Game Report: Cardinals 3, Rockies 2

By Rob Rains

Jose Martinez might not be getting as much playing time as he would like these days for the Cardinals, but it only took one at-bat for him to become the hero of Thursday’s walk-off win over the Rockies.

Martinez came off the bench to line a 1-2 pitch from Wade Davis into right center in the bottom of the ninth, driving in the tying and winning runs.

The Cardinals trailed 2-1 entering the inning. The rally started with a one-out single from Greg Garcia, followed by a single by Harrison Bader. Garcia went to third on the hit, and Bader quickly stole second.

That gave the Rockies the choice of pitching to the pinch-hitting Martinez or walking him to load the bases and pitch to Matt Carpenter, who on Thursday was named the National League Player of the Month for July. They chose to pitch to Martinez, which worked out just fine for the Cardinals.

“He (Jose) is still getting opportunities, just not quite as many,” said manager Mike Shildt. “He’s determined to make the most out of them, and he just came up today ready to have a real quality at-bat.”

Before Martinez’s turn in the spotlight, the star of the day was Tyler O’Neill, who turned in two remarkable catches in right field as well as driving in the Cardinals’ first run with a sacrifice fly in the third inning.

The win allowed the Cardinals to finish a 5-2 homestand against the Cubs and Rockies, two of the teams they are chasing in the NL standings and in the wild card race. It was their ninth walk-off win of the season.

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate: Before his key single in the ninth, Bader had struck out three times, including on a checked swing with the bases loaded to end the sixth inning … In addition to his sacrifice fly and two outstanding defensive plays, O’Neill had a single and reached on a walk … Bader has scored a run in three consecutive games and now has 11 stolen bases and has only been thrown out twice. Nobody else on the roster has more than five … Paul DeJong thought he has his first steal of the season in the eighth, but was called out when an umpire’s review overturned the call and ruled he had over-slid the base … Martinez had just one RBI in 11 pinch-hit at-bats this season before his two-run single, the first walk-off hit of his career.

On the mound: Miles Mikolas pitched seven innings, allowing the two Rockies runs. Both scored in the fourth but one was unearned because of Mikolas’s own throwing error on a play at first base … John Brebbia worked the eighth inning and Chasen Shreve retired the Rockies in order in the ninth and earned his first win when the Cardinals rallied in the bottom of the ninth … The three wins against the Rockies in the series went to Dakota Hudson, Austin Gomber and Shreve … In the seven-game homestand, the bullpen allowed a total of five earned runs (plus two unearned runs) in 28 innings, a 1.61 ERA.

Key stat: Yadier Molina started for the 14th time in the Cardinals’ 15 games since the All-Star break despite Thursday being a day game after a night game. The team has had one day off during that stretch in which Molina has now caught 122 of the 133 innings the team has played since the break.

Worth noting: Marcell Ozuna had to leave the game in the fifth inning because of discomfort in a toe on his left foot. He had appeared to tweak something during his at-bat in the third, but played in left field in the fourth. Shildt said Ozuna wll be re-evaluated on Friday but as of now his status is considered day-to-day … Kolten Wong was scheduled to start at second base and play seven innings in Peoria on Thursday night before rejoining the Cardinals on Friday night in Pittsburgh … The Cardinals officially announced that Gomber will move into Carlos Martinez’s spot in the rotation and make his second career start on Saturday night … According to Baseball Reference, the 3 hour, 59 minute game on Wednesday night was the second longest nine-inning home game in Cardinals history. The only longer game was 109 years ago, on May 1, 1909, when they lost an 8-7 game to the Reds that took 4 hours, 8 minutes.

Looking ahead: The Cardinals begin a nine-game, 10-day trip to Pittsburgh, Miami and Kansas City on Friday night against the Pirates, where they will see former Tampa pitcher Chris Archer, scheduled to start the opener against John Gant.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains