By Jenifer Langosch and Gregor Chisholm
ST. LOUIS -- A back-and-forth Interleague affair that featured aerial acrobatics and the most unexpected of contributors ended after 11 innings on Tuesday, when the Blue Jays capitalized on the Cardinals' fourth error of the night. After squandering away three leads, the Blue Jays wouldn't lose another, as Ryan Tepera stranded the potential tying run in scoring position to cap off a 6-5 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals' sloppy play led to unearned runs in the ninth and 11th, the latter of which scored when first baseman Jose Martinez couldn't corral a wide throw from shortstop Aledmys Diaz. A pinch-hit, one-out double by starting pitcher Marcus Stroman set up Toronto's game-winning rally, as he later scored on Diaz's errant throw on Steve Pearce's two-out ground ball.
"We still have a long way to go, and we need to clean up things on a consistent basis," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose club became the fourth in the Majors this season to post a four-error game. "That's it. I know every one of us demands that of ourselves. We have another level there."
The eventful three-hour, 46-minute game opened with starters Marco Estrada and Michael Wacha each allowing two runs over six innings. Things turned especially interesting after they departed.
The Blue Jays inched ahead with a two-run seventh that featured an incredible flip into home plate by Chris Coghlan, whose aerial act helped him avoid catcher Yadier Molina. The Cardinals answered back in the bottom half of the inning with Martinez's first career home run, a two-run shot that tied the game at 4.
The two teams traded runs again in the ninth. Jose Bautista's RBI single helped the Blue Jays capitalize on a wild pickoff throw by reliever Brett Cecil. The Cardinals answered with Dexter Fowler's two-out infield single against Roberto Osuna. Toronto blew two saves in a game for the first time since 2014, but it avoided its worst 20-game start in franchise history by improving to 6-14.
"A crazy game," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "A great game, but a crazy game. Especially for what we've been through the last few weeks, an emotional rollercoaster."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Flippin' fantastic: After drawing a one-out, pinch-hit walk, Coghlan gave the Blue Jays a seventh-inning lead with a diving flip over Molina. Stephen Piscotty's throw from right field took Molina into Coghlan's path, but instead of barreling over the catcher, Coghlan flew above him. With a somersault in the air, Coghlan cleared Molina and came down on home plate to give Toronto a 3-2 lead. The run snapped reliever Matt Bowman's 19 2/3-inning scoreless streak.
"It felt good," Piscotty said of his throw home. "Because it caromed where it did, I was able to watch the runner and thought I had a chance at it."
"You have to win that game just so that makes it worthwhile," Gibbons said. "We'll probably watch that for the next 100 years." More >
Surprise contributor: With no position players left on his bench, Gibbons summoned Stroman to pinch-hit with one out in the 11th. Stroman, hitless in five previous career at-bats, laced a one-out double off reliever Miguel Socolovich. Stroman is the first pitcher in Blue Jays history to record a successful pinch-hit.
"I was just excited that we were on our way to getting a victory," Stroman said. "Obviously, first Major League [hit], but I'm a pitcher, so it doesn't hold too much value. But especially after a long travel day, coming from the West Coast, to get a win the first game here, I feel like that's pretty big, hopefully it's a big momentum shift for us." More >
"When I saw Coghlan do a front flip over Molina, it was like I saw a unicorn or something. It's just something that doesn't happen. You might not ever see that again. I'm glad I saw it. I'm going to remember that forever." -- Estrada, on Coghlan's dive
"Best feeling ever. I just stood there, and everybody was telling me to go out. It was great. I'm going to be thankful for that for my whole career." -- Martinez, on the curtain call after his first career homer
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Stroman's double was the first pinch-hit by an American League pitcher that went for extra bases since Boston's Gary Peters on Sept. 4, 1971. It's worth noting that was before the designated hitter, and Peters was used to batting as he received 101 plate appearances that season.
"He has been talking the last two, three weeks because he knew the way things were lined up, he wasn't going to get a start here," Gibbons said. "Talking about, 'I can hit, I can hit. I want to pinch-run,' blah, blah, blah. I said, 'Well, you never know, but don't count on it.' Sure enough, he was waiting in that dugout and the time came, and he went out there. He didn't look real good, and then he hung him a breaking ball, I think it was, and he hooked it."
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Right-hander Mat Latos will make his second start of the season when Toronto's three-game series vs. St. Louis continues on Wednesday night at 8:15 p.m. ET. Latos is one of the replacements being used while Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ are on the disabled list. In Latos' first start, he allowed four runs over five-plus innings.
Cardinals: Still in search of his first win this season, Carlos Martinez will start for the Cardinals in Wednesday's 7:15 p.m. CT game against the Blue Jays. It's been a rocky stretch for Martinez since he threw 7 1/3 scoreless innings on Opening Night. In his last three starts, Martinez has walked 11 and allowed 14 runs (12 earned) over 15 1/3 innings.