Cardinals fall flat in first half of I-70 Series
JUN 04, 2014 12:20a ET
ST. LOUIS -- Take some weak hitting, throw in a few lousy starts and add a little bad luck and you are going to have a rough homestand.
Ask the Cardinals. Their 8-7 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night left them with a 2-7 record for their just-completed homestand.
After going 7-2 on their previous homestand, the Cardinals (30-29) were unable to build any momentum against the Yankees, Giants or Royals. They had leads of 4-0 after four innings and 7-6 after seven against the Royals, but didn't hold either.
The Cardinals were in control of the homestand finale until the Royals scored six runs off five extra-base hits off Jaime Garcia. The lefty had allowed only three singles and used only 49 pitches through the first four innings, but his start went south in a hurry with one out in the fifth. Manager Mike Matheny said a depleted bullpen was largely why he stayed with Garcia.
"We've been killing our guys in the pen," Matheny said. "That's why we're having to be careful with some guys. We can't just keep firing them out there. Our starters are going to have to go deeper in the game. That's their job, that's what they want to do. Today it wasn't as much of an option, but I'm still not 100 percent confident we don't try to get him through that. It's just what we do without tearing all these (relievers) down. We have a long ways to go."
Bad luck struck in the eighth when Pat Neshek gave up a run that allowed the Royals to tie the game. He allowed three singles: a grounder up the middle, an infield hit on a pitch that was where he wanted and, finally, a bloop to center just beyond the reach of second baseman Kolten Wong.
"A tough way to give up a run," said Neshek, who had not been scored on since April 9, 22 outings ago. "Even the one hit back at me was within inches of an out, but that's how baseball is. I've had some pretty good games where my teammates made some great plays and that changed the game. I didn't get those tonight."
Closer Trevor Rosenthal took his third loss when he gave up a one-out double to Omar Infante and a run-scoring single to Eric Hosmer in the ninth.
"A tough one, very tough," said Matheny, repeating a refrain he used often on the homestand during which the Cardinals hit .223 and averaged 3.55 runs and their starters combined for a 5.70 ERA.
-- Wong. After being named NL Rookie of the Month for May, he got the team's biggest hit so far in June with a two-out, second-inning grand slam off James Shields. It was his first homer in the big leagues and, Wong said, his first grand slam at any level.
Called back from Memphis on May 16, Wong hit .333 (16 for 48) in his next 13 games to become the first Cardinals player to win Rookie of the Month honors since Brian Barden in April 2009. Wong had an eight-game hitting streak, led NL rookies in batting average for the month and led the Cardinals with a .418 on-base percentage.
-- Sam Freeman. The hard-throwing lefty worked a scoreless seventh inning and struck out Alex Gordon for the first out in the eighth to hold the Cardinals' 7-6 lead and give him five scoreless outings in five appearances since he was called back up last Wednesday.
-- Matt Carpenter. A day after ending a 14-game hitting streak, Carpenter reached base four times with two singles and two walks, raising his batting average to .291 and his on-base percentage to .381.
-- Jaime Garcia. The lefty was looking good in his fourth start through four innings. Then came the fifth. Thirty-eight pitches later, St. Louis' 4-0 lead had turned into a 6-4 deficit. Garcia gave up four extra-base hits in a row with one out, got another out, hit a batter and then served a three-run homer to Gordon. Garcia left with a 5.47 ERA, which detracts from the fact he has yet to walk a batter in 24 2/3 innings.
Garcia didn't seem to know what changed before the fifth. "I wasn't able to execute," he said. "I have to be able to do a better job than that, put away guys. That was unacceptable."
-- Yadier Molina. On the 10th anniversary of his first big-league game, his recent frustrations at the plate continued with his seventh hitless game in his past eight. Molina had only two hits in 22 at-bats on the homestand and his batting average dropped from .330 to .297. His batting helmet took a beating a couple of times in the past week when he slammed it to the ground after hitting the ball hard but right at a defender.
-- Cardinals' All-Star voting. At this rate, Matheny will be traveling without many of his own own players to the July 15 game in Minneapolis. Molina was the only Cardinal to have a lead at his position in the fans' balloting after the second update was announced Tuesday. Of course, fans don't vote for pitchers and a couple Cardinals starters -- Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha -- should make the team.
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