ST. LOUIS — A controversial call at second base defused a desperate ninth-inning rally by the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday.
The Cardinals already had scored a run in the ninth and had runners at first and second with one out against Chicago Cubs closer Kevin Gregg.
David Freese hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Darwin Barney, who fed shortstop Starlin Castro at second for a forceout on pinch-runner Shane Robinson.
Castro was unable to make the relay throw to first, but second-base umpire and crew chief Fieldin Culbreth ruled that Robinson had slid out of the baseline and interfered with Castro.
Culbreth deemed that Robinson could not have touched second and awarded Chicago a double play that dusted off its 4-2 victory.
"I thought it was pretty good," Robinson said of the slide, which went to the right-field side of the bag. "I didn't think it was as bad as the Cubs infielders thought it was. I watched it on replay. I didn't fully extend to the bag, but I think I would have gotten close to the bag if I would have really laid out on the slide.
"With David hitting, I had to get something going to prevent a clean throw (by Castro). It's a shame it had to end like that. I didn't think I went too far outside (the baseline) to warrant a call, but it's not my call to be made. ... I was a little surprised. I've seen a lot worse than what happened there."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny debated the call with Culbreth, but said the veteran umpire made the correct decision.
"He made the right call," said Matheny, whose team rapped into four double plays, including three by Freese. "It was just frustrating to see the game end like that when the guys are making such a good push at the end, but he got it right."
Matheny said there was no way Robinson could have touched the base.
"He's got to have 7-foot arms to make that happen," he said.
Heat and humidity
With the summer months approaching, players must remind themselves to keep hydrated with water, Gatorade or any other concoction that replenishes their electrolytes.
Shelby Miller failed to do so Monday and was forced to leave the game after five innings because of cramping in his lower right leg.
"Our (trainers) normally do a real good job," Matheny said. "They go around after the game and make sure the guys are rehydrated and give them all kinds of supplements to try to get ahead of that.
"(The heat) zaps you here, and we've got way rougher days ahead. It's something we'll be very conscious of. But sometimes, you can't get enough in you (because) you're dropping a lot of water (weight)."
Descalso bides time
Infielder Daniel Descalso, who was batting .154 on April 29, has gone 27-for-73 (.370) since then to lift his average to .280.
But Descalso can't break his way into the lineup, particularly at second base. Starter Matt Carpenter is batting .311 from the top of the order and is among the National League leaders in runs (52).
"Who do you want to take out?" Matheny said. "That's the way I always look at it. The regular guys are doing a great job."
Most of Descalso's time (35 games) has come at second base, his natural position. He's appeared in seven games at shortstop, where Pete Kozma has given the Cardinals everything they wanted.
"Danny's a huge part of this club and a huge part of the wins that we've been able to have here --especially lately with what he does with giving 'Koz' a day off and the ability (he has) to give us so much flexibility late in a game for a double-switch," Matheny said.
"But even the days he's been starting, he's been an impact bat. He's going about it the right way, just like we always knew he would. He makes us a better club whether he's starting or on the bench."
Chiefs in house
Eight players from the Peoria Chiefs, the Cardinals' affiliate in the low-Class A Midwest League, attended the game Tuesday and watched batting practice from in front of the dugout.
The players were: pitchers Robert Stock, Thomas Lee, Michael Aldrete, Chris Thomas, Joe Donofrio, Joe Scanio and Sam Tuivailala and first baseman Jeremy Schaffer.
The Chiefs are on their All-Star break after closing the first half on a four-game winning streak that enabled them to finished 38-29 --third place in the Western Division.
Lee, a non-drafted free agent from Sonoma State University in California, said he never had been to Busch Stadium.
The Chiefs begin their second half Thursday at Beloit, which won the Western Division title in the first half.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.