Game Report: Cardinals 4, Pirates 1

By Rob Rains

After seemingly searching all season for that big bat to hit in the cleanup spot, the Cardinals might have found him – on their own bench.

Jose Martinez was back in the fourth spot in the order for the sixth consecutive game on Friday night, and he came through again to lead the Cardinals to the win over the Pirates at Busch Stadium.

Martinez lined a two-out, two-run single with the bases loaded in the fifth inning to increase the Cardinals’ lead from 2-0 to 4-0, more than enough runs for Luke Weaver to win his fourth consecutive start.

In the six-game streak when he has hit cleanup, Martinez has gone 11-of-22, an even .500, with three doubles, three homers and eight RBIs. He also is riding a 10-game hitting streak. For the season Martinez has started only 48 of the Cardinals’ 141 games and the team has a record of 28-20 in those games.

The win left the Cardinals tied with the Brewers, four games behind the Cubs in the NL Central with 21 games left in the season.

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate: One night after they got 11 hits and were shut out in San Diego, the Cardinals scored their four runs on just five hits. Greg Garcia doubled and scored on a groundout by Weaver in the third and Martinez had a single in the fourth before a run scored on another groundout, this time by Randal Grichuk … Weaver led off the fifth with a single and Martinez’s single followed a walk and hit batter that loaded the bases … The Cardinals did not have another hit until Yadier Molina singled with two outs in the eighth … Matt Carpenter and Tommy Pham both were back in the lineup after being out because of shoulder injuries. Carpenter drew three walks out of the leadoff spot and Pham struck out twice but also walked and was hit by a pitch.

On the mound: Weaver shut out the Pirates on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out seven and not walking a batter. Since joining the rotation in place of Adam Wainwright, Weaver is 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA (four runs in 25 1/3 innings) while striking out 36 … He left with runners on first and third in the sixth but Matt Bowman got an inning-ending strikeout … The only Pittsburgh run scored in the seventh off John Brebbia … Juan Nicasio made his Cardinal debut, relieving with two outs in the eighth, and retired all four batters he faced to earn the save. He became the first player to earn a save in his debut with the Cardinals since Brad Thompson did it in his major-league debut on May 8, 2005.

Key stat: Of the 10 players who have started in the fourth spot in the batting order for the Cardinals this season, Martinez (12 starts) and Dexter Fowler (18 starts) are the only two with a batting average above .286. In his 16 games in that spot, including appearances in games he did not start, Martinez has posted a .400 average (20-of-50) with four homers and 17 RBIs. The only player with more homers and RBIs in the fourth spot is Jedd Gyorko with 11 homers and 47 RBIs in 80 games.

Worth noting: Paul DeJong got the night off, snapping a string of 32 consecutive games. He had played in 75 of the Cardinals’ last 76 games since June 15 and hit just .190 (8-of-42) on the 10-game road trip … Kolten Wong missed his fifth consecutive game because of a sore back, although he did take batting practice before the game … Gyorko still has not been able to run full-speed because of his hamstring injury … Nicasio became the 47th player to appear in at least one game for the Cardinals this season, the most the team has used since going through 51 players in 1997.

Looking ahead: Carlos Martinez will get the start in the 6:15 p.m. game on Saturday night while Chad Kuhl will start for the Pirates.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains