by RB Fallstrom, AP
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Rams plan to open the season with a pair of rookie offensive linemen playing side by side. Tackle Rob Havenstein and guard Jamon Brown must be quick learners and make the gamble pay off.
Last year, the Rams had one rookie on the line. Tackle Greg Robinson was the second overall pick of the draft, so it was no surprise they cleared some space.
This summer, it’s a lot different. Left guard Rodger Saffold is the lone veteran returning starter, and the center will come from a group of backups.
Coach Jeff Fisher said he’d been interested in drafting a new crop of offensive linemen since he arrived in St. Louis, and the Rams went all-in this May. They took Havenstein in the second round, Brown in the third, tackle Andrew Donnal in the fourth, guard Cody Wichmann in the sixth and tackle Isaiah Battle as a supplemental fifth-rounder before the start of training camp.
“It’s an area we needed to focus on, it’s an area we expect to be good for a long time,” Fisher said. “We have no concern about starting young people up front.
“If they are playing, they’re ready to play.”
Saffold has 60 career starts, Robinson has 12 and center Tim Barnes has four. That’s it. Center Barrett Jones has appeared in 10 career games and Demetrius Rhaney, who was on injured reserve all last summer, has yet to make his debut.
For Havenstein, the opportunity is “pretty awesome.” Brown said it’s an “honor” to get this shot.
“We made it a point to make sure we weren’t giving up negative plays or mistakes because we didn’t know what we were doing,” Havenstein said. “We made it an emphasis during OTAs and during our break to know the ins and outs.”
So far, the expanded NFL playbook has not been information overload.
“Myself and Rob, we’ve been putting in the work to make sure we don’t let anybody down,” Brown said. “For the most part I’m grasping the system pretty well.”
Both players have extensive college experience.
The 6-foot-7, 321-pound Havenstein played in a school-record 54 games at Wisconsin, including 41 consecutive starts at right tackle to end his career. He was part of a unit that produced two of the three best single-season rushing totals in school history, including a 320-yard average last year.
The 6-3, 323-pound Brown allowed two sacks at right tackle last year at Louisville. The Cardinals averaged 461 yards and scored 30 or more points nine times, and were more air-oriented.
Facing a defense in practices that amassed 40 sacks the last 11 games gives the duo a taste of what’s to come. That unit is led by end Robert Quinn and tackle Aaron Donald, the NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year.
“Obviously we have a veteran group of defense linemen and they’re saying, “These guys are going to be good,'” Fisher said. “Coming from those guys, that’s pretty impressive.”
The Rams are likely to emphasize ball control, especially when first-round running back Todd Gurley is ready to play coming off left knee surgery.
“I don’t think anything has been too eye-opening,” Havenstein said. “Obviously, the guys are bigger and faster and the playbook might be more complex, but it’s still ball.”
About half the team put on pads for the first time with a spirited special teams practice Monday morning. The full squad practices in pads Tuesday.
“We kind of liven it up the last 20 minutes and see who can bang and battle,” special teams coach John Fassel said.
NOTES: Fassel arrived at camp a hero. Last month while on vacation in Manhattan Beach, California, he helped rescue a swimmer that had gotten pulled into a riptide.
“It was my last day and quite an open-water experience,” Fassel said. “We got to him pretty quick, it happened fast.”
Fisher paid tribute to Fassel on the first day of training camp, saying “We have a hero on the coaching staff.”
(West Plains) – August 17 is Lady Zizzer Softball Night at Colton’s Steak House in West Plains.
Team officials say a percentage of the daily sales from 11:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m will go to the Zizzer Softball team to help with travel expenses and equipment.
Come out to Colton’s on August 17 to support the Lady Zizzer Softball program!
by Ian Harrison, AP
TORONTO (AP) — The Royals and Blue Jays have moved on: After an exchange of hit batters, they’re now trading barbs on Twitter.
First, Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista posted a message Sunday night saying he had “lost a lot of respect” for Ned Yost after hearing the Royals manager praise home plate umpire Jim Wolf’s handling of Sunday’s game.
