Double plays proving to be Cards' desert friends

Double plays proving to be Cards' desert friends

PHOENIX -- The Cardinals arrived in Arizona having turned 111 double plays through their first 123 games, a total that ranked 15th in the Majors. In just three days, they have added another eight twin killings to that list.

The latest three came on Wednesday night, all to benefit starter John Lackey and help buy time for the offense to do some late-inning scoring. Those double plays, as well as a web gem from center fielder Tommy Pham, loomed large as the Cardinals pushed their winning streak to four games with a 3-1 win over the D-backs.

Pham's diving catch

"We played tremendous defense all the way around," said Lackey, whose previous outing came unraveled while three errors were made behind him. "The double plays have been huge this whole series."

Lackey twice erased singles from Ender Inciarte by getting A.J. Pollock to ground into a double play. The first turned out to be especially timely, as Paul Goldschmidt followed it by drubbing a 471-foot home run.

Second baseman Kolten Wong, continuing to look rejuvenated after a few days off, made terrific plays to start Lackey's last two twin killings. He fielded a grounder from Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the second and hurried his relay to second to barely beat Jake Lamb, who had been in motion as part of a hit-and-run. In the fifth, Wong, handcuffed by a one-hopper from Pollock, still gloved the ball cleanly and started the double play with a backhanded flip.

"I think I'm catching that ball or I'm kissing it, one or the other," Wong said.

"He and [shortstop] Jhonny [Peralta] both make a couple of those plays look a whole lot easier than what they are," added manager Mike Matheny.

The Cardinals entered this series never having induced more than seven double plays within a three-game span.

The outfield defensive play was also above average, with Pham providing the highlight of the night when he made a diving catch to rob Aaron Hill of a leadoff hit in the fourth. Right fielder Jason Heyward tracked down several hard-hit balls as well.

"Unbelievable," first baseman Mark Reynolds said of the defense. "It's been a great defensive series for us, and that's probably why we've won three games."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.