Before his team’s 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday, St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny expressed his undying optimism that things will soon turn around.
“No doubt,” Matheny said. “Tonight. Why not? We’ve seen too many of the pieces. We’ve just got to put them together. We’ve seen the offense that can match up with anybody. We’ve seen the starting pitching that matches up with anybody. I really like (how) our bullpen’s coming together.
“Defensively, yeah, you’re going to have days where you’re going to have some mistakes that aren’t covered up by excessive offense. Those are the ones that stand out. But overall, I see guys individually getting better. Nobody can convince me otherwise than that there’s a good, long streak of good baseball ahead of us.”
The Cardinals began Friday with a 33-38 record and again displayed the frustrating inconsistency that has been responsible for their sub-.500 record.
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Pitcher Adam Wainwright, coming off the worst start of his career Saturday in Baltimore, limited the Pirates to two runs (one earned) on two hits in seven innings.
But Stephen Piscotty lost track of the outs and was doubled off first base in the sixth when Jose Martinez’s sinking liner was grabbed by right fielder Greogry Polanco. Piscotty was standing on third when first baseman Josh Bell handled Polanco’s easy throw and stepped on the bag to end the inning.
Rookie Paul DeJong, meanwhile, smoked a tie-breaking homer against Daniel Hudson in the seventh to put the Cardinals on top 3-2. DeJong connected on a 3-2 fastball and deposited it into the St. Louis bullpen in right. His fifth homer of the season carried 405 feet.
However, the lead was brief, as Trevor Rosenthal surrendered an RBI single to right on a 3-2 pitch to former Cardinal David Freese in the eighth, tying the game at 3.
St. Louis also committed an error, a wild throw by second baseman DeJong, that helped the Pirates pull into a 2-2 tie in the fourth. It was the Cardinals’ seventh error in three games.
Finally, Seung Hwan Oh allowed John Jaso’s bases-empty homer in the ninth on a 3-2 pitch, the decisive blow of the game as the Cardinals matched a season-low by falling six games under .500.
And so it goes.
General Manager John Mozeliak is left to determine whether the Cardinals will be sellers or buyers as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.
The Cardinals, in need of another proven bat, could turn to the Miami Marlins, who could be willing to deal left fielder Marcell Ozuna and center fielder Christian Yelich.
The cost of doing business, however, might be more than Mozeliak can stomach when the Marlins send the Cardinals their list of coveted players to head for Miami.
Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson, who would fit nicely on the Cardinals, also has been rumored to be available. Donaldson, however, would likely cost St. Louis a heavy price and will be a free agent at the end of the season.
If a deal can’t be made, the Cardinals must wait and hope that somehow, some way, the current roster improves its performance enough to make a run at a wild-card berth or perhaps even challenge for the NL Central title. The division hasn’t exactly excelled thus far.
DeJong said the team is confident better days are ahead.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Everyone has a great time every day with each other and coming to the park and trying to get wins. “There are no complaints in the big leagues. This team has everything it needs to win this division. We just have to get down to business and have a good week and see where we go from there.”
Pirates 4, Cardinals 3
John Jaso hit a two-out homer on a 3-2 pitch from Seung Hwan Oh (1-4) in the ninth inning as Pittsburgh won the opener of a three-game series with the Cardinals.
By the numbers
The Cardinals had another error and have committed seven in the last three games. ... Jose Martinez hit a two-run homer in the second and Paul DeJong lined a bases-empty homer in the seventh. ... Adam Wainwright had a no-decision despite allowing one earned run on two hits in seven innings. ... Oh has allowed five homers in 34 innings after permitting five in 79 2/3 innings last season. ... Josh Bell also homered for the Pirates.
Lance Lynn (5-4, 3.33 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole (5-6, 4.28 ERA), 6:15 p.m. Saturday.