Tuesday provided another example of the unpredictable nature of baseball.
After scoring 10 runs, collecting 14 hits and hammering five home runs Monday in a 10-3 victory over Philadelphia, the St. Louis Cardinals were blanked by the Phillies 1-0 on three hits Tuesday by Aaron Nola, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez.
“Baseball is a crazy game, for sure,” said Cardinals losing pitcher Michael Wacha, whose only mistake was allowing Ryan Howard’s one-out homer in the sixth on a cutter that caught too much of the plate. “Credit that guy (Nola). He was on his game tonight. We’ve got a great lineup and it’s not easy to shut us down like that.
“Credit to him, but I’ve got a feeling our guys will bounce back (Wednesday) and be ready to play.”
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The Cardinals (13-14) fell seven games behind the first-place Chicago Cubs.
Bourjos makes the play
The Cardinals struck out 11 times. It was their 11th game with 10 or more strikeouts this season.
St. Louis misfired on a scoring chance in the first when Matt Carpenter led off with a double and was robbed of a run in the fourth when right fielder Peter Bourjos raced to the line and pulled down Randal Grichuk’s slicing drive, stranding Yadier Molina.
“We know he’s a great outfielder,” Grichuk said of Bourjos, his former teammate in St. Louis. “We know he tracks down balls that you don’t think are going to be caught. Off the bat, I thought it was going to be able to sneak in there. He made a great play. I thought it was going to slice enough, but luckily for him, it stayed up long enough.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny wasn’t surprised.
“Amazing,” Matheny said of Bourjos’ catch. “We saw it first-hand last year how he could steal runs from you. As soon as the ball was hit, I didn’t think there was any chance it was going to be caught. He made a great play.”
Nola nearly unhittable
Nola (2-2), showing off a plus curveball, duplicated his last start against Washington, allowing no runs on two hits in seven innings, with one walk and seven strikeouts. He needed just 77 pitches, however, to record 21 outs against the Nationals. On Tuesday, he threw 111.
“Some days, you’ve got to go out there and match zeroes,” Wacha said. “Nola was dotting. He looked really good. We just couldn’t get anything going on the offensive side. He had a really good game.”
Matheny was impressed with Nola’s breaking ball.
“From the swings, you could tell it was good,” he said. “He had a different arm angle, which is going to produce a different break. You could tell it just looked odd. It looked like something that was a little different than what they’re accustomed to.”
Wacha dominant, too
Wacha (2-2) said he feels good about the direction he’s heading, despite the loss. He permitted just five hits in eight innings, walked three and struck out eight.
“I was able to locate the fastball down in the zone and worked other pitches off that,” he said. “I just continue to build off each start. I’ll use this start as another building opportunity to keep moving forward.”
Regarding Howard’s homer on an 0-0 delivery, Wacha said: “He put a good swing on it. He doesn’t miss those. I’ve got to locate that one better. ... That one didn’t cut; it backed up on me. You definitely want those getting in on, especially to Howard, but all lefties as well.”
Wacha’s best pitches are his fastball and his changeup. Wacha didn’t foresee a fitful night of sleep even though he lost on his third-best pitch.
“I wouldn’t say (it’s) frustrating because I know if execute that pitch and get it where I want, it might be a groundout or maybe just a take or something,” he said. “I just didn’t execute it.”
Matheny lauded Wacha, who has received no run support in his last two games. The Cardinals also were blanked 3-0 on Thursday in Arizona.
“Wow. What a great outing,” Matheny said. “He had everything. He’s been throwing the ball very well. It’s a shame we weren’t able to get a little bit more going offensively.”
After Carpenter opened with a double in the first, Stephen Piscotty struck out, Matt Holliday grounded out to first as Carpenter took third and Matt Adams lined out to right.
Carpenter was the lone Cardinal to even reach second base.
St. Louis only other hits were Molina’s infield single in the fourth and Piscotty’s single in the ninth. Molina originally was called out by first-base umpire Quinn Wolcott, but the call was overturned after being challenged by Matheny.
Phillies 1, Cardinals 0
Aaron Nola outdueled Michael Wacha as Philadelphia evened the series at one win apiece. St. Louisan Ryan Howard’s bases-empty home run with one out in the sixth was the only offense the Phillies needed.
By the numbers
The Cardinals were blanked on three hits by Nola (2-2), who walked one and struck out seven in seven innings. ... Wacha (2-2) allowed one run on five hits in eight innings, with three walks and eight strikeouts. ... St. Louis’ only hits were a double by Matt Carpenter in the first, a single by Yadier Molina in the fourth and a single by Stephen Piscotty in the ninth.
Mike Leake (0-3, 5.83 ERA) vs. Adam Morgan (0-0, 5.40 ERA), 7:15 p.m.