By BERNIE WILSON
AP Sports Writer
SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego Padres manager Bob Melvin was getting nervous about Blake Snell’s pitch count in the seventh inning when Albert Pujols helped the skipper avoid what could have been an unpopular decision.
Snell held St. Louis hitless until Pujols beat the shift for a single with two outs in the seventh and the San Diego Padres beat the NL Central-leading Cardinals 1-0 on Wednesday night.
Snell (8-9) allowed two hits in seven innings on 117 pitches and struck out 13 to tie his career high. The left-hander’s brilliant effort carried the Padres to their fifth straight win and extended the rotation’s scoreless streak to 27 2/3 innings.
“I don’t want to say I’m glad somebody got a hit but I’m not going to let him throw 135 pitches this time of year and that’s probably what it would have taken to get through it,” Melvin said.
“You want a guy to be able to try to get a no-hitter but pitch-count wise he just wasn’t going to be able to make it at that point,” Melvin said. “There was a second hit and now you’ve got first and second and all of a sudden a base hit can tie the game. Look, everybody was pulling for Blake to do great things. I just don’t know that he would have had the pitches to actually do it.”
Snell said he was more excited about hitting 99 mph and wanted to talk to reliever Adrian Morejon, a hard-throwing lefty.
“In the sixth inning I was like, ‘Oh wow I’ve got a no-no going’ but I was so hyped up about 99,” Snell said. “The ball just felt really good tonight. It was just coming out.
“Morejon always talks about how he has all this velo and I finally hit 99 in front of him so I’m pumped,” the lefty said. “I was really pumped about the 99. Really pumped. Whatever happened, that was the highlight.”
Snell, the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner while with Tampa Bay, said this performance “was up there” among his best games. “It was good one. But we’ll continue to try to top it.”
The Padres have shut out the Cardinals in the first two games of the three-game series, keeping Pujols at 698 career homers.
San Diego stayed 1 1/2 games ahead of Philadelphia for the NL’s second wild-card spot.
The left-handed Snell had shut down Pujols and the Cardinals into the seventh, retiring the slugger twice and issuing just two walks. But with the Padres shifting the right-handed Pujols, the 42-year-old slugger drove a ball through the wide-open right side of the infield for an easy hit on a 3-1 pitch, Snell’s 107th of the game.
“He’s a good hitter,” Snell said.
“I thought if I got a quick inning there I might have gotten into the eighth,” he added. “Who knows. It’s just tough; 13 strikeouts, like it’s going to be really tough going nine without throwing like 140, 150 (pitches).”
Juan Yepez followed with a single before Snell struck out Paul DeJong for No. 13.
Josh Hader pitched a perfect ninth for his 34th save.
The Padres took a 1-0 lead when Austin Nola singled in Kim Ha-seong with two outs in the second against Miles Mikolas. Josh Bell was thrown out earlier in the inning trying to score on a grounder to shortstop.
Mikolas (11-13) allowed an unearned run on three hits in six innings, struck out six and walked two.
San Diego’s Juan Soto walked leading off the eighth, becoming the first player since 1906 to walk 500 times before turning 24.
Cardinals RHP Jack Flaherty (0-1, 5.09 ERA) and Padres RHP Joe Musgrove (10-7, 3.16) are scheduled to start in the series finale Thursday afternoon.
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