Kansas City, Mo. While Colby Rasmus and Skip Schumaker came through with home runs, Blake Hawksworth came through when the Cardinals needed him.
Thrust into an unfamiliar role as emergency starter, Hawksworth pitched five-plus authoritative innings on a sweltering Saturday afternoon and led St. Louis to a 5-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals. The right-hander gave up only two runs — one earned — and two hits.
“Hawksworth was so good. That was exciting to watch,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “He started to get the ball up. But five-plus, man, he was really good.”
Normally a reliever, Hawksworth (2-4) made his only other start at the Dodgers on June 6 when he lasted four innings and gave up six runs.
“I felt after the start in L.A., that was just a tough game and I think it left a bad taste in my mouth,” Hawksworth said. “But having that out of the way now, it wasn’t as big a deal getting to start here. Obviously, it’s different from what I’ve been doing, but I think it took some of the bigger nerves away.”
The big crowd, a second straight sellout for the always-spirited I-70 series, was also into the United States-Ghana game at the World Cup. The match was shown on televisions throughout Kauffman Stadium and when the U.S. lined up for the tying penalty kick, the crowd chanted “USA! USA!” A few minutes later when the scoreboard in center field flashed the play, both Cardinals and Royals fans cheered as one.
Even La Russa got caught up in the soccer game, which the U.S. eventually lost, 2-1, in overtime.
“I was trying to concentrate (on the ballgame) but it was hard when we scored,” La Russa said. “I know the fans were into it. Then we didn’t hear much more, so that’s not good.”
Rasmus hit a 1-0 pitch for a three-run homer off Kyle Davies (4-6) in the fourth after Nick Stavinoha opened the inning by reaching on the pitcher’s error. With one out, Matt Holliday singled ahead of Rasmus’ shot.
The Cardinals went up, 5-0, in the fifth on Schumaker’s two-run shot off Davies, the second homer of the year for the leadoff hitter.
One homer came on a good pitch and one on a bad one, Davies said.
“The one to Rasmus, the ball was down,” he said. “The ball was probably below his knee. I’m trying to get a double play and he was able to golf it out. He was able to hit a pretty good pitch.
“The next home run, the changeup was a bad pitch that was left out over the plate. That’s what major league hitters are supposed to do with it.”
Ryan Franklin got four outs for his 15th save in 16 opportunities. Cardinals reliever Jason Motte left the game in the seventh with a cramp in his right calf and is day to day. He appeared irritated when La Russa took him out.
“He said, ‘I’m all right, I’m all right,”’ La Russa recalled. “So I reminded him who’s got the office and who’s got the locker. It works almost every time.”
Jose Guillen’s RBI single made it 5-3 in the eighth and extended his career-best hitting streak to 20 games, the longest by a Royals player since Rey Sanchez’s 21-game run in 2001.
But the Royals have not hit a home run in more than a week.
“We’ve put together some hits, but as far as extra-base hits of doubles, triples and homers we’re not hitting a lot of them,” manager Ned Yost said. “One thing we do have in our favor is we do put together good at-bats and we find ways to score runs, just amassing hits. But it’s a lot easier to score three runs with a home run with one hit and an error than put five or six hits together to score three runs.”
David DeJesus drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single in the Kansas City sixth. Motte relieved and on his first pitch, Billy Butler hit his major league-leading 20th double-play grounder.
Davies went seven innings as the Royals fell to 1-11 in Saturday games. He gave up five runs, four earned, and six hits. In four June starts, the right-hander is 0-3 with an 8.64 earned-run average.
“For the most part, the ball was down,” he said. “I thought I threw the ball pretty good outside of two home runs.”
Notes: Holliday was returned to the No. 4 spot in the batting order after spending a couple of weeks at No. 2. ... It was hard to tell which was loudest, the boos or the cheers, when the scoreboard showed a replay of the famous Don Denkinger missed call at first base in the sixth game of the 1985 Cardinals-Royals World Series. ... Royals catcher Jason Kendall was given the day off on his 36th birthday. ... Scott Podsednik made a terrific catch of Holliday’s sinking line drive into left field in the second inning. ... The Cardinals are 28-5 when scoring first.