Cardinals’ rookie Shelby Miller did not have the night he hoped for on the mound Saturday as St. Louis lost 4-2 to Texas. It was the second straight loss to the Rangers whom the Cardinals are playing for the first time since beating them in seven games to win the 2011 World Series championship.
The Rangers’ blasted a pair of two-run home runs off Miller in the second and third innings and those turned out to be the difference in the game.“Both were for two runs each,” Miller said. “That is a killer. … They have a good lineup over there, a great lineup. When you leave balls over the middle, they are going to hit it pretty good.
“Both (pitches) were fastballs,” Miller continued. “And both of them were the first pitch of the at bat. I knew (the Rangers) were going to go out hacking. I have been throwing a lot of fastballs lately and that was exactly what they knew was coming. I am not saying if I make a better pitch I get them out, but both pitches were right down the middle and perfect pitches to hit.”
With the Cardinals trailing 4-2 in the top of the sixth, Texas loaded the bases on a walk, a single and an error by Miller before Miller was removed with two outs. Seth Maness came in and recorded the final out of the sixth, leaving all three runners stranded.For the night, Miller (8-5) pitched 5.2 innings. He allowed eight hits and one walk while striking out five. Miller caught Rangers’ first baseman Mitch Moreland looking to open the fourth inning for his 100th strikeout of the season.
Only four other National League pitchers have recorded 100-plus strikeouts this season, one of them being Miller’s Cardinals’ teammate Adam Wainwright.
The Redbirds scored first, taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. With one out, Carlos Beltran singled and moved to second on a ground out by Matt Holliday. Allen Craig then singled to center to score Beltran who slid into home just before the tag could be applied by catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
The Cardinals fell behind in the top of the second on a two-run blast from Pierzynski. The shot went 376 feet and came on the first pitch Miller threw after Adrian Beltre doubled.
St. Louis (47-28) tied the game in the bottom of the second.
David Freese opened the frame with a triple off the centerfield wall that came close to reflecting over the wall after bouncing off Leonys Martin’s hand. It didn’t matter though as Shane Robinson quickly plated Freese by flying out to right field for a sacrifice fly.Texas (43-32) retook the lead for good in the top of the third.
Page 2 of 3 - Ian Kinsler singled but was thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice by Elvis Andrus. On the next pitch, Nelson Cruz drilled the ball 380 feet down the rightfield line for Texas’ second two-run homer of the game.
“Nelson Cruz obviously has power to all sides of the field,” Miller said. “He hit a good ball away and just hit it good.”
St. Louis had two one-out hits in the bottom of the eighth to attempt a rally, but on the very first pitch he saw, Holliday grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. It was the second double play of the night for Holliday.
As a team, the Cardinals recorded seven hits, six of which went to Freese, Beltran and Matt Carpenter. Beltran and Carpenter were both 2-for-4 with a pair of singles while Freese was 2-for-4 with a triple.
Michael Blazek, back with the Cardinals for his second stint this season, made his Major League debut in the top of the ninth.
“This is something you have been dreaming for about for 15 years since you started playing,” Blazek said. “It is something I will never forget.”
Blazek threw a perfect 1-2-3 inning. Blazek also struck out the first two batters he faced, Martin and Jurickson Profar.
“I think it is good for your confidence to just get out there,” Blazek said. “No matter how you do, I think getting your feet wet is probably the biggest thing.”
Matheny was pleased with the performance Blazek gave in his debut.
“What more could you ask for from Blazek in his first day out,” Matheny said. “It was a good first day out and hopefully that is what we are going to continue to see.”
Every pitcher the Cardinals used over the course of Saturday’s loss was a rookie. Maness, Kevin Siegrist, and Blazek combined to throw 3.1 innings of shutout baseball.
“It kind of just shows you what we have in our organization in the lower levels and the players we are developing,” Blazek said. “It is obviously showing.”
Matheny said his rookie relievers were “impressive.”
“Very impressive,” Matheny said. “We bring Seth (Maness) in, in a tough situation relieving our rookie starter and he was able to get out of it. He has been able to do that on a pretty consistent basis. Siegrist, I thought that was his best breaking ball yet and that is something Derek (Lilliquist), he and Yadi (Molina) have been working on.”
A sellout crowd of 44,651 waited out a 66-minute rain delay. It was the Cardinals’ 10th sellout of the season.
Page 3 of 3 - St. Louis will attempt to avoid the series sweep when the two teams meet tonight in the series final.