Two Blue Jays batters were hit by pitches and reliever Aaron Sanchez was ejected for retaliating by hitting Kansas City infielder Alcides Escobar.
That prompted Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura to post Tweets calling Bautista a “nobody” and accuse him of stealing signs. Ventura later deleted the messages.
Bautista took the high road when asked to respond to Ventura’s comments Monday.
“He’s a young player that could use some maturing,” Bautista said. “Hopefully he focuses on playing the game and allowing his ability to create a name for himself.”
Bautista didn’t back down from his remarks about Yost, calling the manager’s praise of Wolf “ridiculous.”
Wold warned both benches after Royals pitcher Edinson Volquez hit Toronto’s Josh Donaldson in the first inning of Sunday’s game, a 5-2 Blue Jays win.
Donaldson complained to Wolf after Volquez and reliever Ryan Madson missed high and inside later in the game. Madson also hit Toronto’s Troy Tulowitzki. Neither pitcher was ejected.
Volquez responded after the game by calling Donaldson “a little baby.”
Wolf ejected Sanchez after Escobar was hit on the thigh in the eighth, causing both benches and both bullpens to empty. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, who had been ejected earlier for arguing with Wolf, returned to the field for the melee. No punches were thrown.
by Dave Skretta, AP
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Jamaal Charles had holes in his shoes on the first day of training camp.
The Chiefs running back was trying out a new pair, and they apparently were a bit tight in the toes. So Charles made incisions on each shoe that allowed his big toe to poke though.
Entering his eighth year in the league, they might be the only holes in his game.
Charles is coming off his third consecutive 1,000-yard season, despite battling nagging injuries all year. He also had at least 35 receptions for the third straight year, even though he was the constant focus of opposing defenses on a team with few offensive weapons.
“It’s a compliment,” Charles said of the attention. “As long as I play in this league, and play on a high level, I always feel like a team is going to have to stop me. I feel like sometimes I’m the LeBron (James) of football, especially at my position, because I can do so much.”
Provided Charles is healthy, of course.
He missed most of the 2011 season after tearing his ACL, then dealt with one injury after another last season, even if he never let on to them.
It began during the offseason program when he first picked up some bumps and bruises. It continued in training camp, when he bruised a foot while carrying a box out of Scanlon Hall when the team was wrapping up workouts at Missouri Western. And then when the season began, it seemed like just about every week there was a new ailment, some more serious than others.
They never caused him to miss a game, but they certainly curtailed his production. He carried just seven times for 19 yards in the season opener against Tennessee, then carried twice for 4 yards the following week against Denver, when he had to leave with an ankle injury.
“Last OTAs, I hurt my heel. I wasn’t showing anybody that I was hurt. Then I hurt myself before the preseason game. Then I got hurt in the second game. It was a struggle up and down,” he said, “right from the beginning of the season.”
It certainly wasn’t the way Charles, a two-time All-Pro, intended to celebrate his two-year contract extension that will earn him an additional $18.1 million through the 2017 season.
The Chiefs understand how important Charles is to a successful season. Nobody else on the roster can change a game as quickly. So to ensure he’s on the field late in the year, when Kansas City hopes to be in the playoff hunt, the teams’ brain trust spent much of the offseason dreaming up ways to keep him healthy, not only in training camp but beyond.
“You want to make sure he is healthy late in the season,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said, “so if that means giving a guy like Knile Davis some reps – whatever you have to do, number one, to keep him healthy for 16 games, and you do that each week.”
Pederson said one of the biggest challenges is noticing when Charles is operating at less than 100 percent. The former Texas standout hates to take time off, even from practice.
“We have to be smart and work with our training staff and our medical staff to just stay in tune,” he said. “Communication is obviously the utmost importance when it comes to those kinds of situations. We have to be smart and give him that proper rest, you know? And he has to communicate with us and tell us when he may be a little banged-up or maybe can’t go here or there.”
For now, Charles feels the best he has in a year, maybe even longer.
As for those new shoes? Well, the star running back doesn’t seem to be taking any chances with so much as a blister. Two days later, he was in a better-fitting pair.
