SAN DIEGO – Outfielder Matt Holliday wasn’t afraid to say it. He’s concerned.
Despite still clinging to the second wild card spot in the National League, Holliday and the Cardinals have lost 11 out of their last 15 games and were swept during a three-game series in San Diego with a 3-2 loss Wednesday afternoon.
Speaking in a quiet visitors clubhouse after the Cardinals lost despite having the tying run on second base with no outs in the ninth inning, Holliday tried to look for positives in what is quickly becoming a disastrous situation.
“The good news is we’re still right there,” Holliday said. “If we get back to playing well and playing how we can, we’re still right where we want to be. But there is concern obviously with how we’re playing.”
Stocked with All-Stars and veterans all over the field, the defending World Series Champions continue to find themselves searching for answers for their prolonged stretches of inconsistent and poor play.
And Wednesday was another rough one.
The Cardinals received another quality start from Kyle Lohse but as they have numerous times this season with him on the mound, they failed to take advantage of it.
Outfielder Matt Carpenter’s misplay in right field allowed the Padres to take a 2-0 lead in the fifth before he made up for it with a two-run homer in the top of the sixth inning that evened the score at 2.
But the Padres retook the lead in the bottom of the sixth on a two-out single from catcher Yasmani Grandal, which proved to be the winning run because of some questionable decisions in the ninth inning.
After an Allen Craig double to start the ninth inning but the tying run at second base with no outs, manager Mike Matheny watched as catcher Yadier Molina decided on his own to drop down a sacrifice bunt that advanced pinch-runner Adron Chambers to third base with one out.
Some probably would have rather seen Molina – arguably one of the best clutch hitters in baseball – swing the bat in that situation. His manager was not one of them.
“That’s what he did on his own, he’s got that freedom,” Matheny said.
“We’re in a great spot right there. These guys know, especially off the pitcher and the stuff he has, obviously a good slider that Gregerson has and sometimes it’s a pitch that’s easy to roll over like we saw. Rather than taking a chance, get us in a situation where a fly ball will score him. That’s smart baseball.”
Molina challenged a reporters question about the thought process in deciding to drop down the bunt, asking, “Why? What is your opinion?
“I was just trying to get the guy over there,” Molina explained. “I mean you need to trust your teammates. It’s not yourself. I did my part. … That’s my job. That’s a closer. Anybody who is a closer is tough to hit. I mean my job was to try and move him over and that’s what I did.”
Third baseman David Freese grounded out to third on the next pitch, forcing Chambers to stay at third base. After a walk to pinch-hitter Carlos Beltran, Skip Schumaker grounded out to first base to end the game and strand the tying run on base.
Lohse allowed two earned runs in six innings and struck out eight, taking just his third loss of the year. It’s the tenth time this season he’s either taken a loss or no decision despite allowing two earned runs or less.
The Cardinals are 4-11 since August 27 and have lost six of their last seven games. With the Dodgers and Pirates both scuffling, the Cardinals could have opened up a sizable lead for the second wild card spot. Instead, they let both Milwaukee and Philadelphia back into the race. Both won Wednesday and are just three games back.
“We’ve got to pick it up,” Lohse said. “We can’t depend on the other teams to keep losing. We’ve got to take care of our own business.
We’ve got a big series coming up and I wish I was a pat of it but I’m not and I’m just going to be there to help the guys any way I can. We just really have to pick it up, that’s the bottom line.”
The Cardinals open a four-game series in Los Angeles against the Dodgers on Thursday. Lance Lynn will move back into the rotation and start for Jake Westbrook, who is out with an oblique injury.
With just 19 games left, the Cardinals still find themselves right in the mix. But they may not much longer if they don’t turn it around. And fast.
“We’re going through a rough stretch but at the same time, we’re still in the hunt,” Carpenter said. “There are a lot of teams that aren’t at this point in the season. To still be in it is a good thing.”
Added Molina, “We’re right there. It’s just going to take one pitch, one swing to get back on track and hopefully tomorrow we get that.”
The Cardinals are 9-20 on the road since June 27 and have lost seven of their past nine series away from Busch Stadium. This weekend’s four-game set in Los Angeles would be a perfect time to turn things around.