Manager Tony La Russa insisted that the Cardinals' heart was still beating after a shocking ninth-inning loss on Thursday, but Chicago Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano's tiebreaking, three-run homer in the eighth inning Friday effectively drove a stake through it.
The Cubs' 5-1 win Friday night at Busch Stadium also could be traced to a foe the Cardinals haven't been able to conquer all season: the dreaded double-play ball.
The Cardinals, fast gaining on their club and National League record of 166, set in 1958, grounded into three double plays on Friday, all of them killers because the Cardinals had two runners on base for two of them and the bases were loaded the third time.
All the double plays ended innings -- the third, sixth and eighth -- and gave the Cardinals 165 GIDP's for the season.
La Russa did all he could to prevent them, to no avail. He even pulled off his first successful suicide squeeze of the season when starting pitcher Chris Carpenter bunted home the Cardinals' only run in the second. La Russa also tried several hit-and-run plays.
"We actually made quite a few situations happen," said La Russa,
The final DP came in the eighth when pinch hitter Allen Craig bounced to third with two runners on and one out. Matt Holliday, recovered for the most part from a tendon problem in his right palm, was going to pinch-hit next.
"Anything but a double play. That would have been fun to see," said La Russa. "It's just irritating."
And now the Cardinals,
ousted from the National League Central race, are almost out of the wild-card
chase, too. They trail
RHP Chris Carpenter did all he could for the Cardinals on Friday. He held the Cubs to one run over seven innings and squeezed home the only run the Cardinals scored. It was the first successful suicide squeeze of the season by the Cardinals.
RHP Kyle McClellan, laboring late in the season, has been scored on in seven of his last 11 relief appearances. The three-run home run McClellan allowed to Chicago LF Alfonso Soriano was his 21st of the season, tops on the staff, and he's been a reliever for the second half of the year. "He just hung it," said manager Tony La Russa. "Three runs."
LF Matt Holliday, who has missed nine games with a tendon injury in his right palm, expects to play Saturday. He was available to pinch-hit Friday but wasn't used.
C Yadier Molina took over the club batting lead at .305 with three singles. Molina's career-best average was .304 in 2008.
BY THE NUMBERS: 14 - No-decisions for RHP Chris Carpenter, who is 10-9.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They've been harmful all year long. But they definitely were a factor in this game."
- Manager Tony La Russa on the Cardinals having hit into 165 double plays, one off the club and National League record set in 1958.
LF Matt Holliday (inflamed tendon in middle finger of right hand) was injured while he was in the on-deck circle Sept. 13 and had to leave the game. An examination the next day revealed the inflammation, and it's questionable whether he will play again this season. He took batting practice in an indoor cage Sept. 22, was available to pinch-hit Sept. 23 and hopes to play Sept. 24.
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.
VIDEO FROM FOXSPORTSMIDWEST.COM
Tony La Russa, Kyle McClellan and Chris Carpenter share their thoughts following the loss to Chicago.