NOTES: The Chiefs waived DE Jerel Worthy and signed former Missouri WR L’Damian Washington. … Practice was moved indoors Tuesday because of lightning in the area. … WR Jeremy Maclin and CB Phillip Gaines briefly left practice with minor injuries. Both returned. … First-round pick Marcus Peters is shining at CB, picking off three passes in practice. He’s competing for a starting job with Sean Smith suspended the first three weeks.
by Ian Harrison, AP
TORONTO (AP) — Both benches and bullpens emptied after Toronto reliever Aaron Sanchez was ejected for throwing at Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar in the eighth inning on Sunday. It was the climax of a game-long spat that began when Royals starter Edinson Volquez hit Josh Donaldson on the left arm in the first inning.
Donaldson and Volquez traded stares and words as the Blue Jays slugger took a slow walk to first base, and home plate umpire Jim Wolf warned both dugouts.
When Donaldson batted again in the third, Volquez missed high and inside with a pitch that sailed to the backstop. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons came out to argue but Volquez was not ejected.
In the seventh, Royals reliever Ryan Madson hit Troy Tulowitzki on the right forearm, then threw high and inside to Donaldson, who stepped out and yelled at Wolf. Gibbons and on-deck hitter Jose Bautista stepped in to break up the argument, and Gibbons was eventually ejected.
After Donaldson struck out, Bautista made it 3-0 with a double to center, and yelled at Madson as he ran to first.
Donaldson and Volquez had to be restrained after Sanchez was ejected for hitting Escobar. Gibbons and Chris Colabello, who had just been replaced for defense, both ran out to join the scrum. Wolf ejected both Sanchez and Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale.
by Dave Skretta, AP
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — The massive linebacker with the sweat-drenched biceps insists he never took a day off this offseason, even if he never showed up for one of the Kansas City Chiefs’ workouts.
Early in training camp, it’s easy to believe him.
With his familiar No. 50 stretched across his broad shoulders, Justin Houston has wasted no time in terrorizing quarterbacks again – even if they happened to be his own teammates. While the Chiefs worked out in only shells during the first couple of days, and hitting the QB is always taboo this time of year, more than once Houston could have easily leveled the boom.
“I just made sure about being busy at all times,” said Houston, who often posted videos of his offseason workouts on social media while his representatives worked on a long-term contract.
The deal was consummated just over a week ago, a six-year, $101 million pact.
“I knew the guys here were working, and I knew the strength coaches were going to have these guys in shape,” Houston explained, “so I didn’t want to show up out of shape. Whenever I got that call, I wanted to make sure I was ready.”
The Chiefs will certainly be counting on him.
After piling up a franchise-record 22 sacks a year ago, Houston will have to anchor a defense that is already without two starters for Week 1, and that is getting older by the day.
Defensive tackle Dontari Poe, so critical in tying up offensive linemen and giving Houston a clear path to the quarterback, will miss all of training camp and likely part of the season after surgery for a herniated disc. Poe is on campus at Missouri Western, but the 350-pounder is nowhere close to being ready to step onto the practice field.
Then there’s cornerback Sean Smith, who’s suspended the first three games of the regular season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. It was Smith’s ability to lock down the opponent’s top wide receiver that often gave Houston time to get to the quarterback.
“Instantly, it’s kind of like a bulls-eye on your head,” said fellow linebacker Tamba Hali, who was in a similar situation when he signed a big contract a few years ago. “Everybody is going to scrutinize everything you do. Twenty-two sacks? People think that’s easy to do, so if he even gets 12 or 14 sacks, people are going to scrutinize. But that’s hard to do.”
Houston insists he can handle the weight of his massive contract, just as easily as he pushes up the countless plates he puts on the bench-press bar. It doesn’t matter that he will be double-teamed all season, or that the focus of opposing defenses will be squarely on him.
“I’m going to continue to do what I do,” he said. “Be ready for every game, continue to stay focused and continue to work like I’ve been working. Nothing changes.”
Chiefs owner Clark Hunt certainly hopes that’s the case.
