MIAMI • Michael Wacha probably wouldn’t call it redemption but on Monday night the veteran Cardinals righthander, rescued from a nearly three-week exile to the bullpen, showed that he still can be a viable rotation piece for the Cardinals.
Inducing three double plays and allowing just five singles, Wacha blanked the Miami Marlins for six innings. And the Cardinals, helped mightily by a throwing error that led to three unearned runs in the sixth, stopped a losing streak at three games with a 4-1 victory before a dismal paid crowd of 6,585.
Wacha traversed his six innings on just 75 pitches and walked only two while striking out four as his fastball, which touched 95 mph, his cutter and his changeup all played. He recorded 12 of his 18 outs on ground balls as he gained his fourth win in six decisions.
After John Gant allowed one run in two innings of relief, Jordan Hicks posted his 13th save in 14 tries with a scoreless ninth, featuring some 101 mph fastballs and a killer slider.
WONG'S 'LITTLE BALL' LEADS TO THREE RUNS
Injured Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina had stressed before Monday night’s game the need for the Cardinals to play more “little ball.” It didn’t get much smaller than what happened in the sixth inning, perpetrated by the smallest player on the field, 5-foot-7 Kolten Wong.
After Paul Goldschmidt singled and Marcell Ozuna walked to lead off the inning in a game the Cardinals led 1-0, Wong, though hitting fifth in the lineup, dropped a bunt some 20 feet up the third-base line. Miami catcher Jorge Alfaro tracked the ball down quickly but fired over the head of first baseman Garrett Cooper and both Goldschmidt and Ozuna scored, with Wong going to third.
Harrison Bader’s sacrifice fly to deep center made it a three-run inning on just one hit as the Cardinals bumped their lead to 4-0.
WACHA GETS THREE EARLY DPS
Cardinals starter Michael Wacha, rescued from his exile to the bullpen, induced double plays to cancel singles by Miami Marlins players in the first two innings Monday night. In the third, he allowed his third single, to Jorge Alfaro, and walked Miguel Rojas on four pitches.
But, with Miami pitcher Sandy Alcantara in bunt mode, catcher Alfaro strayed a bit far from second and Wacha fired to shortstop Yairo Munoz. At first, Alfaro, diving back was called safe but Munoz encouraged the Cardinals to challenge the call, which they did successfully.
Alcantara, failing to bunt, struck out and Austin Dean rolled into a forceout.
The Cardinals gave Wacha a 1-0 lead in the fourth when former Marlin Marcell Ozuna doubled to left for his second hit and, with one out, Munoz also doubled to left.
Wacha required just 53 pitches to get through five innings, tossing another double-play ball, to JT Riddle, to escape the fifth and it was still 1-0 heading to the sixth.
SHILDT WANTS HIGH PITCH COUNTS TO TRANSLATE
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, seemingly forever trying to figure out what has gone awry with the offense, is losing some patience with his team running up the opposing starter’s pitch count but doing little with it.
“For a while, we were rightfully on board with the contact rate,” he said Monday before the Cardinals played the Miami Marlins here. “But, candidly, for the last little bit, there’s been a little more ‘chase’ in our game. We haven’t been able to get better as the game goes, which is the thing that’s probably the most frustrating.
“’Give away,’ is a strong term but we haven’t been able to take that tough at-bat consistently and we’ve been able to chase out of the (strike) zone, which creates softer contact and quicker innings. That’s the thing that needs to change.
“I’m tired of looking at the pitch count,” he said. “I’m really optimistic (when) we’ve got (he named several recent opposing starters) at 77 pitches with two outs in the third and you look up and there’s maybe a run, which is a little low. But you say, ‘OK, we’re going to knock him out,’’ and then you look up in the sixth inning and the guy’s at 96 and there’s still a run.
“It’s not for lack of effort. It’s for lack of execution.”
WAINO ON IL; MOLINA ABOUT TO COME OFF
As veteran righthander Adam Wainwright went on the 10-day injured list on Monday with a left hamstring strain, longtime batterymate Yadier Molina, out with a strain in the right thumb area, is about to come off it.
“Close,” was Molina’s response when asked how soon he might be playing. “We’re on the right page to be back soon.”
Molina said, “Hopefully,” when asked if that might be might later this week, as in a four-game series in New York beginning on Thursday.
The Cardinals’ nine-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glover took batting practice in St. Louis on Sunday and in the indoor cages on Monday night.
“The strength is coming back. Everything is feeling normal. There’s no more pain. It’s just getting the strength back," Molina said.
Righthander Ryan Helsley, who had been optioned to Class AAA Memphis on Sunday, was recalled from that team to take Wainwright’s place on the roster.
The 37-year-old Wainwright was hurt running out a double in the fifth inning in Sunday night’s game and he returned to St. Louis on Monday to be examined by doctors. At 5-6, he is tied for the team lead in wins and he is second in strikeouts at 61 and in innings pitched at 70 1/3. On Sunday, he became the sixth Cardinals pitcher to surpass 2,000 innings for the franchise.
Helsley, 24, has made six relief appearances for the Cardinals with no record and a 2.70 earned run average, with opponents hitting just .121 against him.
MO SAYS NO REYES YET
Shildt is hopeful that Wainwright will miss just his start on Friday. The strain is Grade 1 or mild, and Wainwright will be re-evaluated in seven days, said John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations. But Mozeliak said that the next Wainwright start would not be taken by Alex Reyes, who struck out 10 but walked four in lasting just four with 88 pitches in a start for Memphis Saturday night in Reno. Mozeliak said Reyes would need at least one more start before he would be recalled.
Shildt earlier had said Reyes might be under consideration for Wainwright's next start. Daniel Ponce de Leon, who was called up on Sunday, would seem to be the logical candidate for Friday’s start in New York.
“The next start we’ll probably have to absorb from within," said Mozeliak. “In terms of long-term, a lot of it might depend on how Alex pitches his next game at Memphis.”
HARD TO WATCH
Molina said it had been hard for him not to be able to play and just to watch, “especially when the team is going bad,” he said. “We haven’t played the best that we can. It’s tough to watch them. But right now, the only thing I can do is get better and try to get back as soon as possible.”
But how does the team get better?
“We have to try to play the ‘little ball,’’’ said Molina, meaning advancing runners and getting one or two runs at a time, rather than wait for the big inning. “We need to pitch better and if we can do those things on a consistent basis, we’re going to be in good shape.”
DeJONG OUT, WONG HITS FIFTH
Shortstop Paul DeJong, who had played in each of the first 63 games, sat for Yairo Munoz on Monday.
At some point, we’ve got to give Paulie a blow,” said Shildt.
Second baseman Kolten Wong, mostly a seventh- or eighth-place hitter, batted fifth against former Cardinal Sandy Alcantara.
“Kolten’s been taking consistent at-bats for the most par," said Shildt.
“He’s not your traditional ‘five-hole hitter,’ but we’ve got to figure out a way to score runs, so we’ll give it a look.”
1. Matt Carpenter 3b
2. Jose Martinez rf
3. Paul Goldschmidt 1b
4. Marcell Ozuna lf
5. Kolten Wong 2b
6. Yairo Munoz ss
7. Harrison Bader cf
8. Matt Wieters c
9. Michael Wacha p
1. Austin Dean lf
2. Garrett Cooper 1b
3. Brian Anderson 3b
4. Starlin Castro 2b
5. Harold Ramirez rf
6. JT Riddle cf
7. Jorge Alfaro c
8. Miguel Rojas ss
9. Sandy Alcantara