Wellemeyer wins Cards' fifth straight
Starter finishes season strong; Glaus, Lopez, Pujols go deep
ST. LOUIS -- It's too little, too late, but the Cardinals can still take some pride in knowing they are sprinting and not limping to the finish line.
St. Louis blasted three homers on Saturday and rode that show of power and Todd Wellemeyer's quality start to an 8-5 victory over the Reds at Busch Stadium.
Despite being eliminated from playoff contention last Tuesday after a rugged first three weeks of September, St. Louis won three straight from playoff contender Arizona. Now the Cardinals have taken the first two of the Reds series and will bid to go out with a six-game winning streak on Sunday.
Going from 14 games over .500 on Aug. 28 to just four games over .500 on Sept. 22, the Cardinals appeared to be in free fall. But after the abrupt late reversal, they have a chance to finish 10 games over .500 at 86-76 if they prevail on Sunday.
"Our job is to win every game we play and [the season finale] is no different," said third baseman Troy Glaus.
It was Glaus who got the Cardinals off and running on Saturday with a two-run homer off Aaron Harang in the first inning. Glaus now has 98 RBIs. While reaching the 100-RBI plateau would be nice, Glaus said that's not a number that he's driven to obtain.
"It would be something to look back on in the winter, but I didn't come into this season with a set number," Glaus said. "That's just not how I play."
There was one milestone reached on Saturday as Albert Pujols scored his 100th run. Fittingly, Pujols got to triple digits in runs by driving himself across the plate on a line-drive solo shot in the seventh.
The Pujols homer, his 37th of the season, was part of a nifty tack-on attack for the Cardinals, who kept pecking away and scored in six of the first eight innings.
Wellemeyer went 6 1/3 innings and limited Cincinnati to three runs with some nice cleanup help from Russ Springer in the seventh.
Wellemeyer finished his season 13-9 with a 3.71 ERA. He delivered 32 starts and worked 191 2/3 innings.
"He had a heck of a year," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "I think he can really use this to build on the rest of his career. He continues to improve his command of all his pitches. He's tough to run on. He takes his at-bats seriously and bunts well. I think he's the package."
Wellemeyer threw a combined 79 1/3 innings for Kansas City and St. Louis last year. There were questions about whether Wellemeyer could hold up physically as a starter for a full season, and the right-hander provided an emphatic answer.
"I didn't know if I could do it myself," Wellemeyer said. "I'm glad my arm held up, and I got stronger as the season went on."
The Cardinals built leads of 5-0 and 8-3 before tempers drew short in the Cardinals' eighth. St. Louis catcher Jason LaRue tried to break up a double play and had words with Reds second baseman Jerry Hairston.
Players from the bullpens and the dugouts appeared on the field, but were quickly ushered back to their respective quarters.
"[LaRue] made an aggressive slide. The second baseman objected," La Russa said. "It has been a long season for everybody."
Hairston got a measure of revenge in the ninth with a two-run homer. But rookie reliever Chris Perez finished it out.
The five-game winning streak for St. Louis matches a season high. The Cardinals also had a five-game winning streak from July 13-20.
The streak may only have cosmetic value at this point, but the Cardinals will tell you it certainly beats the alternative.
The trick now is to make that winning streak just one game longer.
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.