After all, he opened his checkbook to write the largest check in franchise history, one that will pay the 26-year-old Houston $52.5 million in guarantees. It is the second-richest contract for a defensive player in NFL history, trailing only the $114 million, six-year deal Ndamukong Suh landed from the Miami Dolphins this past offseason.
“That’s part of today’s NFL,” Hunt said. “Just is a great player. He’s a great leader, he’s great in the community. He’s the type of player we want associated with the Chiefs for the bulk of his career. We always want to reward players we draft, that have grown up in our system.”
Hunt said he wasn’t in touch with general manager John Dorsey on a day-by-day basis, but the value of the contract naturally kept him in tune to negotiations.
Nor was Hunt worried about giving the deal to Houston, who fell from a potential first-round pick to the third round after testing positive for marijuana at the scouting combine. In the years since he was draft, Houston has proven to be the consummate professional.
“He’s turned into a great player,” Hunt said, “and a great leader.”
NOTES: It was Alumni Day at training camp. Among those on hand were former GM Carl Peterson, seven-time Pro Bowl OL Ed Budde and two-time Pro Bowl DT Bill Maas. … WR Albert Wilson had the highlight of the day, torching CB Sean Smith for a long touchdown catch. Smith promptly dropped down and did pushups as punishment for getting beat.
by Dave Skretta, AP
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — There was already going to be plenty of competition for one of the starting cornerback jobs in Kansas City, even before the Chiefs learned Sean Smith would be suspended for the first three games of the regular season.
Now, there are two jobs up for grab.
The battle began in earnest Saturday, when the Chiefs had their first full-squad workout of training camp on the campus of Missouri Western. Nearly a dozen players on the roster are capable of playing cornerback, and nearly half have a realistic shot at a starting job.
That makes the competition one of the most intriguing of camp.
“We rotate guys in there anyways, and it really doesn’t matter the side,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We’ve got enough guys there, including the rookies, that can come in and work into the rotation. We’ve got plenty of guys to work through that.”
Phillip Gaines appears to have the edge on the rest of the crew after starting five games as a rookie a year ago. But he’ll be pushed by a pair of rookies, including first-round pick Marcus Peters, and a host of more experienced players – Marcus Cooper, Jamell Fleming and Ron Parker, who is capable of playing safety along with cornerback.
Gaines, a former third-round pick, got off to a slow start as a rookie. But he came on late in the season, then made perhaps the biggest strides of anyone in the Chiefs’ offseason program.
Cooper has started 10 games over the past two seasons, but he struggled so much late last season that he was eventually benched. Fleming took over the job after bouncing through Arizona and Jacksonville, and played reasonably well. Parker is more adept at safety, but he has the kind of speed and athleticism that the Chiefs wisely re-signed him in free agency.
Then there are the rookies, the complete unknowns.
Peters, once thought to be a top-10 talent, was chosen 18th overall out of Washington, even after he was kicked off his team for what amounted to insubordination last season. Peters insists that all his off-the-field trouble is in the past, and the Chiefs have been pleased by the way he has carried himself since arriving in Kansas City.
“It’s a job that you have to do,” Peters said. “For me, it’s a sacrifice that I placed upon my family for me to come out here to do certain things to provide for them in certain ways.”
The other rookie with a shot at the starting job is Steven Nelson, a third-round pick out of Oregon State – though he may be better suited to the nickel position.
Both of them have some ground to make up. Washington and Oregon State are among the schools on a different academic schedule than most colleges, so the rookies had to return to finish their classwork after they were drafted. That means they missed out on much of the offseason program, though Peters and Nelson remained in touch, helping each other grasp the system.
“We help each other out whenever we can,” Nelson said, “just going over the playbook or anything. Whenever we have questions off the field we might go to each other since we’re right next door and talk to each other.”
Smith, the Chiefs’ top cornerback, was suspended last week after pleading guilty to drunken driving. First-time offenders are usually given a two-game suspension from the NFL, but Smith was hit with an additional game because he crashed his car into a light pole.
Reid said that Smith will still get repetitions in training camp, but it remains to be seen how the coach will split up snaps in preseason games, beginning Aug. 15 at Arizona.
