KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Matt Holliday took a step toward first, then said a few words to make sure the home-plate umpire knew he didn’t agree with the third strike call before heading back to the dugout for a final time at Kauffman Stadium on Friday night.
Holliday might have had a point, but it was that kind of game for the Cardinals in their series opener against Kansas City, the top team in the American League — and, after Friday, the top team in Major League Baseball. First baseman Matt Adams followed Holliday’s strikeout with a groundout to first, leaving two more runners in scoring position to end a frustrating 5-0 loss.
"That’s not a game we should be shut out of and that’s what’s frustrating for them, too," Matheny said. "They had pitches they wanted to do something with and just couldn’t. You’re going to have those nights, but this guy’s been doing that."
In fact, the Cardinals’ six hits in six innings were the most Royals starter Chris Young has given up this season, which includes four starts. He’s earned wins in all of them and opponents have scored only once against the soft-throwing, 6-foot-10 right-hander.
Extra-base hits have been especially hard to find and St. Louis got only singles off Young to go along with two walks. The Royals, on the other hand, got all five runs on two home runs, both by designated hitter Kendrys Morales.
The Cardinals left runners on second base in each of the first three innings, and second baseman Kolten Wong got all the way to third before Adams struck out on a check swing to end the fifth. St. Louis ended the night 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position and left 13 men stranded.
Kansas City’s defense robbed St. Louis of runs in the eighth, when the Cardinals left the bases loaded after great diving stops by shortstop Alcides Escobar and second baseman Omar Infante to get forceouts at second base. Prior to Friday’s game, the Royals led MLB with 38 defensive runs saved according to FanGraphs, 14 more than any other team.
"They’ve shown that all year," said third baseman Matt Carpenter, who reached base in four of his five appearances and hit his 17th double with one out in the ninth inning. "They showed that last year, in the infield and in the outfield. You can’t get discouraged. You’ve just got to keep having good at-bats."
Scoring has been especially difficult lately against Kansas City, which has given up only one run in its last four games. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have failed to score against three of the last five starting pitchers they’ve faced, although they tagged the other two for a combined 17 runs.
Matheny still liked the approach he saw from his hitters at the plate, even though none other than Carpenter could figure out how to make solid contact against Young. The Cardinals hit eight pop-ups that were caught by infielders against the 35-year-old, and another two that barely made it deep enough for outfielders to come in and make the play.
"He’s dang near 7-foot tall and comes from a weird angle," Carpenter said. "That all plays a role. Just a different look. Something we hadn’t faced any this year."
Other than possibly during Kansas City’s return trip to St. Louis in June or — just maybe — in the World Series, it’s something they won’t have to face again.
Lynn bothered by tightness
Lower back tightness bothered Lance Lynn through six innings that were marred by two pitches to the Royals’ big designated hitter.
The tough right-hander said the discomfort began in his bullpen session prior to the game, and it took just seven pitches for Matheny to join the Cardinals’ trainer in a visit to the mound. Matheny said Lynn looked like he was holding back and didn’t have his normal velocity, but he insisted he felt fine.
"There’s going to be games where you don’t feel good and you have to just go out there and see what you can do," Lynn said. "The only time I’m coming out of the game is if I can’t walk off."
Morales hit his first home run in the first inning on a fastball Lynn said he put right where he wanted it, but a mistake in the third resulted in Morales’ two-run blast. Nonetheless, Lynn survived through the sixth, despite matching a season high by allowing 10 hits.
Matheny believes Lynn should be fine for his next scheduled start Wednesday against Arizona, and he’s hopeful doctors will be able to solve the lower back issue. It’s something he’s dealt with before, and more evaluation could be necessary.
"He said it wasn’t while he was pitching," Matheny said. "He just felt it when he was doing everything else."