KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Cardinals are headed back to Busch Stadium with their playoff fate still in their hands.
No thanks to Salvador Perez and Franchy Cordero.
The pair of Royals each hit two homers and drove in five runs Wednesday night, and out-of-contention Kansas City got a solid start from Danny Duffy while pummeling playoff-chasing St. Louis 12-3 in their series finale.
The Cardinals (27-26) remain 3 1/2 games back of first-place Chicago in the NL Central after the Cubs lost to Pittsburgh, but their edge for the No. 2 spot in the division was nearly wiped out. The Reds (29-28) beat the Brewers (27-28) in their series finale to close within percentage points of St. Louis headed toward a pivotal final weekend.
“We do have our destiny in our own hands,” said Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, whose team has five games in four days against Milwaukee beginning Thursday night. “We just came off a 13-game, 10-day road trip with a winning record, so we have to feel good about that. And we have our destiny in our hands, and I feel good about it.”
Both of Perez’s homers came off Carlos Martinez (0-3), who departed with a strained lower back with two runners on and nobody out in the sixth. Seth Elledge inherited a 1-0 count against Cordero, who had just returned from a wrist injury, and he crushed his first homer of the year two pitches later to extend the Kansas City lead.
Cordero added a solo shot off Kodi Whitley in the seventh for his second career multi-homer game.
“He put on a show,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “He just took over.”
Duffy (4-4) allowed Dexter Fowler’s single in the fifth inning and loaded the bases in the sixth, but reliever Scott Barlow retired pinch-hitter Brad Miller to preserve a 6-1 lead. The Royals’ bullpen handled the Cardinals the rest of the way to give Kansas City its first rubber-game win in six tries this season.
“I had no idea,” Matheny said. “Once again, we’re thinking of winning every game. But there’s something to be said for winning series. To have the kind of sustained success we want to have, you have to be winning series.”
Cincinnati has three games left against Minnesota, while the weary Cardinals face Milwaukee. If needed to settle who is in the playoffs or home-field advantage, the Cardinals also could have two makeup games against Detroit on Monday.
At least the Cardinals won’t have to face Perez again.
The hot-hitting Royals catcher sent the first pitch he saw from Martinez an estimated 437 feet to center field for a two-run homer. Two innings later, he crushed a 1-0 offering an estimated 435 feet to left for a three-run shot. It was the sixth career multi-homer game for Perez, who is hitting .358 for the season, and the third with five RBIs.
“You know, when a guy displays that elite skill set and elite talent on both sides of the ball, day-in and day-out, it doesn’t surprise you anymore,” Duffy said. “It’s what we’ve come to expect. He does what he does. He’s a pro.”
OF Bubba Starling (back spasms) and RHP Kyle Zimmer (elbow pain) were placed on the injured list. Cordero and LHP Mike Montgomery (lat strain) returned from rehab assignments. RHP Jakob Junis was recalled from the alternate training site and INF/OF Erick Mejia was optioned there. RHP Matt Harvey (lat strain) was transferred to the 45-day IL.
Cardinals RHP Dakota Hudson (flexor tendon) was examined by team medical director Dr. George A. Paletta Jr. and will seek a second opinion. Hudson was 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA when he was shut down for the season.
“I don’t think we’re in a place where we’re going public with (the results),” said Shildt, who declined to say whether surgery will be needed. “Not trying to be coy. There’s just some semantics here from a timing standpoint. He did see Dr. Paletta and all the imaging has been looked at and he’s aware of what’s going on.”
GOMBER GETS BALL
RHP Austin Gomber earned the potentially crucial Sunday start against Milwaukee in the Cardinals’ final scheduled regular-season game. Gomber took Hudson’s place against Kansas City on Tuesday night and pitched six innings of four-hit ball.
Cardinals: LHP Kwang Hyun Kim (2-0, 1.59 ERA) starts against the Brewers on Thursday night at Busch Stadium.
Royals: LHP Kris Bubic (1-6, 3.97) goes Thursday night to open a season-ending four-game set against Detroit at Kauffman Stadium.