As for Smith, he plans tutor the rest of the cornerbacks as much as possible.
“That’s been my role since I’ve been in the NFL with anybody that’s younger than me,” he said, “because all it takes is one play for me to be hurt, and then they have to step in anyway. My job is to make sure everybody around me is better, regardless of first-team, second-team, a safety, a linebacker. If it’s anybody that I can help out on the field, I’m going to do it.”
NOTES: WR Jeremy Maclin made a couple of deep catches, giving the Chiefs exactly what they wanted when they signed him in the offseason. … Thousands of fans showed up for the first day of training camp, forming a line into the practice facility that stretched nearly half a mile. … Rookie WR Chris Conley (knee) did not participate in the practice.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Every once in a while, St. Louis outfielder Stephen Piscotty has to pinch himself.
The rookie continued his strong start to his major league career with two hits in the Cardinals’ 6-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night.
“It’s like a dream,” he said. “This has been the best two weeks of my life.”
Piscotty is riding a seven-game hitting streak and has hit safely in each of his nine starts. He is hitting .375 overall with five RBIs.
“It’s been a lot of fun and it’s an honor to put on this uniform,” said Piscotty, who was recalled from Triple-A Memphis on July 21. “I feel pretty good up there, just trying to execute in each at-bat.”
Piscotty, who was selected by the Cardinals with the 36th pick of the 2012 draft, recorded his third multihit game. His run-scoring single in the seventh cut the deficit to 6-2.
But Colorado closed it out from there in its first win at Busch Stadium since May 12, 2013, snapping a string of five straight losses at St. Louis.
Nolan Arenado connected for a two-run shot in the fourth against Lance Lynn (8-6) and Ben Paulsen added a leadoff drive in the sixth. Paulsen finished with two hits and three RBIs.
Jorge De La Rosa (7-4) allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. He is 7-2 with a 3.41 ERA in nine starts against St. Louis since joining Colorado in 2008.
“We know we’ve got a good lineup,” De La Rosa said. “We just have to keep the game close and wait until the guys start swinging it.”
The Cardinals (66-38) failed to get to 30 games over .500 in their third try. St. Louis still has a major league-best 39-16 home record.
The Cardinals continue to have no answer for De La Rosa, who also beat them at Coors Field on June 9.
“He pitches backwards,” said St. Louis first baseman Brandon Moss, who was acquired in a trade with Cleveland on Thursday. “He doesn’t throw his fastball a lot so you get yourself anxious waiting for the off-speed stuff. He doesn’t give you much.”
Carlos Gonzalez reached on a leadoff walk before Arenado’s 26th homer gave the Rockies a 3-0 lead. Arenado had just one homer in July.
“It’s always tough to come in here and score runs against this staff and in this park,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. “I think we played well offensively this series.”
Paulsen added a 436-foot home run to center in the sixth and smashed a two-run double in the seventh.
Lynn was charged with four runs and seven hits in five-plus innings in his first loss since July 10. The right-hander was 5-1 with a 2.04 ERA in his previous 10 starts.
Lynn was disappointed with the pitch to Arenado.
“It was a fastball out over the plate,” Lynn said. “The guy’s got 26 homers, he did what he was supposed to do with it.”
St. Louis shortstop Jhonny Peralta hit his team-leading 16th home run in the fourth.
SO FAR, SO GOOD
Right-hander Jonathan Broxton made his Cardinals debut, pitching a perfect eighth. Broxton was acquired in a trade with Milwaukee on Friday.
Rockies: RHP Kyle Kendrick (shoulder inflammation) and OF Corey Dickerson (broken ribs) were placed on the 15-day disabled list. RHP Scott Oberg and OF Kyle Parker were recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque, and RHP Christian Bergman (right shoulder fatigue) was activated from the DL. LHP Aaron Laffey was designated for assignment.
Cardinals: RHP Jordan Walden gave up an unearned run in one inning of work during a rehab outing in Triple-A Memphis on Friday. Walden (right bicep) threw 21 pitches, struck out two and walked one.
