There was nothing remarkable with what Jose Ureña did Tuesday at Busch Stadium. He went five innings, gave up a couple of runs, and left trailing 2-0.
Except it was just what Don Mattingly was looking for.
After two Marlins starters in three days hit the canvas in early-inning knockouts, Ureña managed to make it into the middle rounds, keep matters close, and allow the lineup do the rest.
Christian Yelich clubbed a three-run homer and JT Riddle added a two-run single in a five-run sixth inning as the Marlins rallied for a 5-2 win over St. Louis.
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“Many times, Jose's kept us in games,” Mattingly said. “He pitches quick. Guys like playing behind him. Usually that energy's good when he pitches. If you keep guys in the game, you keep them engaged.”
Ureña, who has won five of his past six decisions, improved to 7-3.
“We were getting quick outs, that's good,” Urena said of his outing. “The team gets excited, and they get out and fight too.”
A.J. Ellis, who worked behind the plate for Ureña, noted the improvement the pitcher has made in one year’s time.
“What I’ve seen this year is him evolving and becoming more of a pitcher,” Ellis said. “I saw him last year, seeing the way teams approached him last year, he was a guy who was going to grip it and rip it.”
But Ellis and Mattingly said Ureña has learned to better mix in his slider and change-up to complement his fastball.
“His mix has really improved and (his) ability to use both sides of the plate,” Ellis said. “His sinker has always kind of been his bread and butter. On a day like today, you got an early sense the Cardinals were hunting his sinker middle-in.”
Most of all, Ellis said Ureña’s drive is what sets him apart.
“The biggest thing is his competitiveness,” Ellis said. “It is a guy that we love playing behind. J.T. (Realmuto) and I both talk about how much we love to catch him. We both fight to catch him because you know it’s going to be a guy out there giving it everything he’s got.”
Mattingly was blunt with reporters before Tuesday’s game when, in explaining the team’s decision to part company with Jeff Locke, said that “in our situation we have to find guys that are competitive, that will fight. The last thing we want is lackadaisical, kind of non-competitive outings.”
Locke gave up 11 runs in 2 2/3 innings the night before.
Ureña didn’t allow a hit until Paul DeJong’s leadoff single in the fifth, which was promptly followed by Greg Garcia’s two-run homer.
“Other than the one changeup he left up to Garcia, just another outstanding outing in an outstanding first half,” Ellis said of Ureña.
But the Marlins struck back in the sixth.
After Dee Gordon doubled and Giancarlo Stanton reached on a throwing error, Yelich took a 3-2 pitch from Lance Lynn and knocked it into the seats in left center for his eighth home run and first since June 2.
“It's been a while. It's been a long time,” Yelich said. “I’ve kind of been grinding through some stuff, trying to get it back. All the opposite-field ones happen on the road. At home, that's one is a little dicey. I don't know if that gets out. I'm glad we were on the road and it was able to sneak out of here.”
Later in the inning, Riddle gave the Marlins some breathing room with a two-out single that scored two more runs.
The bullpen combination of Drew Steckenrider, Kyle Barraclough, David Phelps and A.J. Ramos held the Cardinals scoreless over the final four innings.
“All in all, just nine great innings of pitching from all the guys who took the hill,” Ellis said.