Blowing 3-0 and 6-5 leads to a last-place team that had lost seven of its past eight games was not how the Cardinals needed to start a road trip.
But that's how they did when they suffered a frustrating 7-6 loss to the Chicago Cubs Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. The setback gave the Cardinals their first four-game losing streak of the season and dropped them to 5-5 against the Cubs.
The Cardinals missed an opportunity to tie the game in the eighth after pinch-hitter Kolten Wong singled and stole second with no outs. But he ran into an out when he broke for third on Tony Cruz's grounder to short, although Wong stayed in a rundown long enough for Cruz to reach second. It didn't matter. Pinch-hitter Peter Bourjos popped up to the catcher for the second out and Matt Carpenter struck out to end the inning.
-- Oscar Taveras. He has been making the most of his still limited opportunities this week. Called on to pinch-hit against lefty Wesley Wright with a runner on second and two outs in the fifth, Taveras singled in the go-ahead run. Instead of trying to pull an outside fastball, Taveras went with the pitch and drilled a grounder just to the right of shortstop Starlin Castro, who had shifted almost behind second base. The hit was Taveras' third in his past five at-bats.
-- Matt Carpenter. He struck out with the tying run on third in the eighth but without his work in his first three at-bats, the Cardinals likely would not have been that close. Carpenter homered, singled and scored and singled in his first three times up. He also saw 24 pitches in his five plate appearances.
-- Matt Holliday. He homered for the third time since the break and the fourth time this month after hitting only five homers in the first three months of the season. Like Carpenter, Holliday also singled and scored in the Cardinals' three-run first and he added a third hit with a one-out single in the ninth.
-- Joe Kelly. Handed a 3-0 lead in the top of the first, he gave it back in the second, fell behind in the third and didn't make it through the fifth. His command was the issue. Kelly walked Luis Valbuena twice and he scored twice, both times on hits by Ryan Sweeney. A .214 hitter coming in, Sweeney hit a three-run homer in the second -- his second of the season -- and added an RBI single in the third. With Sweeney coming up with two outs in the fifth, Kelly was lifted at 95 pitches and the score 5-5.
-- Mike Matheny. His decision to send out lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist for a second inning in his first outing since returning from the disabled list did not work out. After a solid sixth inning, Siegrist hit Anthony Rizzo to lead off the seventh, struck out Starlin Castro when Castro swung at a pitch way out of the zone and then left up a fastball that Valbuena knocked into the center-field seats for a two-run, game-winning homer. The blast came on Siegrist's 24th pitch, a 92 mph fastball. Siegrist typically throws his fastball in the 97 mph range but topped out at 94 mph in his first outing in two months.
"The right guy but just couldn't get it done," said Matheny on the FOX Sports Midwest postgame show. He added that the matchups favored Siegrist and he was prepared for a multiple-inning outing following his minor-league rehab assignment.
-- Allen Craig. He got the start against lefty Travis Wood, the pitcher Craig has faced more than any other in the majors (9 for 28), but he didn't do much with it. Craig struck out looking in his first two at-bats, and while both strike threes were borderline, at least once Craig did not need to be down in the count. He fouled back a pitch right down the middle and two pitches later, was called out on strikes. Craig also hit a warning track fly to left and walked before he was lifted for pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso in the ninth. Craig is 2 for 12 with three walks since the All-Star break.