A Wednesday night that began with hope ended in sobering reality for the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals (82-76) were unable to capitalize on two golden opportunities in the eighth and ninth innings in a 2-1 loss to Cincinnati that further damaged their wild-card hopes.
That wasn’t all.
St. Louis closer Seung Hwan Oh aggravated a groin injury that put him out of action for one week earlier this month. Oh suffered the injury attempting to field a ninth-inning smash by Jose Peraza that went off Oh’s glove for an infield single.
“It’s nothing worse than what I had before. But we’ve still got a few more games to play. Mike (Matheny, the manager) told me to focus on tomorrow,” Oh said through an interpreter, adding that he had felt some tightness in the groin earlier in the inning. “It doesn’t look too bad for me, but we’re going to check back tomorrow.”
The Cardinals hope they still have plenty of tomorrows, but their window of opportunity is beginning to close with just four games remaining.
We’re running out of time. It’s not an ideal position, but if we can win four games straight here, we still can put ourselves in the best opportunity.
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Mike Leake
They had no one but themselves to blame Wednesday. Former Red Mike Leake allowed just two runs in five innings, both of which scored on a bloop single by Adam Duvall in the third.
“We’re running out of time,” Leake said. “It’s not an ideal position, but if we can win four games straight here, we still can put ourselves in the best opportunity.”
St. Louis left runners at second and third in the sixth, but its biggest misses came in the eighth and ninth against hard-throwing Reds reliever Raisel Iglesias.
In the eighth, Matt Carpenter walked and one out later Iglesias hit Yadier Molina with a pitch. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, still with one out. But Stephen Piscotty struck out and Jhonny Peralta broke his bat and bounced out to third.
Iglesias returned for the ninth and allowed a leadoff triple to pinch-hitter Kolten Wong.
I let my team down, and you can’t do that right now. It’s tough. In big spots and big games like that, you want to come through for your team because you’ve worked to hard to get to this point. You feel like you let the team down.
Cardinals infielder Greg Garcia
The Reds tightened their infield, enhancing the Cardinals’ chances to break through. But Aledmys Diaz, the hero in the Cardinals’ 12-5 victory Tuesday when he hit a go-ahead grand slam, grounded out to third, Greg Garcia popped out to short left and pinch-hitter Jedd Gyorko also grounded out to third.
“I came up, personally, in a big spot in the ninth and after Kolten’s great at-bat, a huge triple, I didn’t do my job,” Garcia said. “I let my team down, and you can’t do that right now. It’s tough. In big spots and big games like that, you want to come through for your team because you’ve worked to hard to get to this point. You feel like you let the team down.
“(Iglesias) has good stuff. But it’s the big leagues. There’s no bad pitchers up here.”
Matheny was somber in his postgame meeting with the media.
“They all sting,” he said. “When you have that many chances to score and take over the game, yeah, that hurts. There’s no question about it. ... We couldn’t finish it off.”