Game Report: Cardinals 7, Pirates 0

By Rob Rains

There was no controversy about the Cardinals’ win on Friday night, only another special moment in what could turn out to be a special week.

It’s been a week that began with Aledmys Diaz hitting a grand slam in his first game back after the death of childhood friend Jose Fernandez of the Marlins, and included the controversial walk-off win on Thursday night, the Cardinals on Friday activated Matt Holliday from the disabled list while announcing that they are not likely to pick up his option for next season.

They found a spot to use him as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning against the Pirates, and he responded to the moment with his first career pinch-hit homer, capping the victory.

“I still have chills,” said manager Mike Matheny. “It was amazing, very special. I know it (the reaction of his teammates and the fans) meant a great deal to him, probably more than words can describe.”

The Cardinals remained a game behind the Giants for the second wild-card spot in the NL after the Giants beat the Dodgers 9-3. There are two games to play. If the two teams end up tied, they would play a tie-breaking game on Monday in St. Louis.

The homer came in Holliday’s first at-bat since he broke his right thumb when he was hit by a pitch on Aug. 11.

Holliday left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters, leaving his best friend on the team, Wainwright, to speak for him.

“You can’t make that stuff up,” Wainwright said. “On an 0-2 pitch? You just don’t see that. I was choked up. I think everybody was.”

It remains to be seen if Holliday will get another at-bat on either Saturday or Sunday, but Wainwright does not believe it will turn out to be the final at-bat of Holliday’s career. 

“He’s not done as a player,” Wainwright said, “even if he is possibly done as a Cardinal … There’s not much better way to go out.”

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate:
Jedd Gyorko put the Cardinals in front with his 29th homer leading off the second and in the sixth, back to back doubles by Yadier Molna and Stephen Piscotty increased the lead to 3-0 … Piscotty’s hit ended an 0-for-21 streak by the Cardinals with runners in scoring position over the last three games … Brandon Moss, mired in his own personal slump, finally produced with a two-run homer later in the inning, his 28th of the year, to make it a 5-0 game … Holliday hit for Martinez in the seventh, and slammed an 0-2 pitch into the Cardinals bullpen for his 20th homer, allowing the Cardinals to tie the NL record with six players with 20 or more home runs. It also was the 17th pinch-hit homer of the year for the Cardinals, extending their own MLB record.

On the mound: Martinez allowed just five hits, walked one and struck out nine in his seven innings as he raised his record to 16-9. It was his fourth game this season, and ninth in his 68 career starts, in which he has thrown seven or more shutout innings.

Key stat: Despite leading the team with 29 home runs, Gyorko ranks only sixth on the team with 57 RBIs. He has now driven in 44 of his runs on his home runs, and has only 13 RBIs in 363 at-bats when he did not hit a home run.

Of note: Holliday’s homer was his 295th of his career … The three homers increased the Cardinals’ total at home this year to 102, their highest total since hitting 124 at home in 2000 … Seventeen of their last 23 runs over the previous four games have scored on home runs.

Looking ahead:
The Cardinals announced before the game that Michael Wacha will get the start in the 12:05 p.m. game on Saturday. Chad Kuhl is scheduled to start for the Pirates.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains