McNeal: Things go from bad to worse for Cards in Pittsburgh

BY foxsports • July 30, 2013

ST. LOUIS -- Forget the good news. For the Cardinals on Tuesday, there was only bad news and worse news.

First, the worst: Yadier Molina had to exit with what the club called a right knee sprain. Yes, that's the same knee that sidelined Molina earlier in the month for two games. This time, Molina indicated that he will need more than a couple of days. He told reporters that he is planning to return to St. Louis on Wednesday to be examined.

"I've tried to play through it. It's getting worse," Molina said in postgame comments shown on FOX Sports Midwest. "Smart thing is to take time off and try to fix it. I'm not the guy I want to be on the field."

Molina, who was given the first game off, said his right knee has been less than 100 percent since June and he was hurting when he allowed a passed ball that let in the Pirates' first run in the second inning of the nightcap. He left the game after the third.

By the way, as much as Molina has meant to the Cardinals' success this season, anyone who watched the Pirates sweep the Cardinals at PNC Park saw Andrew McCutchen stake his claim to the NL MVP. From the first inning of the opener, when he scored a run and saved two with a diving catch in center field (and doubled Matt Holliday off first), the guy was everywhere.

Onto the bad news:

After not losing more than three straight all season, the Cardinals have lost six in a row and failed to score more than two runs in a game since they left Busch Stadium. Brandon Cumpton -- if you've never heard of him, you're not the only one -- shut out St. Louis for seven innings on three hits in the second game.

For someone who collected three hits in the doubleheader, Matt Holliday could not have endured a lousier day. He made not one, but two embarrassing misplays in the nightcap. First, he gloved a drive by McCutchen at the left-field wall but it bounced out of his glove and into the seats for a two-run homer. Later, nearing the fence with his back to the field, a drive hit the fence two feet to his right as he was looking left. Oh yeah, with the bases loaded and the score 1-1 in the 10th inning of the first game, he grounded into a rally-killing double play. That was No. 24 for the season, six more than any other player in the majors.

Allen Craig hasn't gotten a hit since the next-to-last game of the Phillies series, his 0-fer up to 23 after a hitless doubleheader Tuesday. He has struck out 10 times and walked twice in the slump. Unlike Carlos Beltran, who hit into bad luck three times while going 0-for-5 in the first game, Craig has looked as lost at the plate as he has since his 3-for-24 showing in the NLCS.

Matt Adams, playing in front of family and friends, went 0 for 7 with four strikeouts. His average has dropped 31 points, to .285, in the past 10 games. His wasn't the only 0-fer for the day. All-Star Matt Carpenter went 0 for 8, Daniel Descalso 0 for 5 and David Freese 0 for 4.  

Holliday wasn't the only one to flub a play in the field. The Cardinals made three errors and allowed three unearned runs, and that's not counting the two that scored on McCutchen's Holliday-assisted homer.

Not all went terribly for the visitors. Lance Lynn turned in his second straight strong start and Tyler Lyons, called up just for this start, worked six solid innings in the second game. The bullpen also produced good outings from just-promoted Michael Blazek, who struck out three in a scoreless inning, and Seth Maness, who got five outs without giving up a run in the opener.

The Cardinals left St. Louis with the majors' best record but, five days later, are down to the fourth best and have dropped to second place, 1 1/2 games behind Pittsburgh in the NL Central. Manager Mike Matheny, a self-proclaimed world-class optimist, tried to put a positive spin on the slide.

"It's an opportunity for us to find out what we're made," he said in a postgame presser. "These are the times that define you. They happen during the season, they're never fun when you go through them, but you see what kind of fight you have."
 
Ace Adam Wainwright will get a chance to show his fortitude when he starts Wednesday against fellow All-Star Jeff Locke, a lefty with a 2.15 ERA and 9-3 record.      

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


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