Adam Wainwright looked finished. The righty had just walked his second batter of the game to put runners on first and second in the seventh inning. Two batters earlier, Wainwright had allowed his first hit in four innings and seventh overall. His pitch count knocked on the door of 120.
And Mike Matheny was coming to the mound.
The infield descended on the rubber, for a chat and presumably, pats on the back.
But with a two-run lead, Matheny left his horse in to face the Red Sox's best healthy hitter, Yoenis Cespedes (David Ortiz was a late scratch from the lineup).
Then Wainwright fell behind.
The air has been thick lately at Busch Stadium, with many long drives dying near the wall. But if anyone could get it out of here, it was Cespedes, the two-time defending HR Derby Champion and general freak of nature, strength-wise.
And he was about to get a pitch to hit.
Wainwright gave him three.
Three pitches later, Cespedes walked back to the dugout, shaking his head.
Wainwright used two cutters to get back in the count and a classic hammer to strike out Cespedes looking and end the threat. It was the last time the Red Sox would rally, and the Cardinals rode two Kolten Wong homers to a 5-2 win.
Wainwright completed seven innings, earning his 14th win. The Cardinals kept pace with Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, who both won Thursday.
Wainwright rebounded from a rough start his last time out. The ace had struggled in two of his last three starts. But he struck out seven over seven innings Thursday, allowing seven hits and two runs.
Wong registered his first career multi-home run game with blasts in the fifth and seventh inning. The rookie finished with three hits and three runs scored. Each homer gave the Cardinals more breathing room.
In the end, the Cardinals got all they needed behind Wainwright with a three-run first inning. Jhonny Peralta's two-out, two-run double scored Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong to get things going. Peralta soon scored on an Oscar Taveras single through the right side to make it 3-0.
The Cardinals didn't score again until the fifth, when Wong blasted his eighth homer of the year. His round-tripper in the seventh was his ninth.
(c)2014 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services