Wednesday, June 18, 2014
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Cardinals win fifth straight, 5-2 vs. Mets

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[June 18, 2014]  ST. LOUIS -- In December, when St. Louis traded for Los Angeles Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos, Jon Jay basically lost his starting job.

Six months later, Jay is arguably the Cardinals' most productive outfielder.

Jay banged out two hits Tuesday night, including a tiebreaking triple in the bottom of the fifth inning, and made a key defensive play to keep the New York Mets at bay as St. Louis notched a 5-2 win at sold-out Busch Stadium.

Michael Wacha (5-5) pitched six solid innings to improve to 5-0 at home this year as the Cardinals (39-32) stretched their winning streak to a season-high five games and captured their eighth win in nine games.

But the story was Jay, who had his fingerprints on the game's key moments, just as he did in a 6-2 win Monday night.

"He's on a real good run at the plate," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "The way he's taking his at-bats -- we've seen this before. You just see him go, and it's fun to watch him go."

In the top of the fifth, Jay raced into the right-field corner to cut off a two-out double by center fielder Curtis Granderson, forcing left fielder Eric Young Jr. to hold at third in a tie game. Wacha fanned second baseman Daniel Murphy with a full-count changeup to end the threat.

Hitting with two outs and third baseman Daniel Descalso at second in the bottom of the inning, Jay grounded a triple past diving first baseman Lucas Duda to snap a 1-1 deadlock. Jay scored on a double by left fielder Matt Holliday for a 3-1 lead.

The lefty-swinging Jay has hits in 11 of his last 12 games, going 15 of 37 (.405) with four multi-hit games. With Bourjos struggling at a .210 clip, the .310-hitting Jay has more or less forced himself back into a regular role.

"I'm just getting pitches to hit," Jay said. "I'm taking advantage of it. I come to the field every day ready to go. I'm just trying to keep things simple and trying to win some ballgames."

The Cardinals expanded their lead in the sixth with two unearned runs, getting a fourth out when Murphy dropped Descalso's two-out liner with shortstop Jhonny Peralta aboard. Pinch hitter Kolten Wong and Bourjos cashed in on the miscue with RBI singles for a 5-1 advantage.

"You don't allow people to get more outs than they need at this level," New York manager Terry Collins said. "They took good swings. They take what you give them, that's for sure."

Jon Niese (3-4), who entered the game 4-1 with a 1.87 ERA in six starts against St. Louis, gave up eight hits and five runs -- three earned -- in six innings. He walked one and fanned three.

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Niese, who was tagged for a leadoff homer in the second by catcher Yadier Molina, said the Cardinals feasted off his mistakes in two-out spots.

"They focus on one zone," he said. "They don't go out of that. You make a mistake where they're looking, they're going to hit it. They have a great lineup and they punish mistakes."

Third baseman David Wright homered in the fourth off Wacha, who allowed five hits and a run with two walks and seven strikeouts. Duda led off the ninth with a homer off reliever Jason Motte.

After catcher Anthony Recker doubled, Matheny waved Pat Neshek out of the bullpen. Neshek got three outs on four pitches for his second save.

The Mets (31-40) lost their eighth straight road game and fell to 3-11 in their last 14 games, a stark contrast to the roll St. Louis is on with the help of the guy they wanted to turn into a fourth outfielder in the offseason.

"I just try to be ready when my name is called," Jay said.

NOTES: St. Louis RHP Adam Wainwright (elbow) is scheduled to throw off flat ground Wednesday to test his injury. The club still expects Wainwright, who skipped his start Monday night for rest, to make his next start Saturday against Philadelphia. ... New York entered Tuesday night's game with 47 first-inning runs, third behind only San Francisco and Toronto (48) for most in the majors. ... The Cardinals signed RHP Jack Flaherty, the No. 34 overall pick in this month's draft, to a deal including a $2 million signing bonus, above the slot-recommended total of $1.65 million. Flaherty will join RHP Luke Weaver, the team's first round pick, at short-season Class A Jupiter.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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