Cardinals LHP Jaime Garcia (3-4, 2.00 ERA) will face LHP Yohan Flande (1-1, 3.68 ERA) in the series finale Sunday. The Cardinals have been shut out in all four of Garcia’s losses. Flande made his first start of the season and got his first major league win in a 7-2 win over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday.
by Ian Harrison, AP
TORONTO (AP) — After a big win over the Blue Jays, it was slow jam time in the Kansas City Royals clubhouse. Seated around a table in the middle of the room, Kendrys Morales and Danny Duffy gave a spirited sing-along to Whitney Houston’s `I Will Always Love You.”
Maybe they were dedicating it to new teammate Ben Zobrist.
Zobrist hit solo home runs from both sides of the plate, Eric Hosmer singled home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and the Royals beat Toronto 7-6 on Saturday to snap a three-game losing streak.
“We had to have this one today,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We had to.”
Zobrist, who went 3 for 4 and scored three runs, homered from the right side in the first and doubled and scored in the sixth.
“It feels incredible,” Zobrist said. “You try and put good swings on the ball from both sides of the plate when you have to switch around during the game but it’s tough.”
Yordano Ventura (6-7) gave up five runs and six hits in seven innings to win back-to-back starts for the first time since April.
“I thought he threw the ball great,” Yost said. “These guys are hotter than heck and their power is amazing.”
Wade Davis worked the eighth and Greg Holland pitched around a walk and a single for his 23rd save. Josh Donaldson grounded out to end it, stranding the tying run at third as Toronto fell to 11-23 in one-run games.
Facing new Blue Jays reliever Mark Lowe, Zobrist turned around to the left side and tied it at 5 with a drive to right. Lorenzo Cain doubled and scored on Hosmer’s base hit, Kendrys Morales singled Hosmer to third and Salvador Perez hit a sacrifice fly.
Lowe (0-2) was charged with three runs after allowing just four in 34 prior appearances this season.
“That’s not going to make or break his career in Toronto,” manager John Gibbons said of Lowe’s difficult debut.
Jose Bautista hit two solo homers and Josh Donaldson added a two-run drive, but Toronto’s winning streak ended at three.
Bautista connected off Davis in the eighth, the first home run allowed by the Royals reliever in 125 2-3 innings. Davis hadn’t given up a homer since Washington’s Ian Desmond hit one off him on Aug. 24, 2013, Davis’ most recent start.
“Wade is the best setup man in the game,” Yost said. “That’s not even arguable. He really does a great job of limiting the extra base hits.”
Edwin Encarnacion almost went back-to-back with Bautista, but his drive to center was caught on the warning track.
Toronto’s Mark Buehrle set down 15 of 16 following Zobrist’s one-out drive in the first.
Ventura started even stronger, retiring the first 11 batters he faced. That streak ended when the Blue Jays strung together four straight singles in the fourth, including RBI hits by Justin Smoak and Dioner Navarro.
Toronto made it 5-1 in the fifth on back-to-back home runs by Donaldson, a two-run drive into the second deck, and Bautista. It was the sixth time this season the Blue Jays have hit consecutive home runs.
Kansas City answered in the sixth when Buehrle’s throwing error opened the door for a three-run rally. Hosmer extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a two-run single and Kendrys Morales drove in the third run with a base hit to right.
A four-time Gold Glove winner, Buehrle said he was embarrassed by his error.
“It kind of unfolded after that,” he said.
Buehrle allowed four runs and five hits in seven innings.
The Blue Jays capped a busy week of trade deadline activity with a flurry or roster moves before the game, adding Lowe and outfielder Ben Revere, acquired Friday from Seattle and Philadelphia.
Toronto also recalled infielder Munenori Kawasaki from Triple-A Buffalo and optioned right-hander Ryan Tepera to Buffalo. Infielder Danny Valencia and outfielder Eqezuiel Carrera were designated for assignment.
LEFT AND RIGHT
Before Zobrist, Wilson Betemit was the previous Royals player to homer from both sides of the plate, doing it June 10, 2010 at Minnesota.
Royals: Davis returned after sitting out Friday’s loss with a sore back.
