McNeal: Don’t blame Oquendo for Cards’ 3-2 loss to the Mets
Don’t blame third-base coach Jose Oquendo for the Cardinals’ 3-2 loss to the Mets Wednesday night.
Yes, his decision to send home Matt Carpenter backfired on the Cardinals. If Carpenter had stayed at third instead of being thrown out at home, there would have been only one out when Matt Holliday lofted a long fly to right. If Curtis Granderson then makes the catch in foul territory, Carpenter scores easily and the game would have been tied.
But third-base coaches tend to be more aggressive when their team isn’t hitting and the Cardinals’ offense let them down again against lefty Jon Niese and four relievers. In every loss on this 5-5 trip that ends Thursday afternoon, the Cardinals have scored less than three runs. They had 11 hits on a cold, windy night at Citi Field but they could not deliver when it counted most.
They came close to tying the game in the ninth when Jon Jay and Carpenter singled with one out and pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso laced a double to center. The hit looked like it would score both runners but the Mets handled the relay flawlessly and Carpenter was thrown out — barely but definitely as instant-replay confirmed after Mike Matheny’s first challenge of the season.
"It takes a perfect play and it got us," Matheny said on the FOX Sports Midwest Cardinals Live postgame show. "They got the call right."
— Yadier Molina. He’s certainly not struggling at the plate. Molina gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead with an RBI double in the first inning that extended his hitting streak to 14 games. He also singled twice and walked to reach base in all four of his plate appearances, raising his batting average to .367 and his OBP to .398.
— Matt Carpenter. On his 80th at-bat, he got his first double of the season, which means he needs only 54 more to equal last year’s record total. Carpenter had another encouraging first, too, with his first three, then four-hit game of 2014. He also scored his team-leading 15th run and came oh-so-close to his 16th in the ninth.
— Michael Wacha’s strikeouts. He lasted only four innings, his low for a start, but he struck out 10, his high in the majors. If his curveball continues to move like it did on this night, Wacha figures to set another new career-best real soon. David Wright would not disagree. He struck out in the first when Wacha dropped a curve on the ninth pitch of the at-bat. Next time up, Wacha used curveballs to get ahead 0-2 and then K’d Wright with a 95-mph fastball.
— Michael Wacha’s walks. It’s fair to wonder if he was bothered by the wind. One gust was so hard that his hat blew off and had to be retrieved by second baseman Mark Ellis. Whatever, something wasn’t right with Wacha’s command. He walked a career-high five and was lifted after 93 pitches, 54 strikes. Two of the walks came with the bases loaded in the fourth and gave the Mets a 2-1 lead.
— Jhonny Peralta. He made his fifth error by botching a routine throw to first but that didn’t hurt the Cardinals. Another 0-for-4, however, did. Peralta came up in the first and the eighth with runners on second and third, but he was unable to bring in a run either time, as his batting average with runners in scoring position dropped to .056 (1 for 18). Without a hit in any situation over his past 21 at-bats, Peralta’s batting average is down to .151.
— The wind. It didn’t make for ideal playing conditions Wednesday night and more of the same is expected for Thursday afternoon’s series finale with a forecast of 50-degree temperatures and winds of 20-plus mph.
Another reason the Cardinals will be glad to be home after an 11-game, three-city trip: It’s supposed to be 80 degrees in St. Louis on Friday.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.