OAKLAND – The first two games of the Cardinals' three-game series in Oakland featured a dominant starting pitching performance from each of the winning clubs as St. Louis and Oakland split the first two games. The third and final game was decided by the Cardinals lack of defense and the Athletics great defensive showing as the A's beat the Cardinals 7-5 Sunday afternoon.
"This was the kind of game I anticipated us having today," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Obviously us on the other side is how I pictured it, but – we came out swinging the bats very well and Jake (Westbrook) had trouble getting into that groove. They were swinging the bats to and made some pretty good pitches. It was a tough loss."
The A's made some spectacular plays.
Starting with a diving catch from Coco Crisp in the first to rob Matt Holiday of extra bases to Josh Donaldson making a catch while tumbling over the tarp near the third base dugout in the fourth to Eric Sogard scampering out to right field and snow-coning a catch that robbed Beltran of a base hit and a possible RBI while nearly doubling up Matt Carpenter at second.
"That play in the first, the catch in center was a terrific play," Matheny said. "Going into hole at shortstop and the same thing at third base. There were some big situations where we could have got some momentum going, but the one that really stood out was the play at second base. That popup when Yadi (Molina) tried to get the runner over. That could have easily changed the game or put it into a tight situation."
Matheny was surprised Carpenter was NOT caught in a double play.
"I am surprised he did not get doubled up," Matheny said. "With the read, especially if you peak back and you see the outfielder make a step back, the odds of the second baseman making that play aren't real high. There are going to be a lot of runners that just commit all the way to scoring at that point. Matt did a nice job for us and was able to get back and give us a chance."
The Cardinals committed two errors in the game, both in the third inning. But, even with the errors, Cardinals' starting pitcher Jake Westbrook did not have his good stuff.
"Anytime I only get three ground balls, there is something wrong," Westbrook said. "I elevated some sinker and just wasn't making very good pitches. … I just didn't have it. There really isn't any other explanation other than it wasn't there. It was just a bad game."
Right from the get go, Westbrook was deep into his pitch count. The Cardinals' right hander was spotted a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but after a 30-pitch bottom of the first, his lead was down to 3-2.
Westbrook got back on track in the second, retiring the side on 10 pitches with the help of a double play, but that would be his best inning of the afternoon.
"It was weird," Westbrook said. "Because I had times where it felt good and I was making pitches. They did a good job of fouling pitches off and capitalizing when I made mistakes."
In the third, Westbrook had another 30 pitch inning and gave up two more runs. He also worked out of a jam that including leaving the bases load with A's.
"We go three in the first and I give two right back," Westbrook said. "We get two more in (the third) and I give those two right back. That is one me and that is something I need to step up and do a better job of, putting up a zero there and getting our offense back in the dugout and I didn't do that today."
Westbrook lost the lead in the fourth when he served up Jed Lowrie's fifth home run of the season, a two-run shot, to put St. Louis behind 6-5. Westbrook got out of the inning with no further damage, but he did not return in the fifth.
"It's always hard to take your starter out when we are still in the game," Matheny said. "Knowing we have a day off and a pretty fresh pen, that gives us a little more latitude, but we could be looking at a 20 inning game and you hate running a guy off the field when he is still capable of making good pitches ad keeping you in the game."
Westbrook (4-3) finished the night with 83 pitches thrown over four innings of work. He struck out three and walked a pair while giving up 10 hits and all six runs.
Seth Maness pitched two scoreless innings for the Cardinals, allowing just one hit before giving way to Trevor Rosenthal who issued a two-out homer to Oakland's Josh Donaldson in the seventh.
Offensively, the Cardinals came out swinging. St. Louis had a pair of homers in the first and another home run in fourth.
"The offense was great today," Westbrook said. "The bullpen was great today. If I had done a little better we win that ball game."
Matt Carpenter led off the game with a double and scored on a one-out home run from Carlos Beltran. The next batter, Allen Craig launched a shot of his own to put St. Louis up 3-0 four batters into the game.
The A's got within a run in the bottom of the first, but St. Louis extended the lead in the third when Carpenter became the third Cardinal to hit a homer. Carpenter's blast into the stands for a 4-2 Redbird lead. One out later, Beltran reached on a single and scored on an error that allowed Matt Holliday to reach base.
That would be the last time the Cardinals scored. They had opportunities as the game progressed, but failed to capitalize on them. St. Louis had two runners on in the fifth and sixth innings with one out, but were unable to plate either. In the seventh, Carpenter had a leadoff double but the Cardinals again left the runner stranded.
The Cardinals had eight hits in the game, but only three after the third inning. Carpenter and Beltran combined for six of the Redbird's hits. Carpenter finished the game 3-for-5 with a pair of standup doubles, a home run, and two runs scored while Beltran was 3-for-4 with a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored.
St. Louis' other batters to record a hit were Allen Craig and David Freese.
The Cardinals are now 2-3 on their current road trip against American League West teams. The Redbirds will be off today before heading to Anaheim for a three-game series against another AL West team, the Angels, beginning on Tuesday. The series with the Halos will mark the first time the Cardinals will face Albert Pujols since the he left St. Louis as a free agent.