Royals: RHP Edinson Volquez (10-5, 3.21 ERA) seeks his third straight victory as he faces Toronto for the second time this season. He gave up four runs in 5 1-3 innings against the Blue Jays on July 12, but only run one was earned.
Blue Jays: RHP R.A. Dickey (5-10, 4.27 ERA) will pitch on three days of rest in spot left vacant when LHP Felix Doubront was designated for assignment. Dickey moved up so new LHP David Price could get an extra day before his Toronto debut Monday against Minnesota.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A few minor adjustments here and there. That was all it took for Michael Wacha to get back on track.
Wacha pitched seven crisp innings, Matt Carpenter homered for the third time in two games and the Cardinals beat the Colorado Rockies 7-0 on Friday night.
Jhonny Peralta added a two-run homer for the Cardinals (66-37), who have won eight of 11 to move a season-high 29 games over .500 for the third time this season. Stephen Piscotty had a two-run double to help St. Louis run its major league-best home record to 39-15.
The six-hitter for Wacha (12-4) and two relievers came after St. Louis bolstered its bullpen by acquiring Jonathan Broxton before the non-waiver trade deadline on Friday afternoon. The Cardinals sent minor league outfielder Malik Collymore to Milwaukee for Broxton, who will help set up for All-Star closer Trevor Rosenthal.
Colorado has lost seven of 10.
Wacha allowed four hits, struck out seven and walked one.
“He just had rhythm right from the start,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “Everything came out of his hand very effortlessly.”
Wacha had given up 13 earned runs in 17 innings over his last three starts, a far cry from his 7-0 start to the season. Following his previous start, a 3-2 loss to Atlanta on Sunday, Wacha made a few minor adjustments.
“I worked on it in the bullpen, tweaked a few things, and was able to keep the ball down,” he said. “It felt really good. I was able to keep the ball down in the zone. I was pretty happy with the movement.”
Wacha threw seven or more scoreless innings during the regular season for the first time since Sept. 24, 2013, when he carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning of a 2-0 victory against Washington.
“He’s one of the best pitchers in the league,” Colorado manager Walt Weiss said. “He’s got a real good fastball, he’s got a good changeup, and he’s got a good angle on his fastball. The ball just gets on you.”
Randy Choate and Seth Maness each pitched an inning after Wacha departed.
Carpenter, who hit two homers and drove in four runs in a 9-8 win over Colorado on Thursday, also had a double and reached three times.
Carpenter slammed a first-inning leadoff home run off right-hander Kyle Kendrick (4-12), who left after one inning with shoulder inflammation. It was Carpenter’s seventh career leadoff homer and third this season.
Kendrick, who has surrendered a major league-high 26 home runs, said his shoulder has been bothering him for a while.
“It’s been up and down and tonight it just kind of hurt,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Kendrick is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday in Denver.
St. Louis scored twice in first. Kolten Wong and Peralta followed with singles as four of the first six hitters reached safely. Jason Heyward added a sacrifice fly.
The Cardinals broke the game open with five runs in the sixth. Peralta hit his 15th homer off Christian Friedrich.
Piscotty bounced back after striking out twice. He hit a long double to left field to push the lead to 4-0.
“After striking out twice, I told myself there are two ways to handle this,” Piscotty said. “I could curl up and hide or embrace it as an opportunity to redeem myself.”
Rockies: OF Corey Dickerson likely will be placed on the disabled list with two broken ribs after diving for a ball in the fifth inning of Thursday’s loss. Dickerson had two stints on the DL earlier this season with plantar fasciitis. “I knew it was pretty bad,” he said. “I’ve had the breath knocked out of me before, but it was to another level.”
Cardinals: Matt Holliday is on the 15-day DL after he strained his right quad on Wednesday. It is the same muscle strain that forced him to miss 31 games earlier in the season. “To kind of take a step back like this is frustrating,” Holliday said.
St. Louis RHP Lance Lynn (8-5, 2.71 ERA) will face LHP Jorge De La Rosa (6-4, 5.03 ERA) on Saturday. Lynn is 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA in four career starts against Colorado. De La Rosa has a 3-3 career mark in St. Louis.