St. Louis hammers 5 homers in pursuit of postseason spot
By Jenifer Langosch and Mark Sheldon
ST. LOUIS -- With one mighty and emotional swing, Aledmys Diaz paid honor to a lost friend and jolted the Cardinals, who rode that spark to a rout of the Reds to keep pace in the National League Wild Card race. Diaz's grand slam, one of five homers the Cardinals hit on Tuesday, and a gutsy performance from Adam Wainwright boosted the club to a 12-5 victory at Busch Stadium.
The win kept the Cardinals one game behind the Giants for the second NL Wild Card spot. The Mets remain 1 1/2 games ahead of St. Louis, which has five games left on its regular-season schedule.
"I don't know if there has been a spot all year where we needed that more than we did tonight," Wainwright said of Diaz's home run. "I felt some serious goose bumps when he hit that."
Wainwright tiptoed around trouble early to keep the Cardinals close and set the stage for perhaps the most poignant moment of the Cardinals' season. Playing for the first time since losing childhood friend Jose Fernandez, Diaz crushed his first career grand slam to give the Cardinals a 5-2 lead in the fourth. It was the second of five home runs the Cardinals would hit in a four-inning span.
Reds starter Robert Stephenson served up the first two as he allowed five runs over four innings. He did not allow a hit until Matt Carpenter, playing through a finger injury, contributed a solo shot in the third. Three singles, including an infield hit and a blooper with one out in the fourth set up the Diaz long ball.
"I felt a lot better today, especially in the beginning of the game," said Stephenson, who is 2-3 with a 6.27 ERA in six starts this season. "I was a lot more under control, I felt like, and I was able to throw more strikes and get ahead of guys better. It was just a nightmare inning in the fourth."
Cincinnati, which enjoyed a four-homer game in the series opener, got homers on Tuesday from Joey Votto and Scott Schebler, the latter of which briefly pulled the Reds to within two after Diaz's grand slam. Votto finished with a three-hit game off Wainwright, who, with a 5 2/3-inning performance, tied Dizzy Dean for sixth all-time in franchise history with his 134th career win.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Divine intervention: Having just returned from spending a day with Fernandez's family in Miami, Diaz honored his late friend by hanging a No. 16 jersey in the Cardinals' dugout and then delivering one of his biggest hits of the season. With his first career grand slam, Diaz gave the Cardinals their first lead since Saturday. He pointed toward the sky upon reaching home and then again with his helmet after being summoned with a curtain call. More >
"Watching him cross the plate and watching his reaction as he went through the guys really hit me in how much that meant to him and some of the load he's carrying right now," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "You can never understand what each person is going through when they suffer a loss like that."
Triple shy: Votto's blistering second half is not cooling in the season's final week as he was a triple away from hitting for the cycle. He provided the game's first run with a RBI double to left field in the first inning. In the fifth, he led off by hitting Wainwright's 1-1 pitch to right field for his 28th homer of the season. Following a lineout to the shortstop in the sixth, he flied to deep left field in the ninth. His 3-for-5 game has him batting .324 for the year.
Peralta pounces: Three days after acknowledging that his power has been sapped by a still-healing right thumb, Peralta found a burst of strength to snap a string of 51 homerless at-bats. His fifth-inning blast off reliever Matt Magill put the Cardinals ahead by five. It was one of five homers the Reds would allow to extend their Major League record of five-homer games allowed to nine. Cincinnati has served up 251 home runs this season.
"I'm feeling better and better every time I get in the batter's box," Peralta said.
Could've been big rally: The Reds had a chance to deliver an early knockout on Wainwright and missed in the top of the third inning. After the first three batters reached, Brandon Phillips' sacrifice fly scored Eugenio Suarez and made it a 2-0 game. But Wainwright struck out Steve Selsky and issued a two-out walk that reloaded the bases. Ivan De Jesus Jr. lined out to second base to end the inning. Cincinnati wound up 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base.
"I didn't have the best stat line in the world, but I knew if I held them early on we were going to come back and win that game," Wainwright said. "The game could have swung bad in their favor right there. I think even though they scored that run, when we kept them to one run in that inning, everybody kind of came in and was like, 'All right, we got out of the spot right there and that's all they're getting.'"
"You certainly knew they weren't going to sit on their hands and wait around to get beat. We just got into some bad counts, some really bad counts -- 2-0, 3-1 -- and they just teed off on some fastballs that were centered." -- Reds manager Bryan Price, on the Cardinals' offense one night after a 15-2 Reds win.
"He was very excited about playing today and then, you know when he got that [No. 16] jersey and he put that jersey on the bench, he was feeling something special was going to happen. I said, 'Dude, you're going to hit a homer today.'" -- Brayan Pena, on Diaz
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• Selsky's second-inning single gave him a hit in seven consecutive at-bats, the most for the Reds since Phillips did it Sept. 2-5, 2015. The club record is 10 consecutive hits and it's held by Woody Williams (1943) and Bip Roberts (1992).
• With Carpenter connecting for his 20th home run, the Cardinals now boast a franchise-record five 20-homer hitters -- Carpenter, Grichuk, Brandon Moss, Stephen Piscotty and Jedd Gyorko. That ties a record set in 2012. As a team, the Cardinals have hit 218 homers this season, third most in Cardinals history. Included in that total are 16 pinch-hit homers, a Major League record.
• Phillips left the game after striking out in the seventh, injuring his left hand on a swing against reliever Matt Bowman. He was replaced by Hernan Iribarren.
"We did have an X-ray here," Price said. "I think the initial concern might be the hamate bone. That was ruled out, at least through that X-ray. There was no sign of fracture. Right now, we'll call it a bone bruise because it's a non-specific injury. We know it's to the base of his hand. However, we're not ready to rule him out for [Wednesday] so we'll just have to wait and see how he comes through tomorrow."
• Schebler was pulled for a pinch-runner in the eighth inning because of a calf cramp following his infield single.
WHAT'S NEXT Reds:Anthony DeSclafani will make his final start of the season when the series continues at 8:15 p.m. ET on Wednesday. In six career games vs. St. Louis, DeSclafani is 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA.
Cardinals: The Cardinals will continue their Wild Card pursuit behind Mike Leake, who is slated to make his final regular-season start in Wednesday night (7:15 CT). The former Reds righty is winless in four starts since coming back from the disabled list and has a 5.95 ERA during that span.