ST. LOUIS » The American League, per usual, already had a sizable lead over the National League in interleague play this season. But then came the ultimate AL accomplishment the last two nights (and one morning) at Busch Stadium.
The Chicago White Sox, who had the worst overall record, worst road record and the next to worst offense in the American League when they hit town, managed nine runs in the two-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals. That was seven more than scored by the Cardinals, who had the best record in the National League and in the major leagues and a stunning 29-7 home record.
Enduring three rain delays totaling 2 hours, 19 minutes, the White Sox pulled off a 7-1 triumph Wednesday into Thursday after winning 2-1 on Tuesday. With softer tossing Jose Quintana following flame-throwing lefthander Chris Sale, the Cardinals are a familiar 7-11 in games started by lefthanders and 44-15 against righthanders.
Catcher Tyler Flowers, whose 11th-inning homer provided the game-winner Tuesday, salted this one away when he cracked a two-run homer in the ninth off Seth Maness, making his 39th appearance in 77 games. That inning, which became a five-run frame, got uglier as lefthander Randy Choate plunked two straight lefthanded hitters. And righthanded rookie Marcus Hatley, making his major league debut, allowed all three inherited runners to score after he entered with the bases loaded and nobody out, although he got little help from his defense.
Hatley actually got three ground balls but one went into the outfield, and another was fumbled by second baseman Kolten Wong, who missed a play at home before settling for an out at first. On the third one, the Cardinals messed up a rundown between third and home when third baseman Matt Carpenter missed on catcher Yadier Molina’s throw.
Melky Cabrera got the official game winner when he homered off John Lackey to break a 1-1 tie in the sixth.
But the White Sox probably shouldn’t have had their first run, as this was not a good night for the Cardinals’ defense.
Often a little thing, such as a fielding play gone even slightly awry, can separate the bad teams from the good teams.
And so it was on Wednesday. Except that it worked in reverse.
For the second night in a row, a Cardinals infielder failed to cut down a lead runner and probably turn a double play, with the runner who survived and reached second scoring on a two-out hit.
With Chicago down 1-0 in the fifth to Lackey, who turned in another high quality start, Flowers singled and advanced to second when first baseman Mark Reynolds knocked down a smash by Carlos Sanchez. Reynolds would have had a double play but had to settle for the out at first after he recovered the ball.
Quintana struck out for the second time but Adam Eaton singled to right center to chase home Flowers,
Cabrera, who had had the most career at-bats of any White Sox player against Lackey at 35, went down for a low, sixth-inning offering and planted his third homer into the Cardinals’ bullpen in right. The hit was Cabrera’s 11th in his career against Lackey and gave the White Sox the lead.
After a delay in starting of 1 hour 49 minutes, the teams played exactly eight minutes, just long enough for Lackey to have a perfect top of the first and Wong to face two pitches in the bottom of the inning from Quintana.
Fourteen minutes later, play resumed and Quintana allowed a single to right by Wong. Matt Carpenter lined out, but Jhonny Peralta doubled into the left-field corner.
Third-base coach Jose Oquendo boldly kept Wong going and Wong, dashing all the way from first, slid in safely, tagging the plate with his left hand as he slid by Chicago catcher Flowers. Flowers had had to move off the plate a bit to take relay man Alexei Ramirez’s one-hop throw.
But the Cardinals missed out on a bigger inning when Quintana fanned both Reynolds and Randal Grichuk.
Lackey walked both Avisail Garcia and Alexei Ramirez in the second, with Garcia mixing in a stolen base. But, with runners at first and third, Lackey induced Flowers to bounce into an inning-ending double play started by second baseman Wong.
And then rain halted the game yet again After a 16-minute hiatus, Jason Heyward lined a hit to right center in the Cardinals’ second and hustled his way to a double as the throw from the outfield sailed well wide of second. But Peter Bourjos, who whiffed three times, fanned on a fastball and Lackey tapped out.
Lackey allowed one runner in both the third and fourth innings but wasn’t dented. Ditto for Quintana.
Molina singled with one out in the Cardinals’ fourth and moved up on a Quintana wild pitch in the dirt but both Heyward and Bourjos struck out.
Chicago center fielder Eaton slipped chasing Reynolds’ one-out liner in the Cardinals’ sixth and by the time right fielder Garcia had recovered the ball at the wall, Reynolds was headed for his first triple since 2011.
But Grichuk struck out for the second time and Molina flied out. Quintana (4-7), who had beaten the Cardinals here in 2012, finished his six-inning stint with eight strikeouts and no walks.
Lackey (6-5) wrapped up his seven-inning outing, giving up two runs or fewer in six innings or more for the ninth time in his 16 starts this season. But he fell to 3-7 against the White Sox, whom he last beat in 2005.
As the clock passed midnight, the remaining fans at Busch appeared to have dozed off but reliever Kevin Siegrist awakened them by picking off Garcia at first in the eighth after Garcia had singled. Siegrist then fanned pinch hitter Gordon Beckham.
The White Sox provided some excitement of their own in the Cardinals’ eighth when left fielder Cabrera bumped into center fielder Eaton, the latter of whom made the catch on Carpenter’s liner.
Flowers’ seventh homer of the season then put a damper on the “crowd” again.
The Cardinals had their eighth straight game of at least six innings and three runs or fewer by their starter. They won the first six of those games against National League foes Miami and Chicago.
But then the American League came to town. The Cardinals, overall, are 43-17 against the National League but 8-9 against the American with three interleague games remaining.