Eventful 9th swings game Cardinals' way

Carpenter's outstanding defense sets stage for Grichuk's walk-off HR

Eventful 9th swings game Cardinals' way

ST. LOUIS -- Randal Grichuk spent several minutes before Monday's series opener against the Cubs trying to convince a horde of media members that the tightness in his back that forced him out of a game late last week had been appropriately addressed. Whomever his words might not have convinced would see for themselves a few hours later that all is, indeed, just fine.

With the first walk-off blast of his life, Grichuk left the Cardinals celebrating a 4-3 victory to open a key May series at Busch Stadium. Grichuk's game-winning moment was set up by Matt Adams' game-tying pinch-hit homer two innings earlier but also capped a swing of momentum that began in the top half of the ninth.

Grichuk's walk-off homer

Showing faith in his recently wobbly closer, Trevor Rosenthal, manager Mike Matheny summoned Rosenthal in the ninth to preserve a tie game. Coming off a laborious outing in which he allowed two runs on four hits, Rosenthal promptly allowed a pair of singles that positioned the Cubs 90 feet from reclaiming the lead. He then had cleanup hitter Anthony Rizzo to deal with next.

"In that situation against Rizzo," Rosenthal said, "I was thinking, 'Get weak contact, get a double play.'"

It wasn't the traditional sort of DP, but Rosenthal did net two outs with one pitch. Rizzo's flare toward third base stayed in the air long enough for Matt Carpenter to glove on the dive. With Dexter Fowler breaking for home, it turned into an easy twin killing that ended the threat.

"I think he thought if it falls, he could score," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Fowler's decision to run on contact. "It's really a tough read there. It's a calculated risk, it's a gamble, it didn't play out, but I have no problem with Dex doing that."

The play sent an added wave of energy into a home dugout that players and staff later described as having had a growing positive vibe all night.

Grichuk on walk-off win

"I think we knew this was a big game against a very good team that's off to a great start over there," said starter Adam Wainwright, who left his club in a two-run hole after his six-inning start. "I really felt like our guys felt they were going to make something happen."

That momentum nearly stalled against Cubs reliever Adam Warren, who followed a perfect eighth by retiring the first two batters he faced in the ninth. Grichuk stepped to the plate first looking to drive the ball, then changing his approach into a "contact first" one after falling into a two-strike count.

The shift in mentality turned in the same result. And the fact that he drove the home run the other way meant there was even more for him to build from as he seeks to move past an up-and-down start to the season and hush any further concerns about lingering back problems.

"It's a good sign," Grichuk said of his first opposite-field home run this season. "It's just something I feel like early in the year I struggled with. I got jumpy and was hooking balls. It was a good sign to stay through it."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.