ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- The Cardinal offense was in bad shape coming into Wednesday’s matinee finale, despite having won two in a row. Ranked 28th in runs and last in OPS, the Redbirds badly needed a boost at the plate.
Their slog was, in part, due to the sluggish start of new center fielder and anointed spark plug Dexter Fowler, who was lugging a .143 average through 14 games.
Fowler’s electric spring promised excitement atop the order, but the preview from March proved not to be portable, at least in the early going. His previous seven days saw him hitting less than .100 and slugging .136.
Wednesday, Fowler’s bat came back to life.
The 31-year-old accounted for the entirety of the Cardinal offense, belting two home runs en route to a 3-for-4 day at the plate.
The first came in the third, when Fowler turned on a 2-0 fastball and sent it soaring into the right field bullpen. The Cardinals took a 1-0 lead, which was promptly erased by a solo shot from Josh Bell in the next half inning. But Fowler remained locked in, sending a first-pitch heater over the wall in right in his next at bat, coming in the bottom of the fifth.
He finished the game with an average of .183, a 40-point improvement from the night before. It was a continuation of a numerical trend in 2017. In games the Cardinals won, Fowler hit .211. That’s not exactly Ted Williams-esque, but it’s still 100 points better than his average in games the team lost.
The Birds managed eight hits, but as they left six runners on and went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position, Fowler’s two knocks where the only productive swings.
Michael Wacha was electric in his start, allowing just four hits in 6.2 innings. He caught much too much of the plate on Bell’s homer, but managed to strike out three and coax week contact over 88 pitches, allowing just four hits total.
Oh what a relief
Kevin Siegrist battled his defense in the eighth inning as he tried desperately to hold the team’s one-run advantage. After a flyout to center, Francisco Cervelli grounded a ball back to the mound. Siegrist threw to first and, while a little low, appeared to toss it accurately enough to get the out. However, the ball inexplicably dropped out of Carpenter’s mitt, and the Pirates were granted a gift.
They got another in the next at bat, when Josh Harrison grounded what appeared to be a double play ball to shortstop. Greg Garcia, starting in place of the scuffling Aledmys Diaz, booted the ball, and Pittsburgh had two aboard. Instead of being back in the dugout, Siegrist had just one out and the heart of the Pirate lineup coming to the plate.
After a flyout and a walk, the game was on the line with Gregory Polanco at the plate. He lashed a liner down the line at first, but Carpenter, perhaps atoning for his confounding drop, made an incredible stop. He outran the Polanco to the bag, sliding to beat the speedy outfielder.
The play saved the game, preserving the tenuous 2-1 advantage.
Coming up Rosie
Trevor Rosenthal was tapped for the ninth, his last save coming on June 21, 2016 before he was shut down for injury. The righty had a tremendous spring, but battled back tightness throughout March and into April. He had been electric since his return on April 10, striking out five in 2.1 innings.
He faced four hitters in the ninth, getting a groundout and two strikeouts while allowing a soft single through the right side.
The Cardinals move to 6-9 after the sweep, and head to Milwaukee for a four-game set with the Brewers this weekend.