PHOENIX -- In three years with the Cardinals, Seth Maness has distinguished himself as the bullpen fireman, the one summoned to extinguish the messes. But never had he pulled off an escape as seemingly impossible as the one he did to preserve the team's 5-3 win over the D-backs on Thursday night.
Maness played magician in the eighth inning, doing so without even needing to lean on the double-play ball that has helped him out of so many jams before. Entering into a bases-loaded, no-out predicament created by Steve Cishek, Maness notched a pair of strikeouts before inducing a ground ball to end the threat.
"I don't know even how to explain Seth right there," manager Mike Matheny said. "We're just hoping for outs at that point to see what we can do to minimize the damage. We put him in a big situation, and he made some of the biggest pitches of the season."
Cishek put the Cardinals' two-run lead in a precarious spot by walking the bases full to open the eighth. Even with a mid-appearance visit from pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, Cishek couldn't get himself in sync.
"I just looked real bad out there," Cishek said.
Matheny turned the inning over to Maness, who has induced more double plays (36) since the start of the 2013 season than any other pitcher. The Cardinals, even if it meant relinquishing one run, were looking for one here.
So was Maness.
"I was hoping to get something on the ground to start it off," he said.
But Instead of a ground ball, he got David Peralta to swing through a 1-2 changeup. Welington Castillo then did the same on an 0-2 changeup, giving Maness just his fourth multi-strikeout game of the year. Jake Lamb worked the count full, but with another changeup, Maness netted the ground-ball out.
"It was amazing," Cishek said. "He was incredible. Not only did he pick me up, but he picked the entire team up in a huge way."
Said Brandon Moss, who had earlier put the Cardinals ahead with a two-run homer: "He worked his magic."
From Arizona's side, it was yet another opportunity missed during a series in which they grounded into nine double plays and went 5-for-25 with runners in scoring position.
"We got to the bases loaded with patience," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "We made Cishek throw strikes. We were able to get those walks and get them on and then as soon as we had nobody out and bases loaded, they bring in Maness. He threw the ball down in the zone, but I don't think very many of those pitches were strikes. So we have to remember how we got there to finish the job."
Maness had inherited the bases loaded 20 times before in his career, but never had he gotten out of such a mess with no runs allowed when entering with no outs. Randy Choate was the last Cardinals reliever to pull off the feat, doing so in a May 2014 game against the Yankees.
On that night, he bailed out Maness.
"It's funny how things work out," Maness said. "I'm just trying to throw strikes and keep something in play, keep something in the infield, give us a chance to win."