Oscar Mercado’s 5 RBIs propel Cardinals to 10 runs, series win vs. Dodgers

The Cardinals finished their homestand in a similar fashion to how they started it, with Jack Flaherty on the mound and their offense providing a double-digit scoring output in a victory in front of a home crowd.

For the first time this season, the Cardinals had three players with three hits or more apiece. Oscar Mercado, Nolan Arenado and Tommy Edman spearheaded an attack that chased one of the best left-handed starters of this generation from the game in less than four innings and then battered a taxed bullpen as the Cardinals won their third game of the four-game series 10-5 in front of an announced crowd of 44,721 at Busch Stadium on Sunday, the fifth announced sellout this season and the third in a row.

The Cardinals (21-27) finished 5-2 on the seven-game homestand, and have won four consecutive series. They moved a game ahead of the Cincinnati Reds (19-27) and out of the National League Central Division cellar. The Cardinals finished the day in third place in the division by percentage points ahead of the Chicago Cubs (20-26).

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Mercado went 3-for-4 with a double and five RBIs. He matched his single-game career high for RBIs, matching a five-RBI performance he posted while with the Cleveland Guardians on April 10, 2022.

Mercado also became the fourth player in club history to have a five-RBI game while batting in the No. 9 hole in the batting order.

Arenado went 3-for-4 with a double and three runs as he extended his hitting streak to 12 consecutive games, his longest streak as a member of the Cardinals.

Edman went 3-for-4 with a double and a pair of runs.

Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong went 2-for-3 with a home run, a walk, four RBIs and four runs. He now has seven home runs in 23 games this season. His four runs matched a single-game career high.

The Cardinals chased Dodgers ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw from the game after 3 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season. Kershaw gave up four runs on five hits and three walks. Mercado drove in three of those four runs.

Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty exited the game one out shy of being able to qualify for the win. He pitched 4 2/3 innings and allowed three runs on four hits and four walks. He struck out five and induced a major-league-leading 14th double play.

Flaherty’s fourth strikeout of the game, an elevated fastball that got Miguel Vargas to swing and miss to end the second inning, moved Flaherty into sole possession of 25th place on the Cardinals’ all-time strikeouts list.

Cardinals put Kershaw in an early hole

Kershaw, a former NL MVP as well as a three-time former Cy Young Award winner, stifled the Cardinals earlier this season when he tossed seven scoreless innings in a matchup in LA on April 29. He tied his season high for strikeouts with nine in that outing.

The left-hander retired the side in order in the first inning, the first two via strikeouts.

However, the Cardinals scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the second after Arenado’s leadoff double gave them their first baserunner and their first runner in scoring position all on the same swing.

Arenado belted a 1-2 slider into the left-center field gap for his fifth double of the season, and two batters later, Edman looped a double into left field to drive in Arenado with the second of three doubles in the inning for the Cardinals.

After DeJong reached on a fielder’s choice, Brendan Donovan drew a two-out walk on a full count. That brought Mercado to the plate with two outs.

Mercado fell behind in the count 0-2, but he ripped a slider to left-center field in almost the identical location as the ball Arenado hit. DeJong and Donovan scored on the play.

The two-run double gave Mercado, a former Cardinals prospect who was traded away in 2018 and returned this winter on a minor-league contract, his first RBIs as a Cardinal. It also gave the Cardinals a three-run inning against the stingy Kershaw.

The Cardinals added another run against Kershaw on a Mercado RBI single in the fourth and chased him from the game. Mercado’s second hit gave the Cardinals a 4-1 lead.

Flaherty can’t fight out of the fifth

Flaherty began the homestand with his best outing of the season, a performance reminiscent of his eye-opening 2019 season.

On May 15, Flaherty dominated the Milwaukee Brewers to the tune of a season-high 10 strikeouts in a season-high seven innings. He didn’t give up a run and limited the Brewers to three hits and two walks. It marked his first scoreless outing of the season and came in Willson Contreras’ return to regular catching duties.

Earlier this season against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, Flaherty gave up five runs (four earned) in a loss. The Dodgers collected seven hits, including a home run, against Flaherty in 4 2/3 innings in that start on April 28.

On Sunday against the Dodgers, Flaherty held the Dodgers to one run through the first four innings.

He ran into trouble with two outs in the fifth inning. With a runner on, Flaherty walked David Peralta on a 3-2 pitch that seemed so sure to be called a strike that Flaherty and Contreras had started for the dugout when home plate umpire Nic Lentz called it ball four.

The walk put two on and two out with Dodgers star left-handed hitting slugger Freddie Freeman due up. Entering the day, left-handed hitters had batted .342 against Flaherty (compared to .191 for right-handers). Freeman hit an RBI single on the ground to left field to make the score 4-2.

Flaherty then walked Will Smith on a 3-2 pitch. Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol called upon right-hander Drew VerHagen out of the bullpen.

VerHagen balked in a run that was charged to Flaherty but got the final out of the inning to keep the Cardinals ahead 4-3.

Sports columnists Ben Frederickson and Jeff Gordon discuss Matthew Liberatore’s encouraging return, and how the St. Louis Cardinals have picked themselves up off the floor following a historically bad start.

2023-05-21 21:22:00