If the St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks remain atop their respective divisions, solid pitching likely will be a major reason.
Each sends a highly regarded young hurler to the mound Tuesday night, with Michael Wacha looking to guide St. Louis to an eighth victory in 10 tries in a matchup with Tyler Skaggs and visiting Arizona.
St. Louis (38-19) has the best record in the major leagues and hasn't lost back-to-back games since a three-game skid April 27-29. Carlos Beltran went 3 for 5 with a two-run homer and Yadier Molina , after appealing a one-game suspension handed down just before the contest, hit a solo homer in the fifth inning of a 7-1 win over the Diamondbacks on Monday.
Matt Carpenter had three hits and is batting .412 during a career high-tying 12-game hitting streak.
The defeat was the first in three contests for Arizona (32-25). Gerardo Parra , 10 for 20 in four games versus St. Louis this season, had two hits and is batting .407 during a seven-game hitting streak.
Both teams' success to date is due largely to strong pitching. St. Louis has a 2.96 ERA that's tops in baseball, while Arizona ranks seventh with a 3.64 mark.
Skaggs (1-0, 0.00 ERA) contributed to that number in his first start of the season May 27. Called up to start the first game of a doubleheader, he gave up three hits and struck out nine in six scoreless innings of a 5-3 win over Texas."I'm happy that they called me up and had the confidence in me," said Skaggs, who went 1-3 with a 5.83 ERA in six starts last season. "Hopefully I opened up a few eyes."
Though the Diamondbacks initially recalled Randall Delgado to take the roster spot of Brandon McCarthy , who was placed on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, manager Kirk Gibson opted to give the 21-year-old Skaggs another start.
"He threw all of his pitches. That's what he has to do, and hopefully he'll do that again," Gibson told the team's official website.
The left-hander, Arizona's top prospect according to MLB.com, has not faced the Cardinals, who will start a prized youngster of their own.
Wacha (0-0, 1.29) had impressive major league debut Thursday, allowing one run and two hits while striking out six in seven innings of a 4-2 loss to Kansas City. The bullpen allowed three ninth-inning runs."Definitely just one to remember," Wacha said. "Once I threw the first pitch for a strike I really calmed down and was able to execute my pitches pretty well."
The right-hander will face a Diamondbacks team that has dropped five of six in St. Louis.
Arizona had won three of the previous four meetings overall prior to Monday.
|May 31, 2013||Brandon McCarthy||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|May 31, 2013||Eric Chavez||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|May 30, 2013||Eric Chavez||Day-to-Day||Strained right oblique|
|May 26, 2013||Ian Kennedy||Day-to-Day||Cut on right index finger|
|May 08, 2013||J.J. Putz||15-Day DL||Strained right elbow|
|April 27, 2013||Didi Gregorius||7-Day DL||Mild concussion|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|May 26, 2013||John Gast||15-Day DL||Left shoulder tightness|
|May 26, 2013||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder soreness|
|May 25, 2013||John Gast||Day-to-Day||Left game - left shoulder tightness|
|May 21, 2013||Fernando Salas||15-Day DL||Right shoulder irritation|
|May 18, 2013||Jaime Garcia||60-Day DL||Left shoulder strain|
|May 09, 2013||Jake Westbrook||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Paul Goldschmidt has a new plan for hitting with runners on base.
So far, it is working well.
Goldschmidt ripped a run-scoring single in the 14th inning to lift the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 7-6 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night.
Arizona, which improved to 7-2 in extra innings, has won three of four.
St. Louis (38-20), which still has the best record in the majors, has lost all four of its extra-inning games this season.
Goldschmidt believed he let his teammates down during crunch time toward the end of last season even though he batted .305 with runners on base.
"I'm not sure about the numbers, but I felt like I struggled with runners on," he said.
So he found an interesting way to change the situation. Goldschmidt's winning hit improved his average to .376 with runners on base.
"I pretend there is nobody on base and just stick with my same approach," he said. "It's worked so far. We'll see what happens the rest of the year."
A.J. Pollock hit a three-run homer for Arizona, and Willie Bloomquist had four hits in the 4-hour, 53-minute game. Josh Collmenter (2-0) earned the win with four innings of scoreless relief. Heath Bell recorded his 10th save in 12 opportunities.
Allen Craig and Shane Robinson homered for St. Louis, which fell to 4-3 on its nine-game homestand.
Goldschmidt drove in Gerardo Parra with a one-out, line-drive single up the middle off Victor Marte (0-1), who walked two batters before the winning hit.
"He's just got a great approach up there," Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said of Goldschmidt.
Arizona is 10-2 in its last 12 road games against NL Central opponents.
Bell gave up a leadoff double to Yadier Molina in the 14th before retiring the next three hitters.
The Diamondbacks are 3-3 on their eight-game trip.
"An outstanding baseball game," Gibson said. "We would have liked to have won it earlier, but we didn't give in. We've had several of these (extra inning) games, more than anybody."
Arizona beat St. Louis 10-9 in 16 innings on April 3.
The Diamondbacks bullpen, led by Collmenter, allowed only one run over the final 8 1-3 innings. Collmenter, who earned the win in the earlier 16-inning game, struck out five and gave up four hits.
"He was the hero of the game," Arizona infielder Martin Prado said.
The Cardinals rallied from 4-1 and 6-3 deficits and tied the game in the seventh on a run-scoring single by Carlos Beltran .
"I was proud of the way the guys battled all night long right to the end," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "The best thing to come out of this is that we battled."
Pollock's three-run homer staked the Diamondbacks to a 4-1 lead in the fourth.
St. Louis infielder David Freese had a career-high four hits and extended his career-best hitting streak to 14 games with a single in the sixth. He added singles in the eighth, 10th and 12th.
"You want to win these games, especially after a long night," Freese said. "But you have to hand it to those guys over there. They took care of business."
Pollock drilled a 2-0 pitch into the first row of the left-field bleachers off St. Louis rookie starter Michael Wacha , who gave up six runs in 4 2-3 innings. Pollack has hit safely in eight of nine games.
St. Louis cut the deficit to 4-3 on Craig's fourth homer of the season.
Arizona answered with two runs in the fifth to stretch its lead to 6-4. Goldschmidt doubled in Didi Gregorius , who began the inning with a hit. Jason Kubel followed with a run-scoring single.
The Cardinals scored single runs in the fifth and sixth to get within 6-5.
St. Louis infielder Matt Carpenter stretched his hitting streak to a career-best 13 games with a leadoff triple in the first.
Arizona left-hander Tyler Skaggs gave up five runs in 5 2-3 innings. It was his second start of the season and eighth of his career.
NOTES: Wacha and Skaggs, two former first-round draft choices, were born 12 days apart in July 1991. ... St. Louis RHP Joe Kelly (0-2, 6,75) will make his first start of the season Wednesday against Wade Miley (3-5, 5.01) in the third game of the four-game series. ... Arizona is the only team in the majors that hasn't been shut out this season. ... St. Louis RHP Jake Westbrook went 3 2-3 innings and allowed one run and six hits in a rehab start on Tuesday for the Cardinals' Double-A team in Springfield, Mo. Westbrook, who threw 45 strikes in 60 pitches, went on the disabled list on May 9 because of right elbow inflammation. "Everything felt good," he said. "I was a little erratic with my pitches, but that's expected the first time out."