KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Austin Gomber heard longtime Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright say that his goal before pitching a complete game against Milwaukee last week was to throw no more than 12 pitches in any inning.
Sounded like a good idea to him.
With the same target in mind, the reliever-turned-starter proceeded to throw six innings of four-hit ball in a crucial spot start against Kansas City on Tuesday night. And with Dylan Carlson and the rest of Gomber's offense providing support, the Cardinals rolled to a 5-0 victory that gave them the slightest of cushions in the race for a playoff spot.
"Me not being built up as much as everybody, I was just trying to go as deep as I could," said Gomber, who got the ball in place of injured right-hander Dakota Hudson. "That was my goal, 12 pitches or less. That was just kind of the goal. Get as many outs as I could as quickly as I could."
Gomber (1-1), who dealt with biceps tendinitis throughout last season, wound up striking out three without a walk while blanking an opponent for the 11th time in 13 appearances. He also won for the first time since Sept. 18, 2018, at Atlanta.
The Cardinals, who trail the Chicago Cubs by 3 1/2 games in the NL Central, improved to 27-25 by evening their series with their cross-state rivals. They also built the slightest of cushion in the race for the No. 2 spot in the division after Milwaukee (28-28) eked out a win over Cincinnati (27-27) earlier in the evening.
"We're coming out here looking to win some ballgames," said Carlson, who had two RBI while finishing a homer shy of the cycle -- he hit a ball to the warning track in his final at-bat. "To come through early and get some runs on the board felt good."
Meanwhile, Royals starter Brady Singer watched the 14-inning scoreless streak that he carried into the game go away, along with his command. He walked two in the first inning, then walked the first two batters of the second, when Carlson's double brought them home. Wong made it 3-0 later in the inning.
Singer (3-5) wound up walking five in three-plus innings, throwing just 44 of 81 pitches for strikes.
That led to an ugly ending to the 50th birthday of Royals manager Mike Matheny, who took umbrage with what he thought was the squeezing of his young pitcher by plate umpire Manny Gonzalez. Matheny expressed his displeasure while making a pitching change in the fourth inning and was immediately tossed from the game.
With no fans in the ballpark, Matheny's rising voice could be heard all the way into the upper deck.
"Walked off the field and I basically told him he was squeezing the kid, making it harder for him than he needed," Matheny said. "He asked me who the pitcher was and I told him to figure it out for himself and that's how the whole thing went."
The rookie starter wasn't shy about voicing his displeasure with the plate umpire, either.
"Yeah, I did," Singer said. "Absolutely."
NEGRO LEAGUES SALUTE
The Cardinals wore the gray road uniforms of the 1930 St. Louis Stars and the Royals donned the home cream uniforms of the 1945 Kansas City Monarchs to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues.
The Stars featured such players as "Cool Papa" Bell, John "Mule" Suttles and Willie Wells while Jackie Robinson played for the Monarchs before breaking baseball's color barrier by signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers for the 1947 season.
Hudson, who left his start last week against Pittsburgh with elbow soreness, was shut down for the season when the Cardinals transferred him to the 45-day injured list. The original diagnosis was a "flexor tendon issue," Cardinals president John Mozeliak said, but Hudson is due to see team medical director Dr. George A. Paletta Jr.
"Our doctors have reviewed the MRI but you still want to do the normal consultation," Mozeliak said, when asked whether surgery could be needed. "Until that happens, no decision has been made on next steps."
The Cardinals activated reliever Kodi Whitley, who had been dealing with elbow soreness after a bout with COVID-19, and sent pitcher Junior Fernandez to their alternate training site in corresponding roster moves.
Cardinals RHP Carlos Martinez (0-1, 2.37 ERA) tries to rebound from a rough outing in Pittsburgh, when he allowed five runs but just one earned over 3 2/3 innings, when he faces Royals LHP Danny Duffy (3-4, 5.01 ERA) on Wednesday night.
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