ST. LOUIS -- Tim Cooney endured a considerable wait time for his first Major League win and the shower of ice water his teammates provided to accompany it.
Eighty-six days, one trip back to Triple-A, and four previous July starts (three of which went to extra innings) provided the backdrop and buildup to Friday. With a seven-inning start that could have been even longer had circumstances been different, Cooney finally earned the career milestone, leading the Cardinals to their fourth straight victory, this one a 4-2 win over the Braves.
"It's pretty awesome," Cooney said. "Before the game ended, I really just wanted us to win the game. But when it ended and I saw my name in the win column, it was pretty cool. I'll definitely remember it."
Cooney has gradually given the Cardinals more reasons to like him as a rotation option. Since laboring through his debut in April, Cooney has shown himself a capable Major League pitcher. He's rolling through July with a 1.86 ERA in five games, and he showcased remarkable efficiency on Friday. Cooney needed more than 12 pitches to get through an inning just once.
Had he not allowed the Braves to pull within two in the sixth inning, Cooney likely would have pitched beyond the seventh. Manager Mike Matheny pulled the lefty at a pitch count of 74.
"That's deeper into a big league game than he's been, but you can see why he's been able to throw some complete games, and he was on track to do it today," said Matheny, who instead turned the tight game over to trusted relievers Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist. "He was very unpredictable with what he was going to throw."
After establishing fastball command early, Cooney seemed to surprise Atlanta with the use of his curveball and changeup.
"I go with what [catcher] Yadi [Molina] calls, but when I can mix my pitches well, he can do more back there," Cooney said. "He doesn't have to [call] one or two pitches. He can keep it a little more random. When I pitch well, he can do that with the pitch calling."
"He's getting better each start," added Molina. "It wasn't just the fastball tonight. He was pitching."
Cooney has already turned a spot start opportunity into a three-week stay in the rotation. The unknown now is what lies ahead. With Jaime Garcia potentially ready to rejoin the rotation next week, the Cardinals will have to decide where Cooney best fits. It was Garcia's injury that presented Cooney with the chance to return to the Majors earlier this month.
"I know that's why I came up here in the first place, but I try not to worry about anything like that," Cooney said. "I feel like if I pitch well, things will open up for me."