Pinch-hit, power combo key to Cards' success

St. Louis rallies with 5-run 8th to gain split at Wrigley

Pinch-hit, power combo key to Cards' success

CHICAGO -- The two most reliable offensive catalysts this season -- pinch-hitting and power -- came through again on Sunday for a Cardinals club that was well aware of who was looming. Three outs away from meeting Aroldis Chapman, the Cardinals, boosted by their bench and two blasts, toppled Chicago's pursuit of a series win with a five-run eighth that secured a 6-4 win.

Chapman, who has run off 27 straight scoreless appearances against the Cardinals, never pitched with a lead in this series, largely because the Cardinals scored 12 eighth-inning runs in a four-day span. Both of their wins were of the come-from-behind variety, and the Cardinals muscled up for nine series home runs.

None of it helped the Cardinals gain any ground on the division-leading Cubs, but it did allow St. Louis to keep pace with the Marlins in their pursuit of the second National League Wild Card spot.

"Coming in, we could care less that they were hot, honestly," Stephen Piscotty said of the Cubs, who had won 11 straight before Saturday. "It's Cardinals-Cubs. Anything can happen. I think we showed that."

Piscotty's three-run homer

Down, 3-1, entering the eighth, the Cardinals sparked the game-winning rally with a pinch-hit single by Kolten Wong, who improved to 7-for-16 off the bench. It's the sort of success that has been widespread, with the Cardinals boasting a .355 pinch-hit average. It's a mark that, if the season ended today, would be the best by a team in any non-strike shortened season.

Greg Garcia's wise decision to bunt put the tying run on base for Piscotty, who then pulverized a 1-1 pitch from Hector Rondon to give the Cardinals their first lead. The often stoic outfielder offered an emphatic a reaction just after connecting for a 437-foot homer.

"The moment," Piscotty said when asked about that show of emotion. "Anytime you're playing a good team like that late in the game, it just gets more dramatic. Obviously this place is packed with fans and it's loud. We battled all game and finally some breaks started going our way and we were able to capitalize."

Two batters later, Brandon Moss went deep, too, giving him a fifth straight 50-RBI season a day after he locked down his fourth straight 20-homer year. In 13 games since coming off the disabled list, Moss has tallied four homers and 10 RBIs.

Moss' solo home run

The Cardinals, who hit 137 homers a year ago, continue to pace the NL in power. The pair of eighth-inning blasts bumped the team's total to 162, already tied for the 11th-highest season total in franchise history. If the club continued at that pace, it would finish with 222.

The Cubs, who may just meet up with the Cardinals in October once again, have been put on notice.

"Their offensive side is pretty prodigious," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I've never seen Moss swing this well. [Matt] Carpenter will get his thing going again. [Yadier] Molina is Molina. [Jedd] Gyorko, I've seen him good in the past but not this good. They have a lot of offensive momentum now."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for 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.