Cardinals Notebook: Missed Bunts Big in Loss

The Cardinals had major execution failures in a disappointing loss to the Cubs on Saturday afternoon.

ST. LOUIS – With the Cardinals trailing by a run and a runner on second base with no outs in the ninth inning of Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs, Brendan Ryan was given the bunt sign.

A successful bunt, something Ryan has done several times this season, would have put tying run Aaron Miles at third base with just one out.

But Ryan wasn't bunting against any old pitcher. The Cardinals' shortstop was stuck with the task of bunting against Cubs closer Carlos Marmol, one of the toughest pitchers in baseball to bunt against because of his rising fastball and herky-jerky motion.

Ryan popped up a 1-0 fastball on a bunt attempt into foul ground but a sliding Koyie Hill gave him new life when the catcher dropped what would have been the first out. But the next pitch wasn't any kinder to Ryan, who again popped up the bunt attempt. Hill didn't miss this one,  putting it away in front of the plate for the first out.

Felipe Lopez popped out to third and Allen Craig struck out to end the game as the Cardinals couldn't advance Miles from second base in taking a tough one-run loss at Busch Stadium.

"Just really frustrating because I wasn't overwhelmed by the moment," Ryan said. "I was ready to do my job. I don't know how many in a row I've gotten down, but I felt very comfortable there. I think I tried to be a little too careful because I felt (Derrek Lee) and Aramis (Ramirez) in there so I think I tried to be a little too careful, but I still got a second chance and I still screwed up.

"I just didn't execute. I saw the ball fine, had pitches to bunt and I just dipped my barrel and screwed it up."

It was the second missed bunt attempt in two innings for the Cardinals after Colby Rasmus had a similar outcome in the eighth. After Matt Holliday opened the inning with a single, Rasmus popped a bunt up to Hill for the first out of the inning. A fly out and strikeout left Holliday standing on first as the inning ended.

"He's a tough guy to bunt," manager Tony La Russa said of Marmol. "He's not the easiest guy to bunt. The same thing with Colby, both of those bunts the execution needs to improve, but those are the ones that you have to get down when guys are tough to bunt because you don't have any margin for error."

La Russa served the second of a two-game suspension as the result of Tuesday night's brawl with the Cincinnati Reds. He had no control over the decisions to bunt Saturday afternoon, but he had no problem with how his assistant coaches handled the game.

"I didn't see anything wrong with the strategy," La Russa said. "It's a players game. Get the guy over into scoring position."

Pagnozzi to catch Lohse Sunday?

Manager Tony La Russa said Saturday that if starter Yadier Molina needs a day of Sunday, backup catcher Steven Hill wouldn't be the one to start in his place.

Hill was called up Wednesday from Double-A Springfield when the Cardinals couldn't get a catcher from Triple-A Memphis to Cincinnati in time for the game. But La Russa said the pressure that would be put on the rookie catcher would be too much for La Russa to feel comfortable starting him.

Molina will likely start Sunday and no move will be made, but La Russa said that if the catcher needs a day off, Matt Pagnozzi would be recalled from Triple-A to make the start.
Saturday was the 18th straight start behind the plate for Molina.

"(Hill) is OK as a backup, but if it's to catch, that's asking a lot of him," La Russa said. "We have an off day Monday so the question is, is Yadi going to play tomorrow and we don't know the answer to that yet.

"If Yadi wasn't going to catch, it wouldn't be fair for Steven to catch Lohse.  It wouldn't be fair for Steven, wouldn't be fair for Lohse and wouldn't be fair for us."

La Russa said Pagnozzi would be the selection because the other Memphis catcher, Bryan Anderson, is suffering from a concussion.

The Cardinals were off Thursday meaning Sunday would only be Molina's third straight day without a day off. With another off day Monday, it appears likely Molina will catch Sunday. But if he needs a day off, the Cardinals have their backup plan in place.

Kyle Lohse will make his first since May 22 Sunday, but Pagnozzi caught Lohse during his last rehab start in Memphis and the Cardinals skipper said he would have no problem matching the combination up again.

"I don't want to guess the odds, but with the off day Monday you don't feel as moved, and he's playing well, that I don't know if we have to," La Russa said. "Yadi is feeling good but if he needs a day, we'll give him a day."

Stavinoha glad to be back in bigs

Outfielder Nick Stavinoha returned from Triple-A Memphis Friday night when the Cardinals placed Jason LaRue on the disabled list with a concussion.

Stavinoha had been playing first base at Memphis while continuing to build strength in his shoulder following a right shoulder separation suffered while diving for a fly ball in right field in the finale series before the All-Star break.

"It's coming along," Stavinoha said. "I played first base every game down there. I DH'd my first series I think and then played first base the whole next series. First base is actually a decent opportunity for me because throwing the ball in the infield a lot, you touch the ball more at first and get to make more throws and build some strength and that's where we're at, building the strength. It's getting better."

Stavinoha hit .447 (17-for-38) in eight games with Memphis with four home runs and 15 RBIs.  The slugger had at least one hit in all eight games.

"I didn't feel like I was just completely locked in, I just felt like I was hitting the pitches that I was supposed to and not swinging at the pitches that I was supposed to take," Stavinoha said. "I was only down there for eight games. I got a lot of pitches to hit and I haven't played every day for a while and it was nice to get some at-bats."

Stavinoha, who is tied for fifth in baseball with 11 pinch-hits, has been using a specially designed throwing program to build the strength in his shoulder.  La Russa said Stavinoha could play outfield if they need him, but likely would be limited to pinch-hitting in the short-term.

"I've been on a long toss program," Stavinoha said. "We'd go out early before the day would start and take it nice and easy and then work it all the way back to about 120 feet and really let it go with everything I've got. It's a strength building thing right now."

The emergency catcher joked that he brought his catchers gear with him from Memphis in case called upon with the big league club with LaRue out of commission.

Of note…

La Russa used the same lineup for the fifth straight game Saturday. The three game series in Cincinnati marked the first time in the La Russa era in St. Louis that the Cardinals used the same lineup in three consecutive games. …La Russa said he was considering using Jon Jay in the leadoff spot with Felipe Lopez struggling at the plate. Fernando Salas will likely be optioned to Triple-A Memphis Sunday when the Cardinals activate Kyle Lohse. …The Cardinals game notes list Jaime Garcia as the starter Tuesday night and Adam Wainwright on Wednesday afternoon for the short two-game series against the Brewers.



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