The Cardinals bullpen suffered a rare, rough, and odd eighth inning Saturday as the Cincinnati Reds scored three runs and rallied for a 5-3 win at Busch Stadium.
Following a 42-minute rain delay, the second in as many days, Miguel Batista took the mound to start the top of the eighth with the Cardinals clinging to a 3-2 lead. He retired the first hitter before a weak ground ball to David Freese appeared to be the second out.
But with a wet infield following the rain, Freese lost grip of the ball and threw it past first baseman Albert Pujols and into the front row of the stands. The batter Drew Stubbs went to second, putting the tying run just 180 feet away.
"I just made an error," Freese said. "Obviously it's going to be wet but I just made an error. It happens. It turned out to be a big error. I've got to make that play. It just got away. That's how it goes sometimes. Just dust it off and get back out there and try to get the next one.
"That was a tough inning, coming right out of the rain delay. We had the lead and had the momentum but it just didn't work out tonight."
The 40-year-old Batista, who started Friday night's game before the rain delay and had already warmed up before the delay Saturday, got ahead in the count 0-2 on cleanup man Jonny Gomes, who was 5-for-10 with two doubles in his career against the right-hander.
But in the first of what became three consecutive hitters who reached base following being down in the count, Batista plunked Gomes with an 0-2 fastball to load the bases.
"I was just trying to get him out," Batista said. "I had him against the wall. It was a count where you don't want to leave the ball over the plate. He's a guy that can put the ball behind the fence if you make a mistake. I've known Jonny since he was with Tampa Bay. I got him 0-2, I was just trying to make sure I got him out with that pitch and it slipped out of my hand and ended up hitting him.
"I just got around it a little bit. I was trying to make sure we got him out or I didn't leave it over the plate. I was trying to go hard in and I got around it."
But Miller, who had retired Bruce in all six at-bats against him prior to Saturday, couldn't find the strike zone after getting ahead in the count 1-2 and walked him on a 3-2 pitch to score a run from third and tie the game.
The lefty hadn't pitched in six days but refused to use that as an excuse for his lack of command following the game.
"It's just a premeditated excuse," Miller said. "It's our job to stay ready. I was ready. I had been up in the bullpen three days in a row. My stuff may have been a little bit too big today. The breaking ball was breaking a little bit too much. I couldn't get in the strike zone. You have to throw strikes in that situation and I didn't do it.
"I'm very, very disappointed. Big spot, I love to pitch in that situation. …It's a team game. I didn't do my job tonight. Collectively as a bullpen we didn't get it done."
Franklin replaced Miller to face former Cardinal Miguel Cairo with score deadlocked at three and the bases still loaded. In his first appearance since making critical comments about the fans booing him, the right-hander received several cheers as he trotted in from the bullpen.
But the cheers quickly turned to more boos when he got ahead in the count 0-2 but served up a hanging splitter over the middle of the plate that Cairo blooped into left for a two-run single that put the Reds up 5-3.
"He made one mistake," manager Tony La Russa said. "He left an 0-2 splitter up, but to get the two strikes in the ninth inning, you have to pitch pretty well.
"In that inning we made several mistakes. One is not good and anytime it's more than one, you give the other club more of an opportunity. Too many mistakes. It happens."
The loss dropped the Cardinals into a tie with the Reds for first place in the National League Central Division. The two teams will finish their three-game series in primetime on Sunday night.
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