MIAMI (AP) — Nolan Arenado hit a two-run home run in the top of ninth inning and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Miami Marlins 2-0 Wednesday night.
Arenado, who had struck out in his first three at-bats, launched a fastball from Miami reliever Anthony Bender (0-2) over the wall in left-center for his fifth home run. Tyler O’Neill reached on a one-out walk before Arenado’s blast.
“I just put a good swing on that ball, had a tough time today,” Arenado said. “I felt I was locked in and ready to go.”
In addition to overcoming the three strikeouts, Arenado had other reasons to celebrate the shot. Arenado admits he fares poorly when he plays in Miami. And he saluted family and friends in the stands once he touched home plate and headed toward the dugout.
“Every time I come here I never play well, so I was just happy because I finally gave them something to enjoy,” Arenado said.
Genesis Cabrera (1-0) pitched the bottom of the eighth and Giovanny Gallegos worked around a single and walk in the ninth for his third save.
St. Louis has beaten Miami in nine straight games. The Cardinals will try for their third consecutive three-game sweep against the Marlins on Thursday.
“We’re seeing an amazing player right now,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said of Arenado. “Defensively, offensively what he’s doing is impressive. You strike out your first at-bat, your second at-bat, your third at-bat and you’re still mentally locked in to help the team.”
Starters Sandy Alcantara of Miami and Miles Mikolas of St. Louis combined to throw 13 scoreless innings in their outings.
Alcantara pitched eight innings and allowed four hits, with six strikeouts and one walk.
“He was on the attack,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly, who celebrated his 61st birthday Wednesday. “He was really good tonight. It was a shame. You hate to waste one like that.”
Mikolas matched Alcantara through the first five innings before he was lifted after allowing Garrett Cooper’s leadoff single in the sixth. Mikolas scattered four hits, struck out five and hit a batter.
“Overall, I felt good, I had strikeouts when I really needed them,” Mikolas said. “I thought we played great defense. I tried to keep the ball in the ground.”
The Marlins had just one runner reach scoring position until the ninth inning.
“We didn’t have a lot of chances,” Mattingly said. “They kept us off balance.”
Alcantara allowed Tommy Edman’s leadoff single and walked Paul Goldschmidt in the first before retiring Tyler O’Neill, Nolan Arenado and Corey Dickerson to escape the 28-pitch jam.
Marlins: RHP Paul Campbell (right elbow strain) was placed on the 10-day injured list. LHP Daniel Castano was recalled from Triple-A Jacksonville.
Mired in a 1-for-24 slump, Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson didn’t play, and Edman moved into the leadoff spot. Marmol considered it a mental blow for Carlson and he will return to the lineup Thursday.
The retractable roof at loanDepot Park has remained shut through the Marlins’ first six home games this season, but there was a view of the downtown Miami skyline on Wednesday. The windows behind left and center field stayed open throughout the game.
RHP Jordan Hicks (1-0, 0.00) will make his first career start for the Cardinals in the series finale Thursday. After 114 relief appearances during his first three seasons in St. Louis, Hicks initially will have limited innings and pitches as he adapts to his new role. The Marlins will go with RHP Pablo López (1-0, 0.87).
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports