Cardinals Major League Notebook: 09/27/11

The Cardinals missed a chance to tie Atlanta as they lost in Houston in 10 innings on Monday night. Atlanta's magic number is down to two.

INSIDE PITCH

 

The Cardinals, who have been chasing a potential playoff berth -- many times from afar -- are still chasing.

With the scoreboard showing that wild-card leader Atlanta had lost, cutting the Braves' lead over the Cardinal to one-half game, the Cardinals could not draw even with the Braves for the first time this season after trailing by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 25.

The Cardinals played hard but not always well as they dropped a 5-4, 10-inning decision to the 100-loss-plus Houston Astros. It was the Cardinals' 13th walk-off loss.

The Cardinals trail by one game with two remaining, and they send right-hander Jake Westbrook, an up-and-down pitcher much of the season -- against the Astros on Tuesday night in Houston.

There were some high moments Monday, notably a double steal in the eighth by an unlikely duo, Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. Lance Berkman then doubled to tie the score at 4-4. There was nobody out at the time, but the Cardinals didn't get any more runs in the inning -- or the game.

"I felt like we were going to win," said Berkman. "It just didn't happen."

The Cardinals' bullpen was airtight for the most part. After left-ander Jaime Garcia was yanked for a pinch hitter in the fifth, having allowed four runs, Cardinals relievers worked five scoreless innings before veteran right-hander Octavio Dotel couldn't make a play on two successive Houston bunts in the decisive 10th inning.

Earlier, the Cardinals also messed up while trying to defend against a bunt in the second, when they allowed Houston shortstop Clint Barmes to sneak home from third on a bunt by Houston starter Wandy Rodriguez.

The Cardinals lost three runners on the bases, one each at home, third and second. And they had some key offensive misses with runners in scoring position and fewer than two outs.

Third baseman David Freese grounded into a double play with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fifth, and then Pujols struck out. Pinch hitter Allen Craig tapped to the mound with runners at second and third and one out in the seventh.

Center fielder Jon Jay popped up with runners at second and third and one out in the eighth. And shortstop Nick Punto might have been safe later in that inning if he had chosen to run through first base rather than trying to dive into it after Houston first baseman Carlos Lee had boxed a grounder. Had Punto been safe, the go-ahead run would have scored.

But after the game, the tune, "Don't Stop Believin'," by Journey, one of manager Tony La Russa's favorite groups, was playing in the Cardinals' clubhouse. "I think if we win the next two games, we have an excellent shot," Berkman said.

La Russa said, "I'm disappointed because we lost, but our effort was outstanding. I kept liking the way we went after it."

Referring to the missed opportunities offensively, La Russa said, "We had the right guys up there. But (the Astros) made pitches.

"If you want to beat on us because we didn't come through and we hit into some double plays, have at it then. The game was there to be blown open a couple of times. But give (the Astros) credit."

Boxscore

NOTES, QUOTES

The Cardinals, who have been chasing a potential playoff berth -- many times from afar -- are still chasing.

With the scoreboard showing that wild-card leader Atlanta had lost, cutting the Braves' lead over the Cardinal to one-half game, the Cardinals could not draw even with the Braves for the first time this season after trailing by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 25.

The Cardinals played hard but not always well as they dropped a 5-4, 10-inning decision to the 100-loss-plus Houston Astros. It was the Cardinals' 13th walk-off loss.

The Cardinals trail by one game with two remaining, and they send right-hander Jake Westbrook, an up-and-down pitcher much of the season -- against the Astros on Tuesday night in Houston.

There were some high moments Monday, notably a double steal in the eighth by an unlikely duo, Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. Lance Berkman then doubled to tie the score at 4-4. There was nobody out at the time, but the Cardinals didn't get any more runs in the inning -- or the game.

"I felt like we were going to win," said Berkman. "It just didn't happen."

The Cardinals' bullpen was airtight for the most part. After left-ander Jaime Garcia was yanked for a pinch hitter in the fifth, having allowed four runs, Cardinals relievers worked five scoreless innings before veteran right-hander Octavio Dotel couldn't make a play on two successive Houston bunts in the decisive 10th inning.

Earlier, the Cardinals also messed up while trying to defend against a bunt in the second, when they allowed Houston shortstop Clint Barmes to sneak home from third on a bunt by Houston starter Wandy Rodriguez.

The Cardinals lost three runners on the bases, one each at home, third and second. And they had some key offensive misses with runners in scoring position and fewer than two outs.

Third baseman David Freese grounded into a double play with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fifth, and then Pujols struck out. Pinch hitter Allen Craig tapped to the mound with runners at second and third and one out in the seventh.

Center fielder Jon Jay popped up with runners at second and third and one out in the eighth. And shortstop Nick Punto might have been safe later in that inning if he had chosen to run through first base rather than trying to dive into it after Houston first baseman Carlos Lee had boxed a grounder. Had Punto been safe, the go-ahead run would have scored.

But after the game, the tune, "Don't Stop Believin'," by Journey, one of manager Tony La Russa's favorite groups, was playing in the Cardinals' clubhouse. "I think if we win the next two games, we have an excellent shot," Berkman said.

La Russa said, "I'm disappointed because we lost, but our effort was outstanding. I kept liking the way we went after it."

Referring to the missed opportunities offensively, La Russa said, "We had the right guys up there. But (the Astros) made pitches.

"If you want to beat on us because we didn't come through and we hit into some double plays, have at it then. The game was there to be blown open a couple of times. But give (the Astros) credit."

BY THE NUMBERS: 168 - Double plays hit into by the Cardinals, who broke their club and National League record of 166.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't think anyone in this locker room is daunted by the loss."

- RF Lance Berkman, after a difficult 5-4 setback in 10 innings at Houston.

ROSTER REPORT

 

MEDICAL WATCH:

 

SS Rafael Furcal (strained left hamstring) left the Sept. 26 game, and he won't be available Sept. 27-28.

RHP Lance Lynn (strained left oblique) went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 10 and was transferred to the 60-day DL on Sept. 2.

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.

NEXT GAME

Tue., Sept. 27 vs. ASTROS: Jake Westbrook (12-9, 4.48) vs. Henry Sosa (3-5, 4.68) 7:05 p.m. CDT (FOX Sports Midwest, KMOX Radio and Cardinals Radio Network).

VIDEO FROM FOXSPORTSMIDWEST.COM

<a href='http://www.foxsportsmidwest.com/pages/video?UUID=9a3b0439-e464-4065-9ac2-b254bbe47aca&src=SLPl:embed::uuids' target='_new' title='Cardinals struck by 'Stros, lose 5-4'>Video: Cardinals struck by 'Stros, lose 5-4</a>
Lance Berkman, Tony La Russa and Jaime Garcia share their thoughts after losing in the 10th to Houston.


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