ST. LOUIS (AP) — Carlos Beltran looked pretty good all weekend. The rest of the St. Louis Cardinals’ hitters probably need their upcoming day off.
St. Louis left the bases loaded in the eighth on Sunday and closer Jason Motte yielded Jason Kipnis’ tiebreaking three-run homer in the ninth, sending the Cardinals to a 4-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
“We had opportunities, especially right there in the eighth,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We had a situation we wanted, the guys up there we wanted.
“Sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t.”
Beltran homered for the second straight day to increase his National League-leading total to 18, and Joe Kelly allowed one run in five-plus innings in his major league debut. St. Louis is the only major league team that has not won a series over the Indians, who are 14-6 overall and 8-4 on the road against the Cardinals.
Beltran was 6 for 11 in the series, and is batting .290 with 46 RBIs.
“Like I say, when I’m healthy I’m capable of doing a lot of good things in this game,” Beltran said.
But Rafael Furcal was 0 for 11 in the series, Allen Craig was 1 for 11 and David Freese went 2 for 11. The Cardinals totaled five walks against 21 strikeouts.
Yadier Molina, who entered the game batting .357 with runners in scoring position, grounded out with a man on second to end the sixth and struck out with the bases loaded for the second out of the eighth. Craig then struck out to end the inning.
“Would I like to see us more consistent? There’s no question,” Matheny said. “Guys are grinding, they’re fighting, and I’m going to continue to stay optimistic because that’s what I believe.
“It’s not some facade, I think it’s only a matter of time before we take off and I think those guys believe it, too.”
Cleanup man Matt Holliday, who missed his second straight start with mid-back spasms, could return Tuesday against the White Sox.
“We’re hopeful for Tuesday, especially with us carrying 13 pitchers,” Matheny said. “We’re in a spot if he’s not.”
Michael Brantley extended his hitting streak to 18 games and Ubaldo Jimenez had a season-best seven strikeouts in seven strong innings for Cleveland.
The Indians had scored just one run in 19 innings before the ninth, when pinch-hitter Johnny Damon hit a leadoff single and Asdrubal Cabrera walked with one out. Kipnis hit his 10th homer on a 2-2 pitch from Motte (3-3).
The Indians won despite going just 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position and 2 for 18 with men on base.
Chris Perez, who once competed with Motte for the St. Louis closer spot, finished for his 20th save in 21 chances. He has saved 20 in a row since opening day.
Jimenez had his first walk-free game of the season against a team counseled to be patient at the plate, after coming in with 43 walks in 62 2-3 innings. The right-hander has walked just one in his last two starts covering 13 2-3 innings and faced just three three-ball counts against the Cardinals. The first came in the first inning against Beltran, who belted a 3-1 pitch an estimated 428 feet to right-center.
Vinnie Pestano (3-0) walked three straight batters with one out in the eighth but managed to wriggle out of the jam.
Jimenez retired 13 in a row after the Beltran homer, including five strikeouts in a span of eight at-bats, before Daniel Descalso singled with two outs in the fifth. Jimenez then struck out Adron Chambers.
Kelly, who replaced the injured Jaime Garcia in the rotation, left to a standing ovation after Brantley singled to start the sixth and keep his hit streak alive. Kelly allowed seven hits, struck out four and walked one.
“Now that I have the first one out of the way, mentally I’m ready to keep going, ready to keep pitching,” said Kelly, who turned 24 on Saturday. “I just try to let the defense do the work, don’t try to strike everyone out.”
Brantley is batting .357 (25 for 70) during his hit streak, the longest current run in the majors and two shy of the season’s longest by Adam Jones of Baltimore that ended May 30. Brantley can match his career best, set in 2010, at Cincinnati on Tuesday.
NOTES: Cardinals utilityman Matt Carpenter (right side) is on track to begin a rehab assignment in a few days. … Longtime Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan’s family had an impromptu reunion and watched Shelley Duncan start in LF for Cleveland and get two hits. … Matheny and former manager Tony La Russa both have charity golf events Monday. … Cabrera singled in the first and has hit in 12 straight. … Jimenez made his plate appearances and struck out three times, leaving him with a .116 average (31 for 268) with 89 strikeouts. … Pestano, who entered with two walks in 23 2-3 innings, had his 10th consecutive scoreless outing covering 10 innings.