Not even a two homer game for Matt Holliday could help the Cardinals Saturday night as the St. Louis Cardinals came up short, falling 6-5 to the Cubs in front of 43,908 at Busch Stadium. The loss was tagged to the bullpen which was unable to hold the lead.
“Sometimes we just don’t get it done,” Cardinals’ skipper Mike Matheny said. “That is really what it comes down to. … We have had opportunities, we just have to do things a little different.”
Leading 4-2 in the eighth, Cardinals’ reliever Trevor Rosenthal allowed three runs on two walks and two hits. Rosenthal also struck out a pair while taking the loss.
Rosenthal (1-3) walked the first two batters he faced before striking out the next two. However, the next batter doubled in both runners and pinch hitter Dioner Navarro followed with a single to plate the go-ahead run.
“Trevor has been so good for us this year in that situation,” Matheny said. “He got himself into a hole, but when he has in the past, just like tonight, he finds his groove and gets back into it and gets through the eighth and we hand it over. Tonight it just didn’t happen.”
Chicago (52-64) scored first on catcher Wellington Castillo’s leadoff homer in the top of the second. Wellington launched Wacha’s third pitch 389-feet into the left field seats for his fourth home run of the season.
The Cubs held that 1-0 lead until the bottom of the fourth when St. Louis took the lead.
Matt Carpenter led off the fourth with a single and advanced to second when Carlos Beltran followed with a single of his own. Allen Craig flied out to deep center, enabling Carpenter to advance to third on the play while Beltran remained at first.
The two runners weren’t on the bases long though, as Holliday needed just two pitches to get the Redbirds on the scoreboard, ending a 17-inning scoreless streak. Holliday’s 3-run blast was his 14th of the season and traveled 376-feet into the left field seats.
The home run for Holliday also extended his hitting streak to a season-high eight games, the third time this year Holliday has had a streak of eight straight games with a hit.
Before Holliday’s fourth inning blast, his last home run came back on July 9, a 2-run shot in the Cardinals' 9-5 win over Houston.
St. Louis (66-50) extended the lead to 4-2 in the sixth with back-to-back doubles from Carpenter and Beltran. Carpenter’s was to center while Beltran’s was a fan interference down the right field line.
Following an unproductive groundout by Craig, Holliday walked on five pitches to put runners at first and second with one out before David Freese grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Trailing 6-4 in the ninth, Holliday blasted his second homer of the game in the ninth, a solo shot to right. It was the 18th career multi-homer game of Holliday’s career.
“Matt (Holliday) had a good night for us,” Matheny said. “We needed somebody to step up. We got some offense going early. He has been swinging much better lately.”
After Wacha was staked to a 3-1 lead, he gave one of the runs back in the top of the fifth, but still had the Cardinals in front 3-2 when the inning ended.
“He made some good curveballs today,” Matheny said. “His pitches have improved since the last time we saw him. He threw some good changeups, but overall he just couldn’t control the counts like he wanted to. But, he left the game with an opportunity to win.”
The fifth inning was it for Wacha. The Cardinals’ rookie threw 99 pitches and lasted just five innings. Wacha scattered five hits and three walks while striking out four.
“Once you start walking people, the pitch count starts rising and you are not able to go deep in the game,” Wacha said. “I was only able to get through five which I wasn’t very happy about.”
More than one-third of his pitches (35 of them) came in the third inning when he walked the bases loaded but was able to get out to the inning unscored upon.
“The arm felt good and the body felt good,” Wacha said. “But, some pitches got away from me later on in innings. That is where the walks came from and my arm started dragging a little bit, but overall my arm feels good.”
Overall, Matheny was not too displeased with his rookie’s performance.
“He threw some good pitches,” Matheny said of Wacha. “I thought there were times he struggled high in the zone like they hadn’t really seen him before. We have talked about him in the past and his success is when he is down and he had trouble getting it down there today.”
The Cardinals’ rookie relievers were unable to hold the lead, though.
Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist each threw a scoreless inning before Trevor Rosenthal coughed up the lead in the eighth. Michael Blazek didn’t fare any better in the ninth. He walked one, hit one, and allowed two hits as the Cubs plated a much needed insurance run.
“It was a tough assignment,” Matheny said. “(Blazek) has had some good outings. It’s the same deal, controlling the strike zone and controlling the counts.”
St. Louis finished with nine hits, eight of which came from four batters. Carpenter and Beltran were both 2-for-4 while Rob Johnson and Holliday were both 2-for-3.
Rosenthal did not hang around to talk after the loss.
The Cardinals will try to avoid the sweep this afternoon when St. Louis host the Cubs in the series finale.