ANAHEIM, CA – The Cardinals are sure to be glad that their road trip against the American League West is over after falling to the Angels 6-5 Thursday night in front of 42,707 fans at Angel Stadium on our nation's 237th birthday.
“We put ourselves in a position to win and just didn’t get it done down the stretch,” Cardinals' starter Adam Wainwright said. “We played a good game today. We had good defense, our hitters did great and we just didn’t close it down.”
Wainwright was three outs away from his 12th win of the season when he allowed a leadoff single to Albert Pujols in the ninth. That was enough for Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny and he brought in closer Edward Mujica, who blew his first save opportunity of the season when he issued a game-tying two-run homer to Josh Hamilton.
“(Mujica) is the right guy in that situation,” Wainwright said. “He has been great all year. That is what happens when you let the leadoff guy on in the last inning. That is on me right there. I have got to go and get that leadoff guy out.”
Matheny said the at bat by Pujols was a big at bat.
“(Pujols) is going to keep making adjustments,” Matheny said. “That is what made him as good as he has been. That was a big at bat.”
A single by Howie Kendrick and Mark Trumbo later put runners on the corners with no outs. After Alberto Callaspo flied out to short left field and Hank Conger flied out to short right before Erick Aybar singled to left for the game winning run.
Mujica (0-1) took responsibility for the loss, saying he went against what pitches catcher Yadier Molina called for, for the first time all season.
“The big thing tonight, was I made two big mistakes,” Mujica said. “I didn’t follow Yadi (Molina) on a couple of pitches and I think that was the game right there.”
When asked about what the pitches he didn’t follow Molina were, Mujica said the Hamilton and Aybar hits.
“The pitch when Hamilton hit a homer,” Mujica said. “(Molina) called for a fastball and I just decided to throw a changeup and (Hamilton) hit a homer. Then the last pitch to Aybar, (Molina) called a fastball away again and I just decided to throw my changeup and I gave up the single.
“I made a mistake and didn’t follow Yadi,” Mujica continued. “That is a mistake I can’t make anymore. From now I just go with Yadi.”
Page 2 of 3 - The ninth inning runs were the first the Angels had scored since the fourth inning and this was their first lead since a 2-0 lead in the third inning.
“(Mujica) has been very very good this year,” Matheny said. “He is going to continue to be.”
Despite the loss, the Cardinals’ still backed up their closer.
“Muji (Mujica) has been pretty much perfect all year,” Cardinals’ left fielder Allen Craig said. “He has done a great job. He made some great pitches in that last inning and they (the Angels) just put some good swings on them.”
The Cardinals got on the board in the fourth inning.
Carlos Beltran led off the frame with his second hit of the game and was advanced to second on an 11-pitch walk by Matt Holliday. Two pitches later, Craig blasted a shot into the trees in center field for a three-run homer to put St. Louis in front 3-2.
The lead didn’t last long though as the Halos tied it up in the bottom half of the fourth.
Following two quick outs, Wainwright gave up a solo home run to Mark Trumbo to tie the game at 3-3.
“The pitches to Aybar, Trout, and Trumbo were middle of the plate pitches,” Wainwright said. “I was trying to locate them on the corners there and didn’t’ do it.”
But with the offense the Cardinals’ have, it didn’t take long to get the lead back.
Daniel Descalo led off the fifth with a double and Jon Jay laid down a bunt that Angels’ third baseman Alberto Callaspo swatted into foul territory. The home plate umpire ruled it was a fair ball and Descalso advanced to third as Jay was credited with a single. Descalso then scored on a sacrifice fly by Matt Carpenter.
But, that would be the only run the Cardinals got in the fifth as Beltran and Holliday both struck out to end the inning.
Wainwright (11-5) worked around a two-out hit in the bottom of the fifth to get the shutdown inning and preserve St. Louis’ lead.
“(Wainwright) had one stress inning, in the third,” Matheny said. “He was making good pitches and we liked what we saw.”
The Cardinals were able to add another run with the help of a two-out error in the sixth inning.
Craig singled but was retired on a Yadier Molina double play ground out. Matt Adams hit one back to Trumbo, but the Angels’ first baseman couldn’t handle it and Adams reached on the E3. David Freese then moved Adams up 90 feet with a single and Adams came around to score on a single from Descalso.
Page 3 of 3 - The RBI single to Descalso was the last pitch of the night for Angels' starting pitcher Joe Blanton (2-10).
The Angels brought in Michael Kohn who walked Jay on five pitches to load the bases. But Carpenter flew out to left field to end the threat and leave them loaded.
As a team, the Cardinals collected 10 hits. Beltran, Craig, and Descalso all had multiple hits. Beltran was 2-for-5 with a run while Craig was 2-for-4 with a homer, three RBIs and a run scored. Descalso was 3-for-4 with a double, drove in a run, and scored.
“I think we put some good at bats together and hit the ball hard,” Craig said. “Waino did his thing, which is a positive. Obviously it didn’t end well. It is extremely frustrating when you have a lead like that. We haven’t experienced that too much this year, but it was bound to happen.”
On the flip side, the Cardinals struck out 12 times, including four times with runners on base.
Defensively the Cardinals made several plays to help Wainwright. Adams made a couple of stellar plays, snagging a couple of line drives to each side of the bag while Descalso had made a similar play with a line drive at short. The Cardinals also turned two double plays, one in the second and one in the eighth.
“(Adams) made some nice plays on both sides,” Matheny said. “We had some nice double plays turned in the middle. But that stuff is overshadowed right now.”
But, there was no defending Hamilton’s home run.
“My job today was to keep the ball on the ground and trust my defense,” Wainwright said. “The defense played amazing behind me.”
Wainwright allowed seven hits and three strike outs while walking one. He allowed four runs in his eight-plus innings of work.
On to the Pujols watch, the former Cardinals’ slugger finished his first series since leaving St. Louis 1-for-11.
“I made a good pitch and it was exactly what I was trying to do,” Wainwright said. “He broke his bat. He is a great hitter for a reason. He made a good pitch a ball he could get a hit on.”
Pujols got his one and only hit in his last at bat of the series. He struck out three times in the first two games and had a walk in the series opener.
“It is hard to keep a man like that hitless for a series,” Wainwright said. “He is going to get one, probably, eventually.”
The Cardinals finish the road trip 3-5. St. Louis will be back home tonight to start a short five-game, six day home stand. St. Louis will take on the Miami Marlins with the first pitch at 7:05 p.m.