September 25, 2015

Peralta, Piscotty back-to-back yard show helps Wacha win 17th

ST. LOUIS--BUSCH STADIUM--The way the Milwaukee Brewers jumped all over St. Louis Cardinals' starter, Michael Wacha (17-6) it seemed it might be a long Thursday night for the home team at Busch Stadium.

But the Cardinals have seen their way clear of long offensive droughts, mixing a show of power among several characters of their lineup with timely base-hitting, taking the first game of a four-game series with the Brewers, the final series of the regular season for the Cardinals.

A single and a double of the RBI variety marked up the scorecard in the top of the first inning, Milwaukee's Jason Rogers singling home Scooter Gennett to jump out to a 1-0 lead. After a Domingo Santana walk, Hernan Perez doubled to right field, plating both Rogers and Santana to increase the Brewers lead to 3-0.

Wacha would allow no more than the three runs, but worked less than usual, five innings, as he'd thrown 90 pitches. Over half of his toss-total would be strikes (55), yet Wacha struck out only one Brewer, walking three, and giving up six hits. Wacha simply didn't get the Ks or the contact pitching and ran up his pitch count to the point where manager Mike Matheny had to get into his bullpen by the sixth inning.

The St. Louis offense, meanwhile, went around the lineup once against Brewers starter, Taylor Jungmann (9-7), before beginning to figure out how to get a pitcher few of them had had any at-bats against in the last five years. Most of the Redbirds had never faced Jungmann, who worked the Cardinals lineup well until the fourth inning.

Tommy Pham got things started with walk, then went first to third base on a hard hit ground ball single into right field by Jason Heyward. With base runners on the corners, Jhonny Peralta grabbed his three RBI of the night, blasting a home run to center field, tying the game at 3-apiece with one swing of the bat.

The power show would continue against Jungmann, and quickly, as the next St. Louis batter, Stephen Piscotty, cracked a solo homer to left center field, putting the Cardinals ahead 4-3. Piscotty's home run proved to be the game-winning hit.

The Cardinals added two more runs off Jungmann in bottom of the next frame, when Piscotty, with a full count and bases loaded, lashed a two-out single into center field, collecting a couple more RBI when both Matt Carpenter and Tommy Pham scored, the Cardinals adding to their lead to make it 6-3.

Piscotty tallied his fourth RBI of the night, plating Heyward in the seventh inning off a line single to left field, the Cards up to stay at 7-3.

Peralta and Piscotty were collectively responsible for all seven RBI of the game.

The Cardinals maintain their Central Division race lead at four games over the Pittsburgh Pirates, who defeated Colorado, 5-4, earlier in the day. The Chicago Cubs were idle, and now stand seven and a half games back.

The Pirates are far from elimination for the Central Division crown with an elimination number of six. And, the Bucs have already secured a playoff spot. Oddly, Pittsburgh will grab at minimum a Wild Card but with a better record than the Eastern and Western Division title winners.

Chicago's situation is getting close to dire, now with an elimination number of three for the Central title and three and a half behind the Bucs for the top Wild Card. Still, with Jake Arrieta, arguably the hottest pitcher in baseball in recent weeks, the Cubs might be the most dangerous team in all of baseball to get into a one-game fight to continue in the playoffs.

For St. Louis, a dry spell right now could spell disaster, especially if they end up with a Wild Card. While St. Louis has the pitching to go the distance with anyone in a multi-game series, the idea of a one-game shootout against the likes of Arrieta and the Cubs, or Gerrit Cole and the Pirates, is the stuff of nightmares.

The Cardinals head into game two of the four-game set with the Brewers Friday night at Busch Stadium.