Cardinals’ defense off its game in 3-2 loss to Nationals

All the extra attention paid to the starters' hitting in spring training is paying off, as Shelby Miller got in on the offense Sunday with an RBI double that gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the fifth.

Brad Mills

There’s nothing wrong with splitting a four-game series on the road against a team with an identical record. But after losing 3-2 to the Nationals on Sunday, the St. Louis Cardinals left Washington knowing they likely should have done better.

It wasn’t so much the offense managed only seven hits, though the St. Louis bats went noticeably quiet after the Cardinals banged out a season-high 15 hits in the series opener Thursday. It was more that the defense failed to make two plays it should have made Sunday and both led to Washington runs, including the winner with one out in the ninth.

If the Cardinals were disappointed on their train ride to New York, thinking about their next opponent could have lifted their spirits. They play four games against the Mets, who entered Sunday with the NL’s lowest batting average (.227) and a 4.40 ERA that ranked 13th in the league.

Lefty Tyler Lyons is scheduled to start Monday for St. Louis in place of injured Joe Kelly.

3 UP

— Yadier Molina. Extending his hitting streak to 11 games was impressive. Extending it in the way he did was even more so. In his first at-bat against Stephen Strasburg, Molina fell behind 0-2, then worked the count even and finally took a curveball that broke less than a foot off the ground and poked it to right field, moving Matt Adams to third. Adams scored the game’s first run on Jhonny Peralta’s double-play grounder.

— Pitchers’ production. The extra attention paid to the starters’ hitting in spring training is paying off. Miller got in on the offense Sunday with an RBI double off Strasburg that gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the fifth. On Saturday, it was Lance Lynn helping his cause with a run-scoring double. Neither topped what Adam Wainwright did in the series opener Thursday, when he had two hits and an RBI. For the four-game series, Cardinals starters went 4 for 9 at the plate with three RBIs.

— Veteran relievers. Randy Choate and Pat Neshek both came into the game with two runners on and didn’t allow any damage. Choate rescued Miller with one out in the sixth, and after allowing Zach Walters to reach on Matt Carpenter’s error, got grounders from Denard Span and Bryce Harper to end the inning. Neshek entered with two on and two out in the eighth and struck out Anthony Rendon on three called strikes. Combined, the senior members of the Cardinals’ bullpen have given up three runs in 13 1/3 innings (2.02 ERA).

3 DOWN

— Carpenter. Perhaps the only way his day would have been worse was if the official scorer had charged him with an error on the grounder that went through his legs and keyed the Nationals’ winning rally. It would have been his fourth error of the series.


"That’s a play I’m expected to make," Carpenter said on FOX Sports Midwest’s postgame show. "I didn’t make it. It ended up costing us. There’s no excuse."

His day at the plate was just as rough. Carpenter went 0 for 4 and struck out three times, moving him ahead of Peter Bourjos for the team lead with 18.

— Carlos Martinez. Given a 2-0 lead to protect in the seventh, Martinez allowed four consecutive hard-hit singles with one out that allowed the Nationals to tie the game. Martinez was not helped by Daniel Descalso on one hit that seemed to glance off the second baseman’s glove, but the ball was scorched.

— Jorge Rondon. Sent back to Memphis to make room for Lyons on the roster, Rondon didn’t get to make his big-league debut in his four days in the majors. But as a nice consolation, he was able to spend his weekend in the nation’s capital making major-league money.

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