ST. LOUIS — When the Cardinals needed a spark most, it came from an unlikely source.
Locked in a draw with the Cubs in the sixth inning, catcherTony Cruz knocked a two-out double to center and shortstop Pete Kozma drove him home with the go-ahead RBI single. Cruz and Kozma owned the lowest batting averages among the Cardinals’ starting position players on Sunday, yet came through in the clutch, helping the Cards snap a four-game skid with an 8-4 win over the Cubs in front of 43,240 fans at Busch Stadium.
“We’ve been getting a lot of those big timely hits there for a long time, but they’ve been a little more rare lately,” manager Mike Matheny said. “That was a great at-bat by Pete. Couldn’t have been a better time.”
The Cardinals revived their dormant offense with a 13-hit balanced attack against Chicago in which six different players drove in runs.
“I thought the guys did a real good job of situational hitting, getting the runs when they had money on the table,” Matheny said. “Had some guys in scoring position and balls right at people, too, which could have added up to quite a few more. We’ll take whatever we can get right now and just hope they can keep putting that type of approach together.”
With division-leader Pittsburgh up next in the schedule, the Cardinals were happy to go into Monday’s off-day with a win and hope it’s an opportunity to spin their momentum back in a positive direction.
“It could lead to good things. Just like that skid that we had — one thing leads to another, things go bad,” Kozma said. “But this is our turnaround.”
On a staff that includes two 13-game winners, Joe Kelly is emerging as one of the Cardinals’ most consistent hurlers. The former reliever has been on the mound for three of the Cards’ five wins since July 26.
Kelly limited the Cubs to just a pair of runs — one earned — for five innings before yielding another two in the sixth, which signaled yet another sub-seven-inning outing by a St. Louis starter.
“I would like to go a little deeper, I can’t do that when I start walking guys like that,” said Kelly, who walked two. “I should just be attacking those guys, pounding the zone to try to get quick outs, but we got a great team win out of it, and that’s all I was looking for.”
Kelly tossed 96 pitches, his second-highest total of the season, in 5 1/3 innings. Although he didn’t earn a win, Kelly remained unbeaten since joining the rotation on July 6, and only once in that span have the Cardinals lost with him on the mound.
“He’s just been such a spark for us,” Matheny said. “Everything he’s doing on the mound has been such a bonus.”
The Cardinals got off to a quick start in the first, plating three with three singles and a sacrifice fly, and added another run in the third inning.
Kelly walked the leadoff hitter twice and both times it cost him. Matt Holliday botched a routine fly ball, allowing David DeJesus to reach home safely from first for an unearned run in the third, andDarwin Barney made the most of Welington Castillo’s free pass in the fourth with an RBI single.
Kelly took the mound looking to survive a full seven innings for the first time in his career, but he ran into trouble in the sixth when he allowed a pair of singles to Castillo and Donnie Murphy before he was pulled in favor of reliever Seth Maness. Maness let Castillo and Murphy slip by to tie the game on consecutive singles before he could secure the third out, costing Kelly his fourth win of the season.
The Cardinals built a two-run cushion in the seventh as Holliday scored on Jon Jay’s sacrifice fly. Holliday extended his hitting streak to nine games with a 2-for-3 performance with two walks.
Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig furthered the lead with RBI doubles in the eighth. Carpenter went 3-for-5 for his National League-leading 46th multihit game, and Craig got on base every time he stepped to the plate, going 3-for-3 with two walks and his 87th RBI.
“Allen Craig is unbelievable,” Barney said. “I don’t know how he gets it done. No matter what you throw up there, he’s going to find a hole somewhere.”
With a scoreless eighth and ninth, Edward Mujica earned his first two-inning save of the season. It was only the fourth time Mujica had pitched in the eighth since becoming the Cardinals’ closer in mid-April, and it was his first save opportunity since July 25.
“Sometimes days off are pretty good for pitches, for my arm,” Mujica said. “The thing is, we’ve had a rough time. We’ve got a couple losses, and last night I was almost going in the game. These things are going to happen. We’re positive, and for me, I’m just trying to be sharp every night.”
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.