ST. LOUIS -- With a full-count fastball that froze a pinch-hitter standing at the plate for the first time in his Major League career, Cardinals reliever Matt Bowman capped a night of milestones at Busch Stadium by tallying one of his own.
By bailing out a laboring Trevor Rosenthal, Bowman secured his first big league save to ensure the Cardinals hung on for a 2-1 win over the Nationals.
"I think it should speak volumes to him of what we think of him to put him in that spot," said manager Mike Matheny, who picked up his 500th managerial victory on Saturday. "He handled it exactly how we would have hoped, made good pitches all the way through. What an impressive story with him overall, and what he's made of his opportunity. What a great way to cap it off."
Bowman started warming up in a hurry once the Nationals began to stir against Rosenthal in the ninth. A two-run lead was quickly halved, and Rosenthal's walk of ailing catcher Jose Lobaton loaded the bases. Matheny, who had removed Seung Hwan Oh from the closer's role earlier this week, called for a replacement.
"We had to run out of options before I was going to get a shot," Bowman joked afterward.
With no wiggle room, Bowman went to work against Adrian Sanchez, who had amassed 3,233 professional at-bats -- all in the Minors -- when he stepped in as the last position player on Nationals manager Dusty Baker's bench.
Bowman worked ahead, 0-2, before Sanchez pushed the count full. Bowman continued to challenge Sanchez with his fastball and got a called third strike on his ninth pitch to end the threat.
"I didn't try to treat it any differently," Bowman said. "I was trying to get one out there. That was definitely something. He went to a deep count against me, battled pretty well."
Bowman's was among a number of individual benchmarks that were met while the team collected its fourth straight win. Alex Mejia tallied his first career hit, drove in his first run and launched his first long ball to provide all the meaningful offense. And Michael Wacha reached the 500-strikeout mark when he froze Ryan Zimmerman in the fourth.
By doing so in his 106th game, Wacha reached that total faster than any pitcher in franchise history except Lance Lynn (101 games) and Steve Carlton (also 106).
This was also a notable night for the manager, whose 500th win came in his 890th game on the bench. The only Cardinals manager to hit that mark more quickly was Billy Southworth in 766 games.
"I haven't even thought about the odds of me being around long enough to win 500 -- probably pretty low when I started this gig," said Matheny, who was unaware of the milestone until informed of it during a postgame interview. "[I'm] humbled and grateful and have been blessed with some amazing talent in the clubhouse, both on the field and with the staff and the support. As I think about that a little bit more, it's impressive to be a part of this organization from this seat for long enough to make that happen."