Rookies star as Cards keep coming back

Rookies star as Cards keep coming back

ST. LOUIS -- Peppered with questions before Monday's 2-1 win over the Reds about how his team would march on without catcher Yadier Molina for the foreseeable future, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny merely shrugged his shoulders. It was as if to say: Been there, done that. It's been the story of the Cardinals' year.

But while lauding his club's ability to navigate a season with so many key players sidelined by injury, Matheny included a message to those younger players who joined along the way.

"I hope those guys have paid close attention," he said.

If so, this collection of rookie callups will have seen the next-man-up mentality executed exceptionally well. But they've not been around to just watch. They've also stepped up.

A day after deflating the Cubs' momentum with first-inning homers, Tommy Pham and Stephen Piscotty keyed the Cardinals' comeback against Cincinnati on Monday. Pham's leadoff triple in the eighth ignited a rally the Cardinals couldn't afford to delay, as the ever-daunting Aroldis Chapman prepped to pitch the ninth. Jhonny Peralta drove Pham home to tie the game before Piscotty delivered his sixth game-winning-RBI hit of the season despite making his Major League debut just two months ago.

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"They're very talented and are two guys who, as soon as they got here, went about it the right way," said starter Jaime Garcia, who kept the Cards within striking distance by limiting the Reds to one run over seven innings. "They're working really hard and trying to do everything they can every day to help us win."

Neither Piscotty, nor Pham, may have had a place in the lineup had injuries not created holes. Now, the Cardinals intend to find ways to keep both regularly involved even as established players wrap up their rehab.

Since his July 21 debut, Piscotty leads the team in hits (63) and RBIs (33). Pham's contributions have arguably been even more unexpected, as he has 11 hits in his last 27 at-bats. Eight of those hits have been for extra bases, including four home runs.

Pham's triple in the 8th

"If he does what he does, he's playing," Matheny said of Pham. "Young guys come in here and they get opportunities, and then they have to maximize them. To say that he's maximized it, I think, would be an understatement. He's done a terrific job on both sides. I love the energy that he brings."

What Pham sparked and Piscotty finished was the Cardinals' 12th win this season when trailing after seven innings. Consider that in Matheny's first three seasons as manager, the Cardinals combined to go 12-161 in such spots. Last year, the team mounted a comeback win after the seventh only three times.

The club, in large part because of Trevor Rosenthal's dominance as closer, also is now 80-0 when leading after eight.

"Everybody has to do their part," Matheny said. "Just keep playing the game and trust that somebody is going to get it done."

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