The pain of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 3-2 loss in 12 innings to the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night was bad enough.
But the Cardinals also saw right fielder Stephen Piscotty suffer a sprained left ankle as he attempted to make a diving catch of Alcides Escobar’s go-ahead double in the 12th.
With Whit Merrifield on third with one out, Escobar sliced a ball that barely landed inside the right-field line. The ball caromed off Piscotty’s ankle and rolled away as Merrifield easily scored what proved to be the game-winning run.
Piscotty gingerly limped to his cubicle after the game. X-rays were negative, but Piscotty’s ankle was swollen and discolored. Earlier in the game, he fouled a ball off the same ankle.
“It’s painful, but there’s nothing serious to it,” Piscotty said. “I have double-swelling going on. I got ice on it and we have a system in the training room that gets out inflammation. Hopefully, it will do its job overnight.”
Piscotty hoped Escobar’s liner would go foul. If it had, Piscotty was going to let it drop because he knew that even if he caught it, Merrifield would score from third.
But when the ball flattened out, Piscotty knew it might be fair, so he opted to attempt what would have been a sensational catch. Piscotty, and the Cardinals, came up short.
“It all happened so fast,” Piscotty said. “The interesting thing about that is I didn’t want to catch it. I was hoping it would be foul. If I catch that ball, (Merrifield) tags and scores. I did that in the minor leagues, I remember, and cost our team a game because I laid out for a ball. I honestly wanted it to drop. It was right on the line. Unfortunately for me and the team, it was fair.”
The Cardinals challenged the fair call, but the original decision was upheld. The run was charged to Seth Maness, who took the loss and fell to 0-2.
“It was one of those situations where we’ve got to take a look because it’s a game-changer,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “It was close enough.”
St. Louis, meanwhile, slipped to 15-22 at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals (40-37) trail the Chicago Cubs by 11 games as the teams approach the midway point of the season.
Matheny doesn’t understand why the Cardinals can’t be better at home.
“If we didn’t have the statistic, I don’t think we would notice,” he said. “We love being at home, but so much has been made of it, it’s hard to deny it and not realize it right now. But overall, we just think it’s kind of one of those things that won’t even be an issue by the time we finish this thing at the end. We’ll play good at home. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t.”
Last year, the Cardinals were 55-26 at home.
Kansas City was in position to win on two other occasions. The Royals led 1-0 in the ninth, but Jhonny Peralta’s RBI single made it 1-1 against Wade Davis, who blew just his third save chance since the start of the 2015 season.
The Royals took a 2-1 lead in the 10th on second baseman Matt Carpenter’s error, but Piscotty led off the 10th with his ninth home run, against Joakim Soria, to make it 2-2.
“It’s just a good example of us fighting back,” Piscotty said. “It’s something we’re going to continue to do all season long. You don’t always win them, but it’s great to give that effort. ... We would have liked to have this game tonight, but you can’t do anything about it. You’ve just got to get tomorrow’s.”
The teams will meet again at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, with Mike Leake (5-5, 4.25 ERA)pitching for the Cardinals against Chris Young (2-7, 6.54 ERA).
Carlos Martinez threw six shutout innings in his first career start against the Royals, but did not figure in the decision. He allowed eight hits, walked one and struck out three in an 89-pitch performance. In his last six starts, Martinez is 3-0 with a 1.06 ERA.
“He was great,” Matheny said. “His last (three) starts, we ran him deep on his pitch counts (122, 101, 109) so we had to be careful with him today. We couldn’t let him go much further. He was very good. He just keeps getting better. The way he uses his stuff, the way he mixes up his movement, the way he’s trusting it and pounding the (strike) zone and trusting his defense, that’s a huge step from even a year ago when we watched this kid.
“To me, he’s starting to find his stride.”
Martinez had no qualms about his outing.
“I feel really good,” he said through an interpreter. “I had pitched a lot of innings in my previous games and I took the game to the seventh inning, and that’s what we look for.”
The Cardinals, who have relied so heavily on their offense this season as they patiently await for their rotation to round into form, could do nothing with Royals starter Edinson Volquez.
Volquez had been cuffed for 12 runs (11 earned) on eight hits in one inning in his most recent assignment, a miserable 13-4 loss to the Houston Astros on Friday.
St. Louis had six hits in 6 2/3 innings against Volquez, who walked one and struck out four. The Cardinals had just one runner reach third against Volquez, Piscotty in the fourth, but he was stranded.
Kansas City outhit the Cardinals 14-10, but stranded 19 baserunners.