After ending the pre-All Star break of their schedule with a rush to close six games over .500, the Cardinals have jammed it in reverse. They finished a disastrous 1-5 trip to division rivals Cincinnati and Milwaukee, with every loss seeming much the same. They are only two over .500 with 70 games to play.
Wednesday, they left the bases loaded in the ninth when first baseman Lance Berkman, who might have wished he had gone on a rehabilitation assignment after all, flied to deep left. Berkman, though he has managed three walks, is 0-for-9 with four strikeouts since being activated from the disabled list after he had missed nearly two months because of right knee surgery.
Additionally, Berkman left the bag to retrieve an off-line throw from shortstop Rafael Furcal, who committed two errors in the inning, and added to the error total when he lost his balance after trying to swipe-tag Milwaukee center fielder Carlos Gomez. The ball flipped out of Berkman’s glove as two runners scored.
Earlier in the inning, Brewers first baseman Corey Hart had been allowed to take second after his single when Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay unwisely threw to third. Hart wound up scoring what proved to be the winning run on Berkman’s error.
“We’ve been defending very well, but a couple of odd plays ended up hurting,” said manager Mike Matheny.
The Cardinals, with right-hander Adam Wainwright the latest victim, wasted a string of six straight games in which their starter allowed two runs or fewer in the first six innings. Wainwright fanned nine and walked no one in seven innings against the Brewers but wound up with his 10th loss overall and second on the trip.
The problem was that the Cardinals scored either two or three runs in every game but never more than that. They suffered their five losses by a total of seven runs to drop to 15-25 in games decided by one or two runs.
They continued their awful run of hitting with men in scoring position, going 0-for-6 on Wednesday, extending the futility to 8-for-51. The Cardinals’ lone runs in the finale of the trip scored on solo homers by third baseman David Freese and right fielder Allen Craig, each of whom hit his 14th. Freese’s was his first in nearly five weeks.
The Cardinals rallied in almost every game on the trip, but they fell short in almost every game, too.
Matheny said, “The bottom line is we’re not content with just fighting back.”
Wainwright said it was time to change that bottom line.
“We haven’t played our game yet,” he said. “We have not played Cardinal baseball like we can.
“We need to crank it up sooner or later and get some urgency in here and play like it’s the last inning we’re going to play, because sooner or later, it will be.”
— Besides the three errors charged to the Cardinals in the first inning on Wednesday, they also threw to the wrong base from the field and RHP Adam Wainwright, who was victimized by the defensive pratfalls, also thought he should have had the first two batted balls of the game, both hit up the middle by the Brewers. Of the Cardinals’ defensive lapses, highlighting the club’s woes in general, Wainwright said, “I wouldn’t call it reason for concern. I would call it reason for a wakeup call. We can’t live on last year. We can’t live on the postseason. We can’t live on anything else but the moment that we’re in.” Over seven innings, Wainwright struck out nine, including five in a row in the second and third innings.
— RHP Trevor Rosenthal, deemed to be the 2,000th player to wear a Cardinals uniform, pitched out of a bases-loaded scrape in the eighth inning in his major league debut. Rosenthal, topping off at 100 miles an hour, canceled two walks with two strikeouts. “It’s one of those moments you always dream about and definitely never forget,” said the 22-year-old Rosenthal, a Class AA call-up.
— LF Matt Holliday didn’t start because of a bruised left leg sustained when he was hit by a pitch in the first inning of Tuesday’s game. Holliday did appear but struck out as a pinch hitter in the ninth.
— 3B David Freese hit his first homer since June 14 but reached base 10 times in 13 plate appearances in the series, drawing five walks to go with his five hits.
— CF Jon Jay, who has been skidding, returned to the starting lineup after missing two starts, but he fanned three times and made a poor throw from the outfield.
BY THE NUMBERS:15— Runs scored by the Cardinals on their six-game road trip. They were broken down into three games of three runs and three of two.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I’m not disappointed in what’s going on. The effort is still there. It’s just that the results aren’t there.” — Manager Mike Matheny, putting a brave face on a 1-5 trip.