ST. LOUIS -- The ball rested on the ledge of Marco Gonzales' locker, serving as a backdrop as the rookie left-hander detailed his start to the throng of media after the Cardinals' 13-2 victory over the Cubs.
It was a key win for the Cardinals as they try to keep pace in the crowded National League Central race, but it was also a milestone night for Gonzales.
That ball will soon be relocated to a shelf at his Colorado home, a reminder of his first Major League victory.
"It feels pretty rewarding, especially to come out after we lose two and put up a good performance," said Gonzales, who helped halt the Cardinals' four-game losing streak. "A victory like that feels good, for sure."
Gonzales reported to St. Louis knowing that he'd be around for just a one-day stay. The Cardinals tapped him as their 26th player for Saturday's doubleheader, meaning he'd have to return to the Triple-A roster immediately after.
What he did, however, may have helped convince the Cardinals that he can help them down the stretch, and he's eligible to return next week, when rosters expand.
"I'd love to," said Gonzales, the organization's top pick from the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. "I think we're at a key place here where we're gaining some momentum. I would love to be here."
After making five starts for the Cardinals earlier this season, Gonzales returned with a sharpened cutter, heightened confidence and a tricky changeup that together helped him halt the Cubs' momentum. A Chicago team that had homered seven times in the first two games would be held by Gonzales to one run, and that coming in the first inning, his only troublesome part of the game.
He escaped further damage by getting a popout and a flyout with two runners in scoring position.
"That was a big inning to be able to get the popup to keep from getting the second run in there," manager Mike Matheny said. "Those are innings that a young player can have snowball in a hurry. He did a real nice job of limiting the damage."
Gonzales used 99 pitches to finish a career-best six innings before handing a three-run lead to the bullpen. He allowed three hits and relied on a previous Triple-A matchup against some of the Cubs' young hitters to exploit their weaknesses. His changeup, as it usually is, was an especially potent weapon against a lineup that has feasted on fastballs in this series.
"I think our main objective the entire night was fastball command and offspeed down in the zone," Gonzales said. "The pitches that were hit by [Javier] Baez and [Jorge] Soler the last couple of days were just up in the zone, so we wanted to keep the ball down tonight and let the defense do the work."