ST. LOUIS -- It hasn't mattered this week whether it's been a trio of moderately talented Milwaukee Brewers pitchers or All-Star righthander Hisashi Iwakuma of Seattle. The Cardinals have done little or nothing with any of those starting pitchers through the first six innings.
They amassed a total of seven hits in the first six innings of those games. No, that's not seven hits in six innings of one game. That's, in order, 1, 1, 3 and 2 hits through six innings in all four games.
The Cardinals surged late to win the first two games. They lost the third and on Friday at Busch Stadium they were in danger of dropping the fourth. But some generous Seattle defense and a key stolen base by Pete Kozma got the Cardinals even at 1-1 in the eighth, canceling a fifth-inning home run by Seattle rookie catcher Mike Zunino off Adam Wainwright.
The Mariners kept on giving in the 10th inning. Combined with more aggressive running by Kozma, the Cardinals pulled out a fairly improbable 2-1 victory that pushed them one game ahead of Pittsburgh in the National League Central Division.
"We kind of made something out of nothing," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Kozma singled with two out in the 10th off righthander Chance Ruffin. Lefthander Oliver Perez relieved to walk both Matt Carpenter and Jon Jay before he threw a pitch which glanced off the glove of Zunino. The ball didn't roll far but Kozma was in high gear and slid in safely at the plate, beating the tag of Perez, who had taken the throw from Zunino.
"He has as good as instincts as anybody on our club as far as baserunning goes," Matheny said of Kozma and the winning run.
But Matheny would prefer to see a little more scoring earlier from his team.
"You know that I would," he said. "It's always nice when you get off to a good start offensively. But we'll take them any way we can get them, right now especially.
"The guys are showing a lot of heart. That means a lot. That's the kind of stuff that carries on for a long time. But there's nothing wrong with getting a few hits before the fifth inning and getting a few runs before the sixth."
Neither Iwakuma nor Adam Wainwright allowed a hit in the first two innings, with Iwakuma getting help from shortstop Brad Miller, who made a diving stop and quick throw to nip David Freese to end the second.
Iwakuma, taking his first professional at-bat, fanned on four pitches in the third inning.
Matt Carpenter stroked his 49th double with two out in the St. Louis third for the first hit of the game. But Iwakuma escaped by inducing Jay to ground to first.
Kyle Seager laced a single to left for the Mariners' first hit with one out in the fourth. Kendrys Morales followed with a single to center. But a Seattle club tied for 13th in runs scored in the American League and also 13th in strikeouts didn't capitalize.
Wainwright fanned Michael Saunders and Dustin Ackley flied to left.
But Zunino, the Mariners' top pick in last year's draft, uncorked a 435-foot homer to left off a 2-0 Wainwright pitch to provide the game's first run in the fifth. It was Zunino's third homer of the season.
Nick Franklin walked and, after Iwakuma was called out on strikes after failing to sacrifice, Miller hit a hard grounder to first where Matt Adams fumbled it, losing a shot at second, but, after recovering, stepped on the bag for the out.
Abraham Almonte sent what appeared to be a single to center field. But second baseman Carpenter dived behind the bag to keep the ball from getting deeper in the outfield.
Third-base coach Jeff Datz had a hard time, however, corralling Franklin, who had roared around third. Carpenter bounced to his feet and fired to third baseman Freese and Franklin, who had elected to go forward rather than backward, headed home. Once Freese's throw beat him there, Franklin was reduced to trying to beat a rundown, which he didn't.
Freese singled to open the Cardinals' fifth but was forced by Daniel Descalso. The Cardinals' runner then took off for second but Wainwright couldn't make connections with a low pitch and was cut down by Zunino.
The Mariners had a chance to stretch their lead in the sixth. Seager singled and stole second with one out. Saunders beat out an infield hit as shortstop Descalso just missed him after rushing in for a slowly hit ball. But Descalso, timing his steps perfectly, handled Ackley's bouncer near the second-base bag, got the force and then completed the double play to keep the score at 1-0.
Carpenter then topped his fifth-inning play in the seventh. He dived to his right for Zunino's grounder up the middle and threw from his knees just in time to catch Zunino at first.
Carlos Beltran's smash ate up first baseman Morales to start the Cardinals' seventh. Beltran reached second with a double, the Cardinals' third hit. But Yadier Molina lined to Miller, with Beltran barely diving back safely to second. Adams' grounder moved Beltran to third and Iwakuma fanned Freese on a high fastball for the last of his 94 pitches.
But some poor Mariners defense and a key steal by Kozma, allowed the Cardinals to finally tie the game in the eighth against lefthanded reliever Charlie Furbush.
With one out, pinch hitter Brock Peterson, hitting .100 overall and worse as a pinch hitter (.077) hit a high popup into short right field. Second baseman Franklin circled under it, clearly having problems, and then stabbed futilely at it and the ball fell untouched to the ground.
Peterson, running hard, made second on the error. As Carpenter worked a walk, Kozma, running for Peterson, stole third.
Jay then hit a double-play ball to Franklin, who threw to Miller for a force. Carpenter came in aggressively against Miller and perhaps that caused Miller, jumping over Carpenter, to rush his throw to first.
At the other end, Morales was of little help either as the one-hopper clanked off his left wrist, with Kozma scoring the tying run.
Morales singled off Edward Mujica in the ninth but, Endy Chavez, running for Morales, was thrown out stealing by Molina as Saunders struck out on the first half of a double play.
Ackley singled off Mujica, the ball deflecting into left field. He, too, tried Molina to no avail as the five-time Gold Glover erased Ackley at second, too.
Lefthander Kevin Siegrist was touched for two singles in the 10th but retired Almonte on a fly to center to end the inning.
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