ST. LOUIS — There was more bad news on the injury front Saturday for the St. Louis Cardinals after they lost to Pittsburgh by a score of 5-3.
Infielder Matt Carpenter was lifted for pinch-hitter Jermaine Curtis in the ninth inning, an odd move considering Curtis was making his major-league debut with the outcome of the game still in doubt.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny explained that Carpenter was hurting, and Carpenter later confirmed that he had injured his left oblique facing Pirates reliever Tony Watson in the seventh.
"I took an awkward swing on a pitch," Carpenter said. "During the rest of the at-bat and through the rest of the game on defense, I was trying to get it loose. It kind of tightened up a little bit. During the ninth inning, it was more of a precautionary move to make sure to get me out of there in case I made a swing and it got worse or something like that. I just kind of bent a funny way. It's a cold day, nasty weather --just a combination of all that."
The Cardinals already are without rookie first baseman Matt Adams, who was placed on the disabled list Friday, retroactive to Monday, with a strained right oblique.
Carpenter said he probably could play in the series finale at 1:15 p.m. Sunday, but that's unlikely given the trickiness of oblique injuries, which can seem minor initially before graduating into something more problematic.
"I went into the training room and they checked it out, so I think I'm going to be fine," Carpenter said. "I feel OK."
Reminded about Adams' injury, Carpenter sounded a bit more cautionary.
"I've had some history," he said. "I got hurt with it last year, so I think that was the main thing. They knew I've had that injury before and they just wanted to make sure it wasn't anything too serious. I don't think it's too serious and I think we'll be fine."
Carpenter is batting .286 with a team-high eight doubles, and his 21 runs scored lead the National League.
Freese sits it out
Third baseman David Freese didn't play Saturday after going 0-for-4 on Friday. Freese is batting .190 with no home runs and three RBIs.
"Right now, he's just pressing," Matheny said. "He hit the ball right on the screws (Friday) with runners in scoring position. It could have definitely sent him in a good direction. It didn't happen. That seems to happen when things aren't going well. But then you could tell he was trying even harder after that.
"We talked (Saturday) about taking that as a good step forward and continue to (progress). But everybody goes through these (things). It's not a panic situation. Today is an opportunity to get some work and try to get (his) mind right."
Matheny said he is "totally convinced" nothing is wrong physically with Freese, who began the season on the disabled list with a strained lower back.
Pittsburgh left-hander Jonathan Sanchez was suspended for six games and fined an undisclosed amount Saturday by Major League Baseball.
Sanchez allowed back-to-back home runs to Carpenter and Carlos Beltran and a single to Matt Holliday in the first inning Friday before hitting Allen Craig in the left shoulder with a pitch, which earned Sanchez an ejection.
Sanchez is appealing the decision.
Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn hit two batters Friday, but umpires determined there was no intent, and Lynn remained in the game and worked seven innings in St. Louis' 9-1 triumph.
"I think we've all seen those instances where (umpires) throw the warning out --especially right when they put that rule into effect --and somebody glances somebody (with a pitch) and they felt obligated to throw them out when it was obvious they weren't trying to hit anybody," Matheny said.
"I think it puts a lot more judgment (responsibility) on the umpire, but hopefully they use their good judgment and try to follow what intent is. That becomes kind of cloudy."
Matheny has talked with struggling reliever Mitchell Boggs about maintaining his confidence while at the same time insisting the Cardinals remain confident in his abilities.
Boggs has a 10.80 ERA in 12 games and 10 innings. He worked a scoreless ninth Saturday despite allowing a walk and a single.
"He's two to three outings away from where we need him to be," Matheny said. "He's pushing through a tough time right now."
Motte to throw
Closer Jason Motte, who has a torn ligament in his elbow, has been cleared to play catch at a distance of 30 to 40 feet.
Motte still could face Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals previously targeted May 1 as the date to make a decision.
"I just heard about it," Matheny said of Motte beginning to play catch. "He's moving forward."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.