PHOENIX -- Arizona manager Torey Lovullo waited around the batting cage after his team wrapped up its pregame work on Monday. Still bothered by the vulgar comments he made that led to a dustup with Yadier Molina during an April game, he wanted to take the opportunity to apologize face
PHOENIX -- Arizona manager Torey Lovullo waited around the batting cage after his team wrapped up its pregame work on Monday. Still bothered by the vulgar comments he made that led to a dustup with Yadier Molina during an April game, he wanted to take the opportunity to apologize face to face.
The meeting concluded with the two putting their arms around each other. It wouldn't be long, however, before Molina would jab back.
Letting his play speak for himself, the Cardinals' catcher keyed an early windfall of offense and drove in three runs to boost the Cardinals to a 6-3 victory at Chase Field. The win, which opened a nine-game road trip, snapped a four-game losing streak and followed a blueprint that had been lost on the Cardinals as of late.
To get back on track, they first had to get ahead.
"You talk about guys trying to come out here and relax and have some fun," manager Mike Matheny said. "When you are down and down big early, you can talk about having fun as much as you want, but you are kind of wasting your breath because nobody likes playing that way. It's more of a fight."
Having not led in a game since last Tuesday, the Cardinals handed starter Carlos Martinez a 4-0 lead before he ever took the mound. Six of the first seven batters to face Arizona's Robbie Ray reached safely, including Molina, whose two-run single ensured a bases-loaded opportunity would not go to waste.
"We really needed it after the homestand that we had," Molina said of the early offense. "We really wanted to come here and try to win the first one. We executed good. We had a good plan against their pitcher."
Jedd Gyorko and Yairo Munoz followed with RBI hits to give the Cardinals their most productive first inning since June 3.
Afterward, Ray, who had not allowed a first-inning run all season, wondered aloud whether he may have been tipping his pitches. If so, it played right into the Cardinals' game plan -- which was to come out aggressive against the lefty.
"I felt like I was making my pitches and they were just putting good swings on them," Ray said. "That's usually a pretty good sign that they saw something."
Ray did settle in, however, retiring 12 of the next 14 batters he faced after the first. That run ended when Molina and Gyorko opened the sixth with back-to-back home runs, ending Ray's night.
Martinez faced his own first-inning challenges, but he weaved his way through a precarious start by limiting the damage to one run after the D-backs opened the inning with three hits. The rest of his night was relatively smooth. His pace quickened. And he found the feel for his sinker much earlier than he had in recent outings.
After four winless starts in which he didn't pitch past the fifth, Martinez has rebounded with consecutive six-inning outings.
"Today, I was the guy like two months ago," said Martinez, who had a 1.62 ERA before missing a month with a right lat strain. "I had command of everything, power. I was comfortable with all my pitches. I'm trying to get better and better. Right now, my main thing is focus and making adjustments."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Molina secured his fifth three-RBI game of the year when he connected for his 12th home run -- 11 of which have come on the road. Four pitches later, Gyorko also went deep, giving the Cardinals their fifth back-to-back blasts this season. The pair of homers equaled the number Ray had allowed in his last six starts combined.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Closer Bud Norris went for the old-school entrance on Monday, forgoing his normal jog in from the bullpen for a ride in Arizona's bullpen cart. This season, the D-backs became the first team to bring back the bullpen cart, doing so as a way to celebrate the franchise's 20th anniversary. While no D-backs pitcher has used it in the regular season, Norris became the ninth visiting pitcher to enter on wheels. Following the entrance, he retired the D-backs in order to collect his 16th save.
"I told him, 'Fire that thing up and let's get out of here,'" Norris said. "It was actually seamless. Considering how much emphasis we are putting on pitchers and the shot clock and eight [warmup] pitches and time of game and pace of play, this is one way that can gain me 30 seconds and get to my eight warmup pitches and get the inning going a little quicker."
Norris added that the ride was "very smooth" and "very comfortable."
HE SAID IT
"Everything is in the past. I have a bunch of respect for him and the organization in Arizona." -- Molina, on burying the hatchet with Lovullo during their pregame conversation
Right-hander Jack Flaherty (3-3, 2.92 ERA) will make his first career appearance against the D-backs at 8:40 p.m. CT on Tuesday in the second game of the Cards' three-game series at Chase Field. Flaherty is coming off his shortest start of the season, four runs allowed over four innings vs. the Indians. Zack Greinke, who is 12-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 19 career appearances against St. Louis, will start for Arizona.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.