Right fielder Carlos Beltran smacked his National League-leading 18th homer. And right-hander Joe Kelly, making his major league debut, held Cleveland to one run in five innings on Sunday.
But the Cardinals bullpen, in the form of righty Jason Motte, who gave up a three-run homer to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis in the ninth inning, suffered its 11th loss in 15 decisions as Cleveland won, 4-1. The Cardinals have won just one of their last five series and have dropped eight of 12 games overall.
“It’s a little bit of everything right now,” Beltran said. “We’ve been battling injuries and things like that, but at the same time, we just need to find a way to play better. There’s no excuses.”
The Cardinals had only one hit with a man in scoring position in the series, a two-run pinch single by Matt Adams on Friday. But with the bases loaded on walks with one out in the eighth and the game tied at 1-1 Sunday, the Cardinals had two of their hottest hitters at the plate in catcher Yadier Molina and left fielder Allen Craig. Both struck out.
“We had the guys up there we wanted,” said manager Mike Matheny. “Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. But they’ve been very successful and I’ll take them up there every time.”
The Cardinals, with 101 games left, are only 31-30. Matheny said, “Would I like to see us more consistent? There’s no question.”
But he said, “Guys are grinding. They’re fighting, and I’m going to continue to stay optimistic — because that’s what I believe. It’s not some facade. It’s only a matter of time before we take off.
“When we take off, it’s going to be a good run. But we need to get it going soon.”
–RHP Jason Motte, in the process of gaining his 11th save on Saturday, retired Cleveland 2B Jason Kipnis on a fly out to start the ninth inning. Motte said his decisive pitch to Kipnis on Sunday was only inches from where he threw it on Saturday. But this one ended up going over the wall for a three-run, game-winning homer. “He did a good piece of hitting,” said Motte. “You kind of have to tip your cap and stuff like that.”
–RHP Joe Kelly, just brought up from Class AAA Memphis, was impressive in holding Cleveland to one run over five innings despite giving up seven hits. Kelly, 24, seems sure to get another start on Saturday at home against Kansas City as he takes the place of injured LHP Jaime Garcia, who will be out a couple of months because of shoulder issues.
–RF Carlos Beltran belted his National League-leading 18th homer on Sunday after hitting his 17th on Saturday. But he also had two of his three infield hits for the season, including a bunt, against exaggerated Cleveland shifts during the series. Beltran’s homer was his 15th in 39 career games at Busch Stadium.
–SS Rafael Furcal, one of the Cardinals’ best players most of the season, may be fading a bit. He is nothing for his last 11 and 7-for-42.
BY THE NUMBERS:11 — Losses suffered by the Cardinals when they have 10 or more hits.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I like to come to the ballpark and just know that I’m going to hit in one spot . . so I can prepare myself.” — RF Carlos Beltran, the National League leader in home runs (18), who has been successful recently hitting second in the lineup but he also had prospered hitting fourth, where he batted 31 times in the first 61 games.