen to score four runs. It was the first career home run for Wong, whose day started by being named the National League Rookie of the Month.

"To do it hitting the grand slam, that was the first grand slam of my entire career, from Little League on," Wong said. "So to do it, it was awesome."

"It was nice to see," Matheny added. "You go a couple games without scoring any runs and you can just see his face as he comes across. It came at a great time, we needed that. That was a great spark."

The offense would need more.

After four scoreless innings, the fifth wouldn't be as kind to starter Jaime Garcia, who moved through the inning nervously tugging at his jersey and grabbing at the dirt as the Royals stormed back.

"He should be agitated," Matheny said. "We start with a four-run lead and you start to see it go away, you're not happy about that."

Following a strikeout to start the inning, the Royals strung together four consecutive hits to spark their offense. A double followed by a triple brought one run in, and Shields hit a 2-2 pitch to the left-field wall to bring in another. Back at the top of the order, right fielder Nori Aoki singled to bring the Royals within a run.

"It looked like at times we were sitting in one spot and the ball was running all over the place," Matheny said. "When that happens, a lot of times it goes to the wrong place. I think that's what got him."

The Cardinals sent pitching coach Derek Lilliquist to the mound to calm Garcia. He responded by putting a second out away on a liner to center before hitting Eric Hosmer on a 2-2 count to bring up Alex Gordon with two on.

Gordon swung and missed at two breaking balls, but with a 2-2 count, he didn't miss. Garcia hung a 75-mph curveball, and Gordon sent it over the fence in right for a three-run homer to cap the six-run rally.

"It was a curveball. I think he wanted it down and away, and it came up and in," Gordon said. "He threw me two great curveballs and I had some terrible swings, but with two strikes, I just wanted to battle and put a good swing on it."

A dribbler to first ended the inning after Garcia had tossed 38 pitches. It also effectively ended his night after five innings, allowing six runs on eight hits. He was the third Cardinals starter to allow at least six runs in this trip through the rotation.

"I didn't get the job done, it was unacceptable," Garcia said. "My teammates did an unbelievable job behind me, and they played great defense and hit the ball really well, and I wasn't able to execute. I've got to go out there and do a better job than that."

A leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning, followed by an error, gave the Cardinals a threat. Rookie Oscar Taveras' sacrifice fly to right scored one, and the Cardinals would tie the game with a two-out double down the left-field line from Jhonny Peralta.

Peter Bourjos, who entered as a defensive replacement in the top of the sixth, hit the third pitch he saw over the left-field wall for a one-run lead in the bottom half of the inning.

"I just put a good swing on it and wasn't trying to do too much," Bourjos said. "I ran into it, basically. I was just going up there trying to get on base."

After Garcia's exit, relievers Seth Maness and Sam Freeman combined for 2 1/3 scoreless innings. The Cardinals turned to Pat Neshek with one out in the eighth. Neshek, who entered the game with 22 consecutive scoreless outings, allowed three singles -- one on a grounder stopped in the hole at second and another on a blooper -- to bring around the tying run.

"Some bad luck for Neshek right there," Matheny said. "He's been throwing the ball extremely well, and an infield hit and a blooper ended up getting him."

Closer Trevor Rosenthal would surrender the game-winning run in the ninth when the Royals got a one-out double from Omar Infante and followed it up with a single to left from Hosmer.

The loss ended the Cardinals' homestand at 2-7.

"It's tough, but sometimes you just have to take the positives out of everything," Wong said. "You saw our offense come out today, and we put up some good runs. It's something, we've just got to bite the bullet and keep pushing through it."

After being shut out in consecutive games and collecting two runs in the previous three games, this time the Cardinals' problem rested elsewhere.

"We can't complain about the offense because they did their work," Matheny said. "Just wasn't enough today."

Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for
Read More: St. Louis Cardinals, Peter Bourjos, Jaime Garcia, Trevor Rosenthal, Pat Neshek, Kolten Wong