Game Report: Cardinals 2, Pirates 1

By Rob Rains

For as long as home run records have been kept, no player in Cardinals’ history did what Dexter Fowler accomplished on Wednesday.

The Baseball Reference website has home run data dating back to 1913, and according to their records, no player before Fowler ever hit two solo home runs, accounting for the only runs of the game, for the Cardinals.

It was the 18th time in franchise history the Cardinals won a game scoring only two runs, with both runs coming on solo homers, but the other 17 times it happened the home runs were hit by two players. The last time was on Sept. 19, 2014 against Cincinnati.

For Fowler, his big day finally represented some success in what has proved to be a difficult start to the season and his Cardinals’ career. He was hitting just .143 coming into the game and still looking for his first RBI.

After striking out in the first, Fowler hit a 2-0 pitch from Gerrit Cole over the Cardinals bullpen in the third inning, then followed it with another blast in the fifth, making this the fourth two-homer game in his career. The last time was on June 2, 2013, when he played for Colorado.

“I feel like I’ve been swinging the bat for the last few days pretty good,” Fowler said. “I just hadn’t had the results. I was just sticking with it.

“I’ve been in ruts before when I felt comfortable at the plate and you just have to take it for what it’s worth. Someday the results will come and today was the day.”

Fowler said he had to correct a mechanical flaw at the plate, which was resulting in him swinging at pitches when he normally doesn’t swing. He had drawn only six walks in his first 62 plate appearances this season and had struck out 16 times.

“That’s out of my character and it wasn’t comfortable,” he said. “It’s a snowball effect. If you’re not seeing the ball you don’t know what you’re swinging at.”

Fowler received his first curtain call as a Cardinal after the second home run, which turned out to be all the runs Michael Wacha and the bullpen needed to complete the sweep of the three-game series, all by 2-1 scores.

The sweep was in danger in the eighth, when two fielding errors helped the Pirates load the bases with two outs against Kevin Siegrist. He got out of the jam thanks to a diving stop by first baseman Matt Carpenter, who beat Gregory Polanco to the base for the final out. If the ball had got past Carpenter at least two runs would have scored.

It was the first time the Cardinals won three consecutive games, on three consecutive days, scoring only two runs since June 30-July 2, 1997.

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate: Fowler also had an infield single in the seventh, accounting for three of the Cardinals eight hits … One of the hits was a pinch-hit single by Aledmys Diaz, breaking his career-long streak of 18 consecutive at-bats without a hit … Jose Martinez got the start in left field and had a hit and a walk. He has at least one hit in all five games he has started this year and in six of his seven career starts, including two games last September.

On the mound:
Michael Wacha retired the first 10 batters he faced before Josh Bell homered in the fourth to tie the game. Wacha allowed just two other hits until the seventh, when a two-out single and walk knocked him out of the game … Matt Bowman relieved and got an inning-ending strikeout. He has retired the first batter he faced in all nine of his appearances this season and has stranded seven of nine inherited runners … After Siegrist pitched the eighth, Trevor Rosenthal earned his first save since June 21 of last year, allowing a one-out single before getting back-to-back strikeouts … Seung Hwan Oh and Brett Cecil were not available in the Cardinals’ bullpen.

Key stat
: The Cardinals won the three games against the Pirates despite getting only one hit total with a runner in scoring position. They were 0-for-3 on Wednesday and just 1-of-7 for the series. So far this season they are 18-of-92 with a runner on second or third, a .196 average.

Worth noting:
Jhonny Peralta did not play for the fourth consecutive game as Jedd Gyorko started at thrd base with Greg Garcia sliding to shortstop to give Diaz a day off. Peralta has just three hits, all singles, and no RBIs in eight games this season. … The last time the Cardinals had a two-homer game out of the leadoff spot at home was on Sept. 23, 2015, by Carpenter against Cincinnati. Carpenter had two two-homer games while hitting leadoff last year, both on the road … It was the second two-homer game of the year for the Cardinals. Diaz did it on April 8 against Cincinnati, also at home.

Looking ahead:
The Cardinals will be in Milwaukee for a four-game series beginning Thursday night. Carlos Martinez, 0-2 in three starts, will pitch the opener against Zach Davies.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains


Cardinals Post-game Audio: Matheny, Wacha, Rosenthal, Fowler