With a surging Los Angeles team coming into town riding a 14-game road winning streak, St. Louis was unable to slow down the streaking Dodgers as the Cardinals fell 3-2 in front of 42,494 fans at Busch Stadium Monday night.
“It was one of those days where we couldn’t get much going,” Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny said. “We just couldn’t help (starting pitcher Adam Wainwright) out.”
“It was another tough loss,” Wainwright said. “Two good teams going at it and they are playing great ball obviously. They have won 15 times in a row on the road. I knew that going in and I wanted to end that streak. They were opportunistic tonight and did some good things when they needed to and they won the game.”
St. Louis got on the board quickly in the first inning, needing just seven pitches to take a 1-0 lead. But, that would be the only time the Cardinals led.
Matt Carpenter led off the bottom of the first inning with a double and advanced to third when Yasiel Puig misplayed the ball. Beltran then gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead when he hit a fielder’s choice to the Dodgers shortstop Nick Punto, who airmailed the ball to home plate, allowing Carpenter to score his National League-leading 82nd run of the season.
The Dodgers took the lead in the top of the fourth. Adrian Gonzalez opened with a walk, just the 20th issued by Cardinals’ starter Adam Wainwright this season. Puig then doubled before Andre Ethier singled to score Gonzalez from third. A fielder’s choice then scored Puig to put the Dodgers up 2-1.
The Cardinals had a chance to tie the game in the fifth. Allen Craig singled with one out. After Matt Holliday popped out, David Freese doubled to right, but Puig, the Dodger right fielder, fired a laser to the infield that Punto relayed to home plate to nail Craig at the dish.
“I saw the ball come out of his hand and we looked at where Allen (Craig) was and we thought we had a real good shot at being safe there,” Matheny said. “It was a great relay, a great tag. That definitely took some momentum out.”
Los Angeles added what turned out to be a much-needed insurance run in the top of the seventh. With two outs, Punto doubled and scored on a single by Dodger’s starting pitcher Zach Greinke.
“Greinke’s pitch,” Wainwright said. “I can’t remember the last time a pitcher hit that for a hit, much less an RBI hit.”
After finishing the top of the seventh, Wainwright was lifted for a pinch hitter. Wainwright (13-7) finished the night allowing three runs on seven hits. He walked a pair and struck out five while throwing 104 pitches.
“(My stuff) was fine,” Wainwright said. “It wasn’t great, but it was good enough to win.”
Batting in Wainwright’s spot, Adron Chambers walked to open the bottom of the seventh and moved to second on a single from Carpenter. Then, with Beltran at the plate and two runners on, Beltran shocked the crowd as he laid down a sacrifice bunt.
When asked about who made the decision on the Beltran bunt, Matheny was evasive about it.
“Sometimes we put them on and sometimes we do it on our own,” Matheny said.
Any further inquiries about the Cardinals’ two late inning bunts to Matheny were met with a simple “no” from the Cardinals’ manager.
Both runners advanced, but the Cardinals’ team leader in home runs gave away an out. Craig followed with a ground out to first that scored Chambers before Holliday grounded out to end the inning, leaving Carpenter stranded on third.
“We make plays to try and capitalize when we can,” Matheny said. “A lot of things could have happened different for us. A lot of little things could have happened right and it could have changed the game, but they didn’t and now we move on.”
St. Louis outhit Los Angeles 8-7, but stranded twice as many runners (8 to 4) on the base paths. Carpenter was the only Redbird to have multiple hits, going 2-for-5. Craig and Freese both reached twice. Craig was hit by a pitch and finished 1-for-3 with an RBI groundout while Freese was hit by a pitch and finished 1-for-3 with a double.
With the loss, the Cardinals fall to 65-46 on the season and two games back of the idle Pittsburgh Pirates. Tonight’s matchup will feature the Dodgers’ other ace, Clayton Kershaw, against rookie Joe Kelly. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m.