Willson Contreras bids to power Cards to sweep of Padres


Willson Contreras kept his approach simple in the sixth inning of Tuesday night’s game when Yu Darvish fed him a split-finger fastball.

“I was shooting for something middle-up,” Contreras said. “Good thing was I didn’t try to pull it and got results.”

Those results: A two-run homer over the center-field wall that put the visiting St. Louis Cardinals ahead for good and led to a 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres.

Contreras’ homer has St. Louis positioned for a possible series sweep on Wednesday.

Contreras is a prime reason why the Cardinals have a chance to finish their season-opening West Coast trip at 4-3. He also hit a two-run homer to center on Monday to cap a three-run first inning, leading St. Louis to a 6-2 victory.

While Contreras is hitting just .176 for the young season, he seems to be on much more solid ground at this point than he was last year. Trying to replace St. Louis legend Yadier Molina, Contreras lost his starting job behind the plate in less than a month as team officials reportedly questioned his defensive chops.

Contreras finished with his standard offensive numbers — .264, 20 homers, 67 RBIs — but they meant nothing amid the backdrop of the team’s first 90-loss season since 1990. The uproar over who he wasn’t overshadowed poor pitching and weak team defense to a certain extent.

Everything has been on point in this series for St. Louis, which hopes left-hander Zack Thompson (0-1, 8.44 ERA) is better than he was in a 6-3 loss at the Los Angeles Dodgers last Friday. He gave up five runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings with two walks and four strikeouts. Thompson received a no-decision after allowing three runs (two earned) over four innings on Aug. 29 in his only career start against San Diego.

Meanwhile, the Padres will try to salvage a game from the series behind right-hander Joe Musgrove (0-1, 9.72 ERA), who’s been in fix-it mode since absorbing an 8-3 loss to San Francisco on Friday.

Musgrove allowed three runs in the first inning to the Giants after failing to get out of the third in his first outing against the Dodgers.

“I felt really good tonight,” he said after Friday night’s start. “I felt like I was moving good. Action was good on the pitches … it’s something I gotta address. I’ve got to make some adjustments and find out what it is – if it is just location-based or if I’m not sequencing things right.”

The Cardinals have been a tough matchup for Musgrove in his career. He’s just 2-7 with a 5.22 ERA against them in 11 career starts (58 2/3 innings).

San Diego opened its first homestand with a come-from-behind, 6-4 win against San Francisco on Thursday but has lost four of its last five games, allowing 32 runs in that span. Prior to Darvish lasting seven innings Tuesday night, the Padres saw just one of their starters pitch longer than five innings — Musgrove’s 5 2/3 frames on Friday night.

–Field Level Media

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