Cardinals find numerous ways to grind Matheny's gears in loss to Phillies

Cardinals get worked by a rookie pitcher and provide plenty of other reasons to make Mike Matheny's head hurt with their 4-1 loss to the Phillies on Thursday night.

Mike Matheny expected better from Shelby Miller on Thursday night.

Jeff Roberson / AP

ST. LOUIS -- A second straight poor offensive showing and a less-than stellar start from Shelby Miller did not leave Mike Matheny in a very good mood Thursday night.

Though he is not the type to show his emotions or criticize his players, you did not have to look very hard to see he wasn't very happy with his team after a 4-1 loss to the Phillies at Busch Stadium. The loss was the second in a row after the team's first five-game winning streak of the season.

To start with, Matheny pointed out how the Phillies out-executed the Cardinals at situational hitting. They put runners on first and third with less than two outs and were able to score two runs. The Cardinals, on the flip side, had runners on first and third with one out in the second but came up empty. Jhonny Peralta failed to even make contact with one out, while Kolten Wong at least gave the ball a ride with a lineout to short.

"Those situational hitting opportunities can really turn a tide on a club," Matheny said. "We had an opportunity that was missed in the second. They do the exact opposite so it was kind of getting hit on both sides, us not doing it and them doing a nice job of doing little things right."

Matheny wasn't thrilled with the offense overall after the Cardinals managed only four hits off a rookie right-hander, David Buchanan, who barely touched 90 mph with his fastball. Relying on a late-breaking cutter and solid changeup, Buchanan held the Cardinals scoreless until the eighth and gave up only one extra-base hit -- a double by Miller.

"We had good reports, but the stuff in the (batter's) box apparently looked different than what we were watching," Matheny said. "Probably most everybody else was watching. There wasn't a lot of surprises. He had stuff that we couldn't get on tonight."

Matheny saved his harshest words for Miller, who worked 6 2/3 innings and allowed four runs. Miller was late covering first base after a sensational stop by Matt Adams that resulted in an out but also left Phillies third baseman Reid Brignac with a high left ankle sprain. Miller also had to be checked out after sliding into the base just in time to make the play, but he suffered only a cut on his arm.

"You can't let a fantastic play by your first baseman surprise you," Matheny said. "We're seeing a couple of lapses with getting over to first base (Jaime Garcia also was slow once in his most recent start). (In the pitcher's) defense, it's a ball they don't think is going to be fielded, but it's not a good enough defense. We have got to be better at that."

Brignac, who had to leave the game, said when he was being helped back to the dugout that Miller told him the play was his fault.

Matheny also did not sound happy that Miller needed another visit from the trainer in the seventh when he seemed to tweak a leg after throwing a pitch.

"As you see him get tired and you see his mechanics at the end, he was kind of falling all over the place. He does that late in the game," Matheny said. "When your mechanics fall apart like that and your legs are swinging and you're almost falling down after you throw, it should hurt. That's what happened."

Miller was not injured, Matheny said.

3 UP

-- Local guy rakes. Ryan Howard had not played in Busch Stadium since 2011, but the Lafayette High alum picked up where he left off as he continued to bash against his hometown team. Howard drove in the Phillies' first run with a single to right in the third and then essentially put the game away with a two-run, opposite-field homer in the sixth. That makes 18 homers and 57 RBI in 51 games against the Cardinals with a .371 batting average that is his highest against any NL team. In eight games at Busch Stadium, Howard has hit .536 with 10 homers and 28 RBI in 28 at-bats.

"It's always good to be able to come back home and play in front of family and friends," Howard said. "It's a very familiar feeling, so it's always good to be back."

-- Matt Adams. He might have more than a .300 season in his future. How about a Gold Glove as well? The diving stop he made on Brignac's one-hop smash was the latest example of his defense that won't stay underrated much longer, if it still is. Adams showed reflexes that belie a man of his size to snare the shot, then get up and complete the play.

-- Randy Choate. The veteran lefty worked his sixth straight scoreless outing as he whittles away an ERA that climbed to 7.71 when he gave up three runs in a 6-4 loss to the Yankees on May 26. Choate came in with two on in the seventh and struck out Chase Utley with a 74-mph breaking pitch that baffled Utley. He struck out Howard and got another lefty, Domonic Brown, to ground out in the eighth after giving up an infield single to Marlon Byrd.

3 DOWN

-- 2-3-4 hitters. Jon Jay, Matt Holliday and Allen Craig epitomized the Cardinals' absence of offense on this night with an 0 for 4, an 0 for 4 and, yes, another 0 for 4. Jay set the tone for the Cardinals' bad night at the plate when he grounded into a double play after Matt Carpenter was hit by a pitch to lead off the first.

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-- Three-hour games. If you like long games, this has not been your week. The Cardinals have played seven games on this homestand and not one has lasted longer than two hours and 52 minutes. Of course, a two-hour and 48-minute affair like Thursday night's can seem plenty long when the home team scores only one run.

-- Michael Wacha. He won't take his turn in the rotation Sunday, but you have to like the decision. The 22-year-old right-hander isn't pitching poorly by any stretch, but this is his first full season in the marathon known as the major-league season and the Cardinals have said all along they planned to find ways to keep down his innings. At his present rate, he would finish the regular season right at 200 innings, which is probably about 20 more than the club would like. Look for the Cardinals to use the All-Star break to give him extra rest, too.

Resting Wacha also gives Carlos Martinez another shot at starting, and nobody can be disappointed about that. Martinez, who pitched four innings in place of Adam Wainwright on Monday, should be good to go for more than 59 pitches this time.

The move to skip Wacha also explains why the club has kept 13 pitchers on the roster this week.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @StanMcNeal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.