In the 13 games Matt Adams missed with a left calf injury, it was not insignificant that the Cardinals were 5-8. That they won that many games is largely because they pitched four shutouts in that stretch.
Adams, who had 17 homers as a part-time player last year, hadn’t been doing that this year, hitting only three homers before he got hurt. But he was batting .325 and, without him in the lineup, the Cardinals scored three runs or fewer seven times in those 13 games.

Now the Cardinals have Adams back. And they have his power back, too, although that mostly has been their offense the last two nights.

Adams, who homered to win Friday’s game, 1-0, popped his second homer in two nights to snap a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning and then the Washington bullpen, relieving Stephen Strasburg, helped hand the Cardinals two more runs in the inning as they went on to a 4-1 win over the Nationals at Busch Stadium.

How much had the Cardinals missed Adams? “If he was hitting two homers every couple of days, we’d say, ‘Immensely,’’’ said manager Mike Matheny.

“He was up among the league leaders (in average). The guys who were filling in were doing a nice job but we like Matt in our lineup.”

The victory was the Cardinals’ fourth in six games with Washington this year and, with just Sunday’s game remaining between the two teams, the Cardinals have clinched the season series.

It’s a long way off but what that means is that with both teams likely to be contending for postseason berths, the Cardinals would have the tiebreaker edge over the Nationals on any home-field advantage or for a possible wild-card berth if the teams wind up with the same records, which they virtually have now.

Adams, leading off the seventh, worked Strasburg to a 3-1 count and then drove his fifth homer into the Cardinals’ bullpen in right center.

After the next two men went out, Jon Jay, a .364 batter as a pinch hitter this season, singled off the glove of diving first baseman Adam LaRoche. Then it all came apart for the Nationals’ bullpen, best in earned run average in the National League.