With the best offense in the National League, four starting pitchers who have won at least 11 games and one of the top closers in the league, the Cardinals still are the subject of the question, "Why aren't they doing better?"
One answer is their inability to win close games.
Their 2-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday, a game that started an hour and 25 minutes late because of rain, dropped the Cardinals to 12-20 in one-run games. Counting the Cardinals' 5-13 mark in games decided by two runs, they are 17-33 in close games and 47-21 in games determined by three or more runs.
This one hurt, though, as the Cardinals had a 1-0 lead with two outs to get before right-hander Jason Motte gave up two homers on back-to-back pitches in the ninth. He had reeled off 13 straight saves since June 17, the date he allowed his last home run.
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who had been beaten by two Motte cutters earlier in the at-bat, worked the at-bat to a ninth pitch before hitting a high cutter over the left-center-field wall.
One pitch later, slumping center fielder Chris Young lifted a low fastball off the facade of the third deck.
"It wasn't good," Motte (4-4) said of his outing.
Regarding Goldschmidt's homer, Motte said, "You don't want to walk him, but you want to make a good enough pitch that he can't do much with it. I didn't do either one."
Motte said Young "was geared up for a fastball and he hit it. I didn't do my job tonight."
RHP Kyle Lohse, who admitted he had little command of his fastball, made do with his breaking stuff and fashioned 6 2/3 scoreless innings, giving him a total of 13 2/3 innings, allowing just one run, over his last two starts. And Lohse (12-2) has two no-decisions to show for it. "His record has been good," said manager Mike Matheny, "but not nearly as good as it could be. This was another example of that. It's a shame." Lohse has had 13 quality starts out of his last 14 and remains 6-1 at home and 6-1 on the road.
RHP Jason Motte, who allowed two homers in the ninth inning, hadn't given up a home run since June 17, when Kansas City PH Billy Butler cost him a save. "We haven't seen too much of that from Jason," said manager Mike Matheny of his closer, who has 27 saves in 32 tries.
RHP Chris Carpenter, who had surgery nearly a month ago to relieve a nerve issue in his shoulder, did some light tossing from 40 to 60 feet on Thursday. "It's exciting to throw again," Carpenter said. "But also you want to find out what's going on and make sure we're doing the right things. We're not going to go crazy. We're going to make sure we take the steps the right way. It's going based on how I feel. It's only been a month, so there is still some healing going on in there. But it's healed enough to toss a little bit."
C Yadier Molina missed a second consecutive game Thursday with back soreness. Molina said he was better but his availability for Friday night's series opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates remained in question. "I want to be here for the team. I want to play. But I don't want to get back in the lineup and hurt it worse," he said.
LHP Jaime Garcia will
make his first start Sunday since June 5, when he went out with a strained left
shoulder. He is targeted to face
By the Numbers:
2 - Number of hits the Cardinals had to the outfield on Thursday. Four of their six hits were infield hits.
Quote to Note:
"We've got to learn a better way to win these close games."
- RHP Kyle Lohse after the Cardinals' record in one-run games dropped to 12-20.
LHP Jaime Garcia (left
shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 6, and he
was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 16. After further examination, it was
determined that he has tearing in his rotator cuff. He threw 40 pitches from 60
feet on flat ground for the first time in a month July 4. He threw live batting
practice July 25. He began a rehab assignment July 30 in the rookie-level Gulf
Coast League, and he was slated to make four starts before a potential return to
the Cardinals in mid-August. The fourth start was Aug. 14. He will be added to
the roster Aug. 19 to face
C Yadier Molina (sore left hand and elbow) did not play Aug. 12. He incurred some mid-back tightness and sat out Aug. 14-16.
1B Lance Berkman (right knee inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 3.
RHP Kyle McClellan (torn labrum in right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list May 18 due to a strained right elbow, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 30. He threw on flat ground for the first time July 3, but he subsequently felt shoulder pain. He had season-ending shoulder surgery July 10.
RHP Chris Carpenter (weak right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 10. He threw for the first time since March on June 13 and then threw another 40 pitches on June 15. He threw to hitters for the first time June 22 but then had a setback June 25 when he felt renewed weakness in the shoulder. He said it felt better the next day, and he had an extensive throwing session off flat ground June 27. On June 28, he was told he has thoracic outlet syndrome, which can cause, among its effects, weakness in one's shoulder. A July 2 bullpen session was canceled. He underwent season-ending surgery July 19 to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome. He did some light tossing from 40 to 60 feet on Aug. 16.
Link to boxscore: Arizona 2 at St. Louis 1