SAN DIEGO — The Cardinals had found a way to generate baserunners earlier in the game and even ended the long slog for that missing run with a solo homer.
It took a rookie to bring it all together.
Brendan Donovan blasted the Cardinals out of their offensive funk with a grand slam in the seventh inning to send them to a 5-4 victory Thursday against San Diego. Donovan’s first big-league grand slam helped the Cardinals to avoid a series sweep at Petco Park and gave them their first genuine outburst of runs in five days. Lars Nootbaar’s solo homer in the fifth inning ended the Cardinals streak of consecutive innings without an RBI or an earned run at 47.
Donovan’s homer got them the win.
Jack Flaherty bought time for the eventual rally with six steady innings that concluded with the strongest stretch of pitching by the right-hander in at least a year. Flaherty struck out nine and held the Padres to three runs, though two of which involved misplays on defense.
The Cardinals’ game-changing, week-altering, spirit-uplifting rally begam modestly enough with Dylan Carlson’s pinch-hit single. Nootbaar drew a walk to put the tying run on base and force the Padres into a decision. San Diego turned to right-hander Nick Martinez to put leadoff hitter Tommy Edman on the left side of the plate. He worked a full-count walk to load the bases. Donovan’s at-bat became a study in patience.
He ignored Martinez’s first three pitches, all of them balls.
He took a cutter he couldn’t punish for the first strke.
When he got the same pitch, Donovan launched it over the right-field wall to flip the game on the Padres. His hit was the first by a Cardinal to produce two or more RBIs since Yadier Molina’s homer in the third inning of Saturday afternoon’s game.
With the middle of the Padres’ order up in the eighth inning, closer Ryan Helsley handled it. He allowed a solo homer to Manny Machado that tightened the game to a run. Helsley then asserted command of the inning with raw velocity. His full-count fastball to Josh Bell was clocked at 104.0 mph – the fastest pitch thrown this season in the majors.