ST. LOUIS -- Frustrated with his inability to find a consistent delivery this season, Todd Wellemeyer went back to the mound a few minutes after Monday's bullpen session to throw some more. He talked with bullpen coach Marty Mason and pitching coach Dave Duncan, and the group realized that Wellemeyer was falling toward the third-base side of the mound during his delivery, forcing him to throw across his body and leave his pitches flat. So in the two days leading up to Thursday's start, Wellemeyer went out to the bullpen mound and did some work on his delivery, trying to stay balanced and not allowing himself to drift before throwing the ball.
It must have worked. With his new delivery in tow, Wellemeyer tossed arguably his best outing of the season, a 7 1/3-inning, two-run performance that put the Cardinals back in a tie for first place in the National League Central with Milwaukee with a 5-2 win over the Giants at Busch Stadium. "It's a lot easier when you're on balance," Wellemeyer said. "That was the key to it all. I wasn't leaning over. When I brought my foot up, I made sure that I just stayed there. I wasn't leaning. "When you figure it out and it feels good, you know what you felt like last year." Wellemeyer had given up at least four earned runs in eight of his 16 starts and walked four batters in each of his past two starts. But he looked like a different pitcher Thursday, getting the help of two double-play balls to escape a couple of minor jams. After falling behind almost every hitter in his last start against Minnesota that lasted a season-low 2 1/3 innings, Wellemeyer used his new delivery to pound the strike zone early and often. "The first thing I noticed was strike one, strike two," said infielder Brendan Ryan. "When you have command and are getting ahead, good things can happen. "I think the key for him is just getting ahead." Even the Giants noticed a difference in the St. Louis righty. "It looked like he was commanding the ball real well," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "That's been an issue with him. It looked like he was hitting his spots tonight." Wellemeyer, who has given up at least eight hits in seven of his 16 starts, gave up a double to Randy Winn in the first before getting a groundout and strikeout to escape the inning undamaged. But that first frame was all it took for manager Tony La Russa to notice a difference in his struggling righty. "I mentioned to Dunc after the first inning, I said, 'If he throws that way the rest of the game, we got a chance,'" La Russa said. "Because that first inning, he was nails. And for most of the game, he was good. Once in a while he would get out of it, but he made the adjustment. "It was a step forward. I expect him to build on it." Wellemeyer took a shutout into the eighth before Aaron Rowand launched a two-run homer that put San Francisco on the board and ended Wellemeyer's evening. His six strikeouts tied for a season high. It was the first time this season that Wellemeyer went more than seven innings and just his second win since May 27. "I'm just really happy for him," said outfielder Ryan Ludwick, who was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. "He pounded the zone. He was aggressive and did a great job. It was great. We were all happy and that was the best part of the night, seeing what he did tonight." Ludwick and the struggling offense had a rare outburst in the first inning, scoring three runs off Giants starter Barry Zito to help give Wellemeyer some welcomed breathing room. Ludwick's bases-loaded single scored Ryan from third before a walk to Yadier Molina made it 2-0 with still nobody out. A fielder's choice by Chris Duncan made it 3-0 but Zito escaped further damage by retiring Tyler Greene and Wellemeyer to end the inning. The Cardinals got two more in the fifth on an RBI grounder by Skip Schumaker and Ludwick's second RBI hit of the game. The runs were more than enough for Wellemeyer, who left to a standing ovation with one out in the eighth before closer Ryan Franklin helped his All-Star case with a 1-2-3 ninth for his 19th save in 20 chances. After losing three in a row, the Cardinals have now won two straight as they embark on a 10-game road trip to finish up before the All-Star break. "Just one consistent delivery to where the ball looks the same every pitch out of your hand, every delivery looks the same," Wellemeyer said. "That's how you get them off balance. "That's the best I've felt all year."
B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.