The Cardinals, desperate pursuers
in the National League wild-card race, missed a chance to gain ground Monday
night when they dropped a 6-5 decision to the Pittsburgh Pirates. They remained
4 1/2 games behind the Braves with 15 games to go as
"This wasn't a death knell, by any means," said Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman. "We weren't going to go 18-0 (or 16-0) the rest of the season."
But they almost have to,
and four of the remaining 15 games are at league powerhouse
Reserve shortstop Pedro Ciriaco's looping double off reliever Fernando Salas past Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols on a 1-2 pitch with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning capped a three-run, go-ahead surge by the Pirates, who then staved off a Cardinals rally in the ninth.
Pujols' two-run homer in the sixth, netting him three runs batted in for the night, had given the Cardinals and right-hander Kyle Lohse, who pitched a representative six innings, a 4-3 lead. That lead lasted until the eighth when reliever Octavio Dotel and, especially, reliever Marc Rzepczynski (0-2) had trouble throwing strikes.
There were several bad pitches made by the Cardinals in the eighth, but manager Tony La Russa refused to point to any of them.
"The most significant thing is that the Cardinals got beat," said La Russa. "Anything you point out seems to highlight one factor. We played nine innings and we were all involved.
"I don't look at anything in that one inning that was any more substantial than the chances we had in other parts of the game."
But Rzepczynski did. He pointed directly at his biggest mistake. "Not throwing strikes," he said. He did fan one man, pinch hitter Josh Harrison, but Rzepczynski said, "Even those weren't strikes."
Counting an intentional walk, Rzepczynski threw only five strikes out of 17 pitches. "Not a good day," he said.
The Cardinals scored five runs Monday but were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, lost two runners on messed up hit-and-run plays and hit into two more double plays, the biggest by LF Matt Holliday with the bases loaded, ending the third after the Cardinals had tied the score. Manager Tony La Russa said, "We had several chances to get a little more, a lot more than we got. They prevented that. We had a couple of chances to give up less than we did. So … tough loss."
1B Albert Pujols, who has
a career .380 average for 347 at-bats at
RHP Chris Carpenter has agreed to a two-year, $21 million contract extension, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The contract replaces a 2012 club option at $15 million. Carpenter, scheduled to start on Tuesday, said, "Obviously, there's something going on. But it's not 100 percent done yet and I don't want to jinx it."
OF Allen Craig, before he flied out as a pinch hitter on Monday, ran off four straight pinch hits last week, running raising his pinch-hit average to .389 (7-for-18). Last year, in his rookie season, he was 1-for-7 as a pinch hitter and 3-for-21 when he didn't start. Other than understanding the role a little better this year, Craig didn't think he was necessarily doing anything different. "These things even out," he said. But manager Tony La Russa thinks Craig had benefited from another year experience.
INF Ryan Theriot, the Cardinals' regular shortstop for the first four months of the season before Rafael Furcal was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Theriot was reclassified, has had only 57 at-bats since July 30. He had been second on the team in at-bats to Albert Pujols before the trade for Furcal. Manager Tony La Russa had empathy for Theriot's situation. "That's one of the very difficult things about how we've played the last six weeks to two months," said La Russa. "There isn't anything part-time in his DNA."
BY THE NUMBERS: 24 - Blown saves by the Cardinals this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It goes under that category of 'there's no free lunch.' Sometimes, you pay up. Double play."
- Manager Tony La Russa, on his team leading the National League in batting average and runs scored but also leading all of baseball grounding into double plays with 158.
RHP Eduardo Sanchez (mild
right shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 13.
He began a rehab assignment with Class AA Springfield on July 7 but had renewed
soreness soon after and was shut down until late August or early September. He
was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 31. Early in September, Sanchez began
throwing bullpen sessions as if they were game situations, i.e., getting up and
down. He declared himself ready to return after a simulated outing on Sept. 10.
He will travel with the team to
RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He will miss the entire 2011 season. Wainwright was getting closer to throwing a full-strength bullpen session in September, but he will not be allowed to throw his signature curveball until next year.
Sept. 13: at PIRATES: Chris Carpenter (9-9, 3.75) vs. Jeff Karstens (9-8, 3.32)
6:05 p.m. CDT (FOX
VIDEO FROM FOXSPORTSMIDWEST.COM
St. Louis sounds off on the 6-5 loss against Pittsburgh on Monday.