As often as the Cardinals were striking out in a 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night, the Cardinals didn’t need any help from the umpire adding to their K total.
A mistake made on the count when St. Louis center fielder Jon Jay was batting in the seventh inning gave the Cardinals one more strikeout than they should have had.
When the scoreboard said the count was 2-2, Jay backed out of the box because he thought — correctly — that the count should have been 3-2. He questioned umpire Mark Ripperger about the count, but it stayed 2-2.
Jay then took another ball — at which point he should have been awarded first base — but instead the count was 3-2. He fouled off the next pitch before taking strike three to end the inning.
"When it was 3-2, I looked back and asked what the count was because the board said 2-2," Jay said.
Perhaps not wanting to point a finger at the umpire, Jay said he didn’t remember what the umpire told him.
"I was so focused on the at-bat," Jay said. "I knew we needed to get a guy on."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny took responsibility for not catching the ump’s error.
"(Jay) stepped back and asked the umpire what he had and the umpire was going along with the board, which said 2-2," Matheny said. "I didn’t have it (3-2). That’s on me. I missed it."
At the time, the Rays led 2-0 and Rays starter Alex Cobb had gone over 100 pitches for just the third time this season. If Jay gets first base, the Cardinals bring the tying run to the plate in Matt Holliday. Instead, the inning was over and the Cardinals were six outs from their third consecutive loss.
If Jay had argued longer or if someone in the dugout had noticed the 2-2 count should have been 3-2, Matheny could have asked for a replay. But once the next pitch was made, it was too late.
The strikeout was Cobb’s 10th of the night and the Rays bullpen would strike out five more, including the side in the ninth, as the Cardinals finished with 13-plus strikeouts for the second game in a row. Add 10 strikeouts against the Dodgers on Sunday night and the Cardinals have reached double-digit K’s in three consecutive games — for the first time in this offensively challenged season.
Featuring a nasty split-fingered fastball and a fastball that touched 94 mph, Cobb allowed five hits and did not walk a batter.
"He dominated us," Jay said.
Matt Carpenter and Oscar Taveras were the only Cardinals starters who did not strike out at least once and both also had a hit.
The Cardinals, shut out for the 10th time, still had struck out less than any team in the NL entering the game.
— Lance Lynn. He didn’t get a fourth win in a row but he did record his fourth consecutive quality start with a 6 1/3-inning outing in which he gave up two runs, one earned, while striking out seven. Lynn seemed to be in trouble much of the night but, in a sign of his maturing as a pitcher, was able to avoid giving up a big inning.
His biggest mistake was giving up a double to Cobb that scored Yunel Escobar from second for the Rays’ first run. "A ball at his neck that he shot down the right-field line," Lynn said. "I was trying to get him to chase a ball up and he poked the ball down the right-field line."
Still, Escobar might not have scored if he had not taken second on a wild pitch after he had reached on an infield single.
— Seth Maness. Entering with the bases loaded and only one out in the sixth, Maness didn’t induce his trademark — a double play — but he allowed only one inherited runner to score, keeping the Cardinals within two runs. Maness also worked a three-up, three-down seventh in what would be his fourth outing in a row without giving up a hit or being charged with a run.
— Shelby Miller. He’s rested and ready to return to the rotation and will do just that on Saturday at Wrigley Field. Miller made a one-inning appearance in his stint in the bullpen as Matheny said several times that the main reason for lifting the right-hander from the rotation was to make sure he’s rested for the stretch. Miller has worked 110 innings, with a 4.25 ERA and 7-8 record. This will be the first start of his young career at Wrigley Field.
— Sam Freeman. With his command lacking, the lefty reliever struggled for the second consecutive outing. He entered in the ninth with the Cardinals down 2-0 and gave up a run on two singles and a walk before recording an out. This outing came on the same day the Cardinals demoted another lefty reliever, Nick Greenwood, to make room on the roster for Kevin Siegrist’s return.
— Kolten Wong. It was a tough night in the field and at the plate for the rookie second baseman, who struck out three times and made an error that led to the Rays’ second run. With a runner on first in the seventh, Wong seemed to be thinking about turning a double play before he secured a routine grounder in his glove. Instead of a double play that would have ended the inning, the Rays had two on with one out and would score without getting another hit in the inning.
— Carlos Martinez. After making seven starts (4.45 ERA, 32 1/3 innings), Martinez is returning to the bullpen to open a spot for Miller. For how long, Matheny didn’t say. The Cardinals won’t need a fifth starter until next weekend. Matheny said Wednesday was that Martinez isn’t guaranteed to take that start and that the club could go with someone from the minors. It’s worth nothing that start will come after the trade deadline.