Cardinals Quick Hits: Boston withstands Cardinals’ last-gasp rally in win for Wacha | St. Louis Cardinals

BOSTON — A rule of thumb Adam Wainwright learned as a young pitcher in Atlanta’s system and likely passed on to Michael Wacha as a young pitcher in the Cardinals’ system was to outlast the opposing pitcher.

Going deeper into the game means pitching well and going deeper into the game than the opposing pitcher means either the team has a lead or it still can chase one down.

In the first matchup as opponents for the former teammates and longtime friends, Wainwright pitched further into the game than Wacha. But when the offense gave chase, the gap was a run too much to close. Given a head start from Wacha’s strong 5⅓ innings, Boston pulled away against the Cardinals’ bullpen to fortify a lead and withstand the Cardinals’ ninth-inning threat. Down by five entering the ninth, the Cardinals got the tying run in scoring position but lost 6-5 at Fenway Park. The Cardinals got four extra base hits with two out in the ninth.

Back in Boston with the Cardinals for the first time since the 2013 World Series, Wainwright (5-5) held the Red Sox to a two-run game for most of his 6⅓ innings. He sidestepped seven hits, and in the second inning struck out the side for three of his five strikeouts.

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Two Sox came unraveled that inning on Wainwright’s curve.

A leadoff triple to start the game and Trevor Story’s two-run single in the fourth inning were the only runs directly off Wainwright, though he was tagged with a fourth run allowed when the bullpen fractured and allowed the runs that meant a loss.

Nolan Arenado’s solo homer was the only run the Cardinals got against Wacha (5-1).

During a two-out rally in the ninth, the Cardinals added a run on Harrison Bader’s triple into the center-field nook of the quaint and quirky old ballpark. Tommy Edman followed with an RBI double, and Brendan Donovan struck with a two-run line drive to left field. Donovan slid into second ahead of the tag to give Paul Goldschmidt a chance to tie the game.

St. Louis kid closes game for Boston

Mizzou alum Tanner Houck, who was born in St. Louis, did not get the matchup he dreamed about — against a boyhood favorite, Albert Pujols — but thrust suddenly into Friday’s game he did get the save. Entering with two runners on base and one out to get, Houck eventually did get that out from the third batter he faced.

On the eighth pitch of their duel, Houck struck out Goldschmidt on a called strike three fastball at 96 mph. The Collinsville High grad has been both a reliever and a starter for the Red Sox this season, carrying a 3.38 ERA into Friday’s game. The save Friday was his third.

Wacha makes the most of 88 pitches

Two starts removed from his shutout of the Angels out west, Wacha hewed closer to his usual start this season for the Red Sox. He gave them at least five innings. He allowed no more than two runs. And he gave them a chance to win.

Originally drafted by the Cardinals — with a pick they got as compensation for Pujols signing with the Angels — Wacha had yet to face his former team since leaving after 2019.

Wacha retired eight of the first Cardinals he faced and got twice through the Cardinals’ lineup allowing only the solo homer and two singles. The Cardinals did not put an out in the air against Wacha until the start of the fifth inning. Only once this season has Wacha pitched beyond the sixth inning, and nine of his 11 starts this season have been shy of six. Friday’s was the ninth. He pitched 5⅓ strong innings, but when he got to 88 pitches and the middle of the Cardinals lineup for a third time, he was out.

The Red Sox have won eight of his 11 starts and he’s continued to make starts on schedule, as strong as arguably ever, so the recipe is working.

McFarland’s on-again, off-again performance flickers

After finding some traction and reducing the loft of ERA with three consecutive scoreless outings, Cardinals lefty T.J. McFarland slipped into another rocky outing. For the first time this season, the veteran reliever did not get an out and instead of quelling the Red Sox uprising in the seventh he amplified it.

With a runner at second base, McFarland took over for Wainwright to face the No. 9 hitter in Boston’s order and then wrap around to the top. Jackie Bradley Jr. greeted McFarland with an RBI single. Pinch-hitter Bobby Dalbec, a right-handed batter, doubled, and then Rafael Devers hit a two-run single. All three batters McFarland faced had a hit. The runner he inherited scored. And the first moment manager Oliver Marmol could remove the lefty, he did.

This month, McFarland has allowed seven runs (all earned) in six outings and 5⅔ innings. The Cardinals continue to search for a lefty to complement Genesis Cabrera and do as McFarland was assigned Friday — to pitch earlier in a game than Cabrera, to get grounders, to give the team a chance to run down an opponent. In six of his previous seven outings, the Cardinals have been trailing by at least two runs when he entered.

Rookie Zack Thompson is the third lefty in the bullpen, and the Cardinals continue to discuss the idea of using him in shorter assignments, such as McFarland’s.

Arenado’s success vs. Wacha continues 

The previous 14 times Arenado faced Wacha, the pitcher was the one in the Cardinals jersey. But the results, half the time, were the same as they were Friday.

Starting in June 2015, when the Cardinals visited Colorado’s Coors Field and Wacha started for them, Arenado greeted him with a single and a home run in his first three at-bats. In two games against Wacha and the Cardinals in 2019, Arenado went 4 for 5 with two more home runs, and though the venue was different and the jerseys have changed, the hits kept coming for Arenado at Fenway.

Sporting a new, shorter haircut, Arenado led off the second inning with a full-count home run over the Green Monster. Arenado’s line-drive launch off Wacha would have left Fenway if not for Plymouth Rock — the ball ricocheted off the insurance company’s banner stretched taut above the Monster seats. Arenado singled in his second at-bat against Wacha and improved to 8 for 15 against the righthander. Half of his hits have been home runs.

Arenado’s past and imminently present success against Wacha came into play in the sixth when, curiously, the final batter Wacha faced was Arenado. Boston had another pitcher ready and stuck with the best matchup the Cardinals could want.

Arenado walked to put the tying run on base. Wacha was removed when he could not lose the game.

John Schreiber, in relief of Wacha, retired the next two batters to maintain the 3-1 lead.

Sharp defense an early part of the Story

One of the reasons the Cardinals gave for not diving into the deepest, richest pool of free-agent shortstops in a generation was how they already their starter, were betting big on a bounce back from Paul DeJong.

The Red Sox did not let an incumbent get in the way of exploring a move.

They just signed a shortstop and made him move.

Trevor Story, the All-Star to Arenado’s immediate left for several years in Colorado, signed a six-year, $140 million deal with Boston, but he also came with a tradeoff. The Red Sox would keep Xander Bogaerts at short, turning second base over to Story. He had played precisely zero games at second in the majors before his first with Boston. The benefit of having a shortstop at second was clear against the Cardinals.

Three times Story stole a hit from the Cardinals as they tried to generate or punctuate a rally. In the third inning, Story dived to his right to snare a grounder up the middle and throw to first with the arm strength to beat Bader. In the fourth, Story came from the shortstop-side of second to glove a grounder from Paul Goldschmidt. Story spun and threw from the center field grass to get the Cardinals’ first baseman. And in the fifth, with two runners on base and a rally brewing, Story stood in shallow right field on the shift and was there to turn Edman’s would-be single into a routine, inning-ending groundout.

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