ST. LOUIS -- Despite all the frustration that had mounted over the past three weeks, the Cardinals closed out one of their most grueling stretches of the season -- 20 games in 20 days -- on Sunday with a series sweep of the Phillies at Busch Stadium. A burst of offense, highlighted by Dexter Fowler's go-ahead home run in the fifth, set the Cardinals up for a 6-5 win.
"It certainly feels a whole lot better," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said after the team's first sweep since May 8-10. "Two of those games, we were right down to the wire. It just took a little bit of everything from everyone. It was one of those great series, collectively, from the club."
The Cardinals, who entered the series having dropped seven straight games, got a gritty effort from Adam Wainwright to keep things within striking distance. Wainwright labored early, throwing 50 pitches while the Phillies jumped out to a 2-0 lead through two innings. But even without much of a feel for his curveball until the end, Wainwright kept Philadelphia's offense at bay by surrendering just one other hit before being pulled for a pinch-hitter in the fifth.
"I had very, very average stuff, at best," Wainwright said. "My command was subpar, to say the least. Some days you battle. Some days, you don't feel great. Luckily, our team played a great game today."
Wainwright's counterpart, Aaron Nola, breezed through four innings before skidding in the fifth. Nola threw 25 pitches in the frame, the most costly of which was a 3-1 fastball inside that Fowler tattooed for a three-run homer. Nola, now 3-4 on the season, has been unable to pitch past the fifth in four of his eight starts.
"Nola made a bad pitch to Fowler," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I didn't like the pitch he chose to throw. He made a mistake and it cost him. I don't know how many three-ball counts he had, but he seemed like he was behind every hitter he faced."
The insurance was necessary, as the Phillies peppered Cardinals closer Seung Hwan Oh for four singles to pull within one in the ninth. Oh stranded the potential tying run at second by inducing a flyout from Tommy Joseph to end the game.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED One swing, three runs: One out away from working around a leadoff double, Nola instead watched Fowler feast on a two-seam fastball left over the plate. Fowler lifted the fifth-inning pitch 405 feet into the right-field seats for a three-run blast that put the Cardinals ahead, 3-2. Prior to Sunday, Nola had not allowed a home run after the third inning and he had surrendered just four in his previous 58 innings. Of the nine home runs Fowler has hit this season, eight have given the Cardinals a lead.
"Man, I could have kissed him right there," Wainwright said of Fowler. "He has had a couple of big knocks for us. He is a quality big league player. Give him enough chances, and he's going to come through."
Herrera keeps on hitting:Odubel Herrera wasted no time extending his hitting streak to 10 games, as he was right in the middle of the Phillies' two early run-scoring innings. Herrera opened the game with a single off Wainwright and then came around to score on Joseph's single to left. An inning later, Herrera pushed Philadelphia ahead, 2-0, with a two-out RBI double. Herrera capped his day with an RBI single in the ninth. He has 13 extra-base hits during his current hitting streak and leads the Majors with 23 doubles on the season.
"You don't ever want to go on a road trip and lose all your games, but we felt pretty good about [the fact] that we were still in the division race. Last year, we were playing a little better and we were 14, 15 games out. So it's just nice to know we're still in the race, that we can still make up some ground." -- Fryer, who had an RBI in back-to-back games for the first time this season
"I felt comfortable going in there. I just didn't get it in enough. I just wanted to attack. You never really want bases loaded, but he hit the home run." -- Nola, on the 3-1 fastball to Fowler
WHAT'S NEXT Phillies: The Phillies play their next four games against the Red Sox. The first two are Monday and Tuesday at Fenway Park, with the second two Wednesday and Thursday at Citizens Bank Park. Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff (0-7, 5.15 ERA) faces right-hander Rick Porcello (3-8, 4.46 ERA) in Monday's series opener at 7:10 p.m. ET.
Cardinals: After an off-day on Monday, the Cardinals will open up a four-game series against the division-leading Brewers with a doubleheader on Tuesday. Lance Lynn, who is winless in his last six starts, will start Game 1 (1:15 p.m. CT). The Cardinals will call up lefty Marco Gonzales from Triple-A to start the 7:15 nightcap. It will be Gonzales' first appearance in the Majors since 2015.