Fowler’s three-run homer in the fifth inning erased a 2-0 deficit and sent the Cardinals to a 6-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, completing a sweep of the three-game series.
The Phillies tried to mount a comeback of their own in the ninth, scoring twice against Cardinals closer Seung Hwan Oh, but fell a run short as their losing streak reached five games.
Fowler was moved into the second spot in the Cardinals’ batting order four games ago, with Matt Carpenter inserted back into his preferred leadoff spot. The Cardinals are 3-1 with Carpenter hitting first and Fowler second, and the two are a combined 10-of-30 with two homers and seven RBIs in the four games.
“For whatever reason, certain guys like to hit in certain spots,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “I don’t care where guys are as long as guys are on base. We’re just trying to find that good rhythm.
“We needed a big hit and Dex supplied it. We had been pretty much held down. We needed somebody to do something special and Dex did it.”
The Cardinals trailed 2-0 going to the fifth inning and had managed just two hits off Aaron Nola. Kolten Wong led off with a double before a walk put another runner on base. With two outs, Fowler turned on a 3-1 fastball and sent it into the seats in right field for his ninth homer of the year, eight of which have given his team the lead.
“It sure seems like they are big whenever he hits them,” Matheny said. “He’s putting together those kinds of at-bats that haunted us when he was playing against us. Opposing teams see that top of the order rolling around, and that’s kind of what we envisioned as this season began.”
The combination of Carpenter and Fowler has produced 20 home runs this season. The other six regulars in the lineup have combined for 28.
“Dex is a clutch player,” said fellow outfielder Tommy Pham, who had two hits, stole a base, drove in a run and scored twice as the Cardinals added three runs — which it turned out they needed — in the final three innings.
Fowler was not available to speak to the media, leaving the clubhouse before reporters were admitted.
Nola (3-4) thought the problem against Fowler was falling behind in the count and having to challenge him with a fastball or risk walking him and loading the bases.
“I could have got it in (inside) a little farther, but he put a good swing on it and kept it fair,” Nola said. “I just didn’t execute the pitch where I wanted to. I felt comfortable going in, I just didn’t get it in far enough.”
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin did not like the pitch selection.
“He made a mistake and it cost him,” Mackanin said. “In five innings, he had 52 strikes and 41 balls. … Unacceptable — too many pitches. He seemed like he was behind every hitter he faced.”
The Phillies had staked Nola to a 2-0 lead with single runs in the first two innings against Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright (7-4), who kept the Cardinals in the game through the fifth, scattering six hits.
Daniel Nava homered for the Phillies in the seventh, ending a team drought of 173 at-bats without a homer, before they made it close in the ninth only to see the tying run left on second base when the game ended.
“We had a chance to come back and just fell short again,” Mackanin said.
The series sweep by the Cardinals came after they had gone 0-7 on a road trip to Chicago and Cincinnati, which resulted in them reassigning third base coach Chris Maloney to another role in the organization.
“We came limping home, I think that was more than obvious,” Matheny said. “It was different than even some struggles we’ve had in the past. You could feel it. They answered the adversity well.”
NOTES: The Phillies placed 2B Cesar Hernandez on the 10-day disabled list because of a left oblique strain. He was injured making a throw on Friday night. RHP Joaquin Benoit (sprained left knee) was activated from the DL. … C Eric Fryer made his third consecutive start for the Cardinals in place of C Yadier Molina, who is dealing with tightness in his lower back. … The Cardinals said LHP Marco Gonzales will be promoted from Triple-A Memphis to start the second game of a doubleheader on Tuesday night against the Brewers. It will be his first start in the majors since Sept. 1, 2015. … The Cardinals claimed LHP Sean Gilmartin on waivers from the Mets and optioned him to Memphis. … The Phillies open a four-game series in Boston on Monday night. The Cardinals have the day off.