Mikolas and O’Neill Shine

(Busch Stadium) Miles Mikolas delivered the first complete game of the season for St. Louis and Tyler O’Neill banged out a pair of two-run homeruns as the Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-0 tonight.

“Feels great,” Mikolas said. “Sometimes when we’re golfing we always joke ‘a hole-in-one and I’m right back on track’. Hopefully, that one puts me right back on track.”

Aided by some strong defense behind him, Mikolas scattered eight hits and struck out four batters without allowing a walk.

“Incredible play out there,” Mikolas said. “(Fowler) went all the way across the outfield, turned a couple double plays, knocking the ball down, staying with it, Goldy, Wong diving all over the place. Carp coming up big keeping the guy off second base the first inning set up a double play. Hustle all the way around was huge.”

It is the second career complete game for Mikolas, who also went the distance last May in a 6-0 shutout against Kansas City.

In the four games since the All-Star break, the Cardinals starters (Ponce de Leon, Hudson, Wainwright, Mikolas) have combined to pitch 28.2 innings and allow only two runs. Jack Flaherty allowed only one earned run in his 7.0 innings before the break to start the cycle through the rotation.

“The All-Star break is a huge chance to reset and kind of reflect on things,” said Mikolas, who reviewed some video from last season. “I think my balance was all off. Something that I had such great balance in my delivery last year, I think I was falling off to the first base side a lot this year. It makes me leave a lot of breaking balls up in the zone, makes that slider spin and kind of stay there, makes the fastball run back across the plate. Just staying balanced and staying behind the ball all the way through.”

“As soon as I came back and started playing catch after the All-Star break, really focused on keeping my head steady and letting my body work around my head and keeping everything going to the plate. Carried that to the bullpen session and then out to the game.”

The All-Star break this season was very different for Mikolas, who last year had to leave the before participating in the game to join his wife Lauren for the early arrival of their twins–who spent their first couple of months in the NIC unit. The twins will celebrate a healthy birthday tomorrow.

“Maybe I should just not think about baseball anymore and think about my kids all the time,” Mikolas quipped. “Like Peter Pan, just think happy thoughts and then it’s time to fly.”

O’NEILL BACK-T0-BACK

At the plate, O’Neill drove in the first run of the game on a line drive misplayed by left fielder Corey Dickerson. Paul Goldschmidt scored from first on the error. In the fifth inning, O’Neill brought home Paul DeJong with a two-run homer to straight away center.

Two innings later, O’Neill repeated the feat as he sent another shot 433 feet over the wall and onto Freese Hill for his second two-run shot of the night. The four RBIs matches his career high.

“Curtain calls, they’re special,” O’Neill smiled. “The fans here are great. Anytime you can put on a show for them and they want something in return, it’s good to give that.”

The three hits tonight raise O’Neill’s average to .317 (13-41) since he was recalled on June 29th.

“I’m just feeling good out there,” O’Neill said. “I think consistent reps help a little bit, but I’m just back to doing my thing.”

Despite having five extra base hits in his last three games, O’Neill put in some extra work before today’s game.

“I got in the cage early,” shared O’Neill, who worked with hitting coaches Jeff Albert and Mark Budaska on staying back with his swing. “Sometimes you just feel something you need to work on. I got here early, looked at some video and I got in there and got working.”

The win is the third in a row for the Cardinals, who move into second place and 2.0 games in back of Chicago in the National League Central.

EARLY EXIT FOR CARP

–Matt Carpenter left the game in the seventh inning after fouling a pitch off the top of his right foot.

“He’s going to be day-to-day it looks like, initially,” Mike Shildt shared. “Everything imaging-wise is positive in the sense that it’s negative. But we’ll evaluate more tomorrow. Hopefully, no more imaging is necessary. It’s just going to be how he recovers. I’m sure there’s some swelling in there.”

photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

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