By Jeffrey Flanagan and Robert Falkoff
KANSAS CITY -- Right-hander Michael Wacha pitched six serviceable innings and the Cardinals put up a six-run inning for the second straight game on their way to another romp over the intrastate-rival Royals, this time 10-3 on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium.
The Cardinals, who beat the Royals, 11-3, on Monday, pulled within 2 1/2 games of the National League Central-leading Cubs. The Royals, who have lost seven of nine, fell four games behind the American League Central-leading Indians, though the Royals remained tied for the second AL Wild Card spot.
The Cardinals matched a club record by scoring double-digit runs in a third straight game. They last accomplished that feat April 9-11 of last season.
"If we could figure out what the key is, we'd never put that key away," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I think it's contagious. There's a positive vibe."
Wacha had only the fourth-inning glitch when he allowed three runs. But the Cardinals bounced right back with the six-run inning and have explosive innings of nine, six and six runs in their past three games.
"Michael was terrific today," Matheny said. "He established the curveball early and the cutter was good for him."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Game, set, match: Trailing 3-1, the Cardinals bounced right back whenl Grichuk opened the fifth with a home run to left. A hit batter, an infield single and another walk then loaded the bases with one out. Molina then chopped a grounder off the bag at third and the ball caromed into short left field as two runs scored. Jose Martinez was thrown out at third on Molina's hit, then a double by Dexter Fowler ended Vargas' night. The Royals, still in the game down 4-3, went to left-hander Mike Minor to face Gyorko, who promptly hit a three-run blast to left, tracked by Statcast™ at 420 feet.
"I liked the power [from Minor]," Yost said on why he opted for the left-handed Minor over right-hander Peter Moylan. "Mike has got that 94-mph fastball. He's been really good in that situation all year long.
"Peter was available. But I was saving Peter for the 2-3-4 hitters down the line, trying to get a little length there. I could have brought him in for one out, but I didn't mind Minor in that spot."
Welcome back, Cheslor: Backup third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, just activated from the disabled list earlier Tuesday, gave the Royals a jolt of life in the fourth. Trailing 1-0, Kansas City loaded the bases on a walk to Eric Hosmer, a bloop single by Melky Cabrera, and another walk to Jorge Bonifacio. Cuthbert, who singled in the third, then ripped a fastball into the left-field corner, clearing the bases and giving the Royals a brief 3-1 lead.
"I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit," Cuthbert said. "He gave me a heater and it's a good pitch for me. It feels good to be back playing with the boys and trying to get to the playoffs."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Cardinals finished a three-city trip at 5-3. It's the first time they've had a multi-city winning road trip since May 5-10, when they went 6-0 at Atlanta and Miami.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: Right-hander Mike Leake (7-10, 3.34 ERA) will take the ball as the Cardinals return home for the 7:15 p.m. CT game. Leake worked against the Royals once in Interleague Play last year, going seven innings and allowing three runs (two earned) in a 4-2 St. Louis loss.
Royals: Right-hander Trevor Cahill (4-3, 4.13 ERA) takes the mound as the Royals as the home-and-home series switches to St. Louis on Wednesday. Cahill went 4 2/3 innings Thursday against Seattle, giving up six hits and two runs.