Game Report: Cardinals 3, Padres 1

Before the Cardinals left on their 10-game road trip, they knew it would be important for them to take advantage of playing a couple of struggling teams if they were going to keep their playoff hopes alive.

With one game to go, they have done exactly that.

Stephen Piscotty’s two-run homer sparked the Cardinals past the Padres on Wednesday night, their fourth win in a row and their sixth win in seven games against the Giants and Padres. The trip started with a split of two games in Milwaukee.

Combined with the Giants’ win over the Rockies and the Brewers’ loss to the Reds, the Cardinals moved to just two games behind Colorado for the second wild-card spot. They also moved past the Brewers and into second place in the NL Central, four games behind the Cubs.

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate: The Cardinals had just one hit through the first six innings, a first-inning single by Harrison Bader. Jose Martinez led off the seventh with a single and Piscotty followed with his ninth homer of the season to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead … Bader’s sacrifice fly in the eighth added an insurance run … Piscotty also singled in the ninth, the only Cardinal with a two-hit night as the team was limited to just five hits … Dexter Fowler returned to the Cardinals’ lineup and was back in the leadoff spot but was 0-of-3, reaching on a walk and an error.

On the mound: Jack Flaherty made his second start for the Cardinals and made just one mistake, a home run by Yangervis Solarte leading off the fifth. Flaherty allowed three hits in five innings, walking four and striking out four, and once again was not involved in the decision … Ryan Sherriff worked two scoreless innings in relief before John Brebbia worked a 1-2-3 eighth and Tyler Lyons earned the save, striking out two after allowing a pair of singles to open the ninth inning.

Key stat: The homer was the seventh in Piscotty’s career against the Padres, the most he has hit against any team. Piscotty has started just 13 games against San Diego. His second favorite opponent for home runs has been the Cubs with five, coming in 29 career starts.

Worth noting:
The Cardinals acquired reliever Juan Nicasio in a trade with the Phillies on Wednesday, sending 22-year-old minor-league infielder Eliezer Alvarez to Philadelphia. Nicasio had been claimed on waivers by the Phillies from the Pirates last week. He will not be eligible for postseason play and is in line to become a free agent at the end of the season, but could provide a lift to the bullpen in the final three weeks of the season … Alvarez, who played at Springfield this season, was in danger of being dropped from the 40-man roster, which would have made him eligible to be claimed in the Rule 5 draft … The Cardinals’ Class A affiliate the Palm Beach Cardinals earned a share of the Florida State League title with a 3-2 win over Fort Myers on Wednesday night. The winning run scored when Thomas Spitz was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. The league’s championship series was cancelled because of the approaching hurricane … Triple A Memphis opened its playoff run Wednesday night with a 4-1 win over Colorado Springs behind two homers from Aledmys Diaz and one from Tyler O’Neill.

Looking ahead:
The Cardinals will go for a sweep of the four-game series in San Diego in the final game of the road trip, an 8:10 p.m. game St. Louis time on Thursday night. Lance Lynn will pitch against Clayton Richard.