Cubs try to give a game away but Cards refuse to take it

Allen Craig remains stuck in his early-season funk after going 0 for 3 Friday night against Chicago. 

Scott Rovak/Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS — It’s good that the Cardinals don’t have to wait long to play again.

They’ll want to forget Friday night’s 6-3 loss to the Cubs at Busch Stadium as quickly as possible. It was that wrenching.

The Cubs tried to give the game to the Cardinals when their closer, Jose Veras, blew a 3-1 lead in the ninth even though he allowed only one hit. But he also walked one, hit two batters and left the potential winning run on third base.

It appeared that Cubs reliever Justin Grimm would not fare much better in the 10th. He walked Matt Holliday and Matt Adams to start the inning before he retired the next two. Then, with the potential winning run on second, Mike Matheny decided to let closer Trevor Rosenthal bat instead of sending up a pinch-hitter. Rosenthal struck out looking.

The decision backfired further when Wellington Castillo tagged Rosenthal with a two-out, three-run homer in the 11th. Rosenthal said he tried to elevate a fastball past Castillo but did not get the 95-mph offering high enough.

"Trevor just had six pitches (in the 10th) and had a real good feel he’s going to be able to bring this right back in with another zero (in the 11th)," Matheny said. "If we get there with less than two outs, Pete (Kozma)’s going to hit. But with two outs, we made our decision to turn (Rosenthal) back in and hopefully give our offense another shot."

3 UP


— Joe Kelly. Anyone who thought he shouldn’t be in the rotation might want to re-think the matter after his first two starts. With his fastball again reaching 97 mph, Kelly turned in a strong outing by working six innings and not allowing an earned run. His ERA after two starts is 0.79. In the first five innings, he gave up just two singles and, thanks to double plays following each, faced the minimum. He was lifted in the seventh after 87 pitches when the first three Cubs reached, one via an error, and he ended up being charged with an unearned run.

— Yadier Molina versus the Cubs. With an RBI single in the second, the Cardinals’ catcher picked up about where he left off last year against the Cubs and Jeff Samardzija. Molina hit .460 against Chicago last year with 16 RBIs, the most of any player. No one hits Samardzija better than Molina, either, now 10 for 20 after a 1 for 3 on Friday.

— Matt Carpenter’s patience. And on his 44th plate appearance of the season, the Cardinals’ leadoff hitter finally offered at the first pitch of an at-bat. The result was anticlimactic: He fouled it back. He still ended up walking with one out in the eighth, but the Cardinals were unable to get him around. Showing the same grind-it-out approach that he used in his breakout 2013, Carpenter entered the game ranked fourth in the NL in pitches per plate appearance (4.50). Whatever he’s doing is working; Carpenter has reached base in every game and his OBP is up to .435 after a single and two walks in five plate appearances.

3 DOWN

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— Cardinals’ defense. Kolten Wong’s error led to the Cubs’ first run in the seventh and Matt Holliday’s decision to attempt a sliding catch resulted in another run for Chicago in the eighth. With a shift on for lefty slugger Anthony Rizzo, Wong was positioned perfectly when a hard shot came right at him, but he did not handle it to put Rizzo on. The Cubs followed with two singles off Kelly to tie the game. In the next inning, Holliday came up a foot or so short trying to catch Nate Schierholtz’s soft liner in fairly shallow left field and the ball slipped past enough to allow Mike Olt to score all the way from from first.

— Allen Craig’s place in the batting order. The struggling slugger was back in the lineup after being given a day off Wednesday, but he wasn’t in his usual cleanup spot. Matheny dropped Craig to sixth, a spot he had not batted from since 2011, and moved Matt Adams into the cleanup spot. Matheny was hoping to take pressure off Craig as well as put a hotter hitter in the middle of the order. The switch didn’t help Craig, who remained stuck on three hits for the season (in 34 at-bats, .088), but it paid off for the Cardinals. Adams doubled and scored in the second and singled in the sixth to lift his team-leading average to .378.

— Jhonny Peralta. Craig isn’t the only slumping Cardinals hitter. Their new shortstop hasn’t had a hit since last Saturday, extending his 0-fer to 14 and dropping his average to .063. Peralta has one fewer hit than Craig on the season, but both of Peralta’s hits were home runs. At least Peralta has reached base a few times, with three walks this week.

Matheny continues to show his faith in the veterans. "They’re guys that have shown they can do it at this level and they will do it," he said before the game. "It’s a matter of when. They’re just trying to get that good consistent feel at the plate that they can repeat."

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