Missed chances haunt Cardinals
The euphoria over the Cardinals’ stirring rally in the ninth inning to beat Milwaukee on Monday night effectively was erased Tuesday when they had a total of four runners in scoring position in the seventh and ninth innings and failed to score any of them in a 3-2 loss to the Brewers.
David Freese doubled for his third hit to open the ninth against newly ordained Milwaukee closer Francisco Rodriguez. Freese, who does not run well, was stopped at third by coach Jose Oquendo on Yadier Molina’s single to center.
Freese, not getting any jump, stayed at third — probably correctly — as Matt Carpenter grounded to Brewers shortstop Cesar Izturis, Molina moving to second. But then pinch hitter Skip Schumaker struck out on a half-swing and pinch hitter Daniel Descalso popped up.
Rookie Joe Kelly’s fifth consecutive quality start was wasted, and the Cardinals’ one-run record dropped to 11-16. The Cardinals were just 2 for 10 with men in scoring position after missing the ninth-inning chance and also one in the seventh when again the first two batters hit safely.
“We’ve said that a lot,” said manager Mike Matheny. “We keep putting together a good offense, but we have trouble getting the big hit.
“We were right where we wanted to be. You don’t get those very often and you’ve got to come through.”
In the seventh, Matheny went against one of his pre-game decisions. He hadn’t played switch-hitting first baseman Lance Berkman against Milwaukee left-hander Randy Wolf because Berkman was 3 for 32 (.094) against Wolf.
Freese and Carpenter opened the seventh with singles, and Matheny asked right-handed-hitting second baseman Tyler Greene to bunt even though Greene had hit a couple of balls very hard, but foul, off Wolf in earlier hitless at-bats.
Greene did sacrifice and Matheny, saying later, “It was an easy decision,” to pinch-hit Berkman, watched as Berkman was called out by home-plate umpire Brian Gorman as he tried to check his swing on a full-count pitch. Berkman thought that he didn’t swing at this pitch and that he should have walked on a 3-1 pitch that was called a strike.
Shortstop Rafael Furcal, after an 11-pitch at-bat, then fouled out. After the inning was over, Berkman looked at the replay in the clubhouse and then commenced an argument with Gorman and was tossed from the game.
“My biggest beef is he can’t make that call,” said Berkman of the checked-swing strike-three decision by Gorman, who didn’t ask for help at first base. “He was having a hard time getting the strike zone right, much less seeing whether anybody swung the bat or not. Just appeal. It’s not tough to ask. You don’t have to make that call.
“I felt like he missed that one. I felt like he missed the 3-1 pitch. It was just a tough night for him.”
It also was a tough night for the Cardinals’ defense, which did not turn two double plays it should have in the first three innings. The Brewers capitalized by scoring two-out runs in each inning with singles although right-hander Joe Kelly also contributed to one of the runs with a wild pickoff throw.
— LF Matt Holliday, riding a 15-game hitting streak, was hit just above the left knee by a pitch from Milwaukee LHP Randy Wolf in the first inning and had to come out of the game an inning later. Holliday was said to have a left thigh contusion, and manager Mike Matheny said Holliday felt better after getting treatment. But it seems unlikely Holliday would play in Wednesday afternoon’s series finale, with an off day scheduled for Thursday.
— 1B Lance Berkman sat out the start, having gone 3 for 32 (.094) against Milwaukee left-hander Randy Wolf, who then struck Berkman out on a controversial call in the seventh inning when Berkman pinch hit. “I do have three hits against him even though it’s taken me 32 at-bats. But all you need there is a flyball,” said Berkman, who fanned with runners at second and third and one out.
— RHP Joe Kelly worked six innings in his fifth consecutive quality start. Manager Mike Matheny thought Kelly’s stuff was as good as it’s been all season. Kelly did allow a 462-foot homer to 2B Rickie Weeks. “It was a fastball right down the middle,” said Kelly. “I probably would have hit out myself. It’s the easiest pitch in baseball to hit.”
— CF Jon Jay, whose average has dipped under .300 in a recent slump, was sitting out his second straight start but then had to come in for OF Matt Holliday after the latter was hit by a pitch. Jay doubled in one of the Cardinals’ two runs. “I’m in a little bit of a rut right now,” said Jay.
— 2B Tyler Greene got a rare start and went nothing for two with a sacrifice although he hit two balls hard, but just foul, off Milwaukee LHP Randy Wolf.
BY THE NUMBERS: 8 for 45 — Cardinals’ mark with runners in scoring position in their five games since the All-Star break.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “We’ve played lousy. We haven’t been hitting well. We should have won this game tonight. They didn’t beat us. We beat ourselves.” — 1B Lance Berkman on another one-run loss by the Cardinals, who have dropped four of their five games since the All-Star break.