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St. Louis Cardinals complete sweep of San Diego Padres

By Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange
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St. Louis Cardinals complete sweep of San Diego Padres
St. Louis Cardinals' Jedd Gyorko lifts up Aledmys Diaz after Diaz hit the game winning single against the San Diego Padres in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on July 21, 2016. St. Louis won the game 6-5. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

ST. LOUIS -- After looking at strike three with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth inning of last week's All-Star Game when a hit could have given the National League the lead, St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz vowed to learn from the experience.

If Thursday night is any indication, Diaz is a quick study.

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Diaz's bases-loaded RBI single with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning capped St. Louis' stunning comeback from a 5-1 deficit as it beat the San Diego Padres 6-5 for its first four-game home winning streak of the year.

After swinging and missing badly on a 3-1 off-speed offering from former Cardinal Carlos Villanueva (1-1), Diaz laced the next pitch into left to score Tommy Pham.

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"I remembered the (All-Star) game," Diaz said. "I just had to be more aggressive. I was looking for a pitch to hit in the air."

The hit made a winner of Jonathan Broxton (2-2), who worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning, and enabled St. Louis (51-44) to stay within a game of Miami for the National League's second wild-card spot. The Cardinals also moved within 6 1/2 games of Chicago in the NL Central, the closest they've been since May 23.

It looked bleak for St. Louis after San Diego (41-55) established a four-run lead in the top of the eighth on a leadoff homer by Yangervis Solarte, his 10th of the year. It also marked the 19th consecutive game in which the Padres homered, the longest streak of its kind in the NL since Milwaukee went deep in 20 straight games in 2008.

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"To put it simply, it's just hard work," Solarte said of the home run streak. "I know we have got some power on this team."

However, the Cardinals wiped out their deficit in their half of the eighth against setup man Ryan Buchter. Jedd Gyorko, who belted six homers in his previous five games against his former team, started the comeback with an RBI single that made it 5-2.

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After pinch-hitter Kolten Wong slashed a one-out double to bring up the tying run to the plate, Stephen Piscotty lofted a towering fly ball to right-center. Center fielder Travis Jankowski's leap came up just short of the ball, which landed in the bushes barely beyond the wall for a three-run homer, Piscotty's 14th of the year.

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The homer came on the one-year anniversary of Piscotty's promotion to the majors.

"It's definitely a moment at the top of my list," he said. "I've had a lot of nice moments so far."

Pham started the ninth with a leadoff double. After an intentional walk to Greg Garcia, Jeremy Hazelbaker dropped a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position. San Diego manager Andy Green gave a second intentional walk to Gyorko, who was 14-of-25 against the Padres this year.

But that just set the stage for Diaz, whose winning hit made him 15-of-24 against San Diego.

"We got down, but guys just kept playing the game," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "It was a great moment for us."

Neither starter was involved in the decision despite pitching well.

Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner, rumored to be on the trading block, fanned eight and walked none in 5 2/3 innings, giving up only three hits and a run. Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright worked six innings, allowing seven hits and two runs with no walks and eight strikeouts.

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Cashner retired the first 13 men he faced before giving up a single to Yadier Molina in the fifth. He left after striking Matt Holliday with a 95 mph fastball in the nose, forcing Holliday to leave with what St. Louis officials called facial abrasions.

But Holliday and the Cardinals probably felt a whole lot better after their improbable rally capped a four-game sweep.

"What a big win," Wainwright said. "To do it in come-from-behind fashion like we did here ... we're ready for a big (winning) streak here. We're ready to run off about a 12-spot."

NOTES: San Diego Thursday activated INF Brett Wallace from the paternity list and optioned INF Alexi Amarista to Triple-A El Paso. Wallace's wife, Taylar, gave birth to the couple first child on Monday. ... St. Louis optioned LHP Dean Kiekhefer to Triple-A Memphis on Thursday. Kiekhefer was the team's 26th man for Wednesday's day-night doubleheader. ... The Padres sent out LHP Keith Hessler to Triple-A El Paso Thursday. He was their 26th man on Wednesday.

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