Frustration loomed around every corner in the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse Wednesday.
Despite a valiant effort against defending Cy Young Award-winner Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs, the Cardinals fell short in a 9-8 loss before 45,565 at Busch Stadium.
St. Louis (24-23) nearly overcame deficits of 6-1 and 9-4.
“There are definitely some positives we can take out of this game,” said first baseman Matt Adams, whose sixth home run was among his three hits. “(But) it’s a tough one to swallow. We fought the whole way back and came up short. It was a good battle.
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“We came so close to getting it, but they’re a good club.”
It’s a tough one to swallow. We fought the whole way back and came up short. It was a good battle. We came so close to getting it, but they’re a good club.
Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams
The Cardinals were poised to win the game in the ninth after Stephen Piscotty and Adams opened with singles against Hector Rondon.
But Yadier Molina, after failing to bunt, struck out. Randal Grichuk then fanned on a 3-2 slider outside the strike zone. Pinch-hitter Jedd Gyorko was ahead in the count 2-0 before hitting a one-hopper to Rondon, who misplayed the ball, stumbled, then recovered in time to throw out Gyorko at first and record his eighth save.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny had no interest in replaying the ninth.
“The ninth inning, we had something going. But there was a whole lot that happened before the ninth inning,” Matheny said. “This was a great job trying to get back into that one, which we did. ... That’s the team we are.
“The only frustration was feeling like we had it, or were going to get it, and not finishing it off. To get there, there had to be some extraordinary things happen, and they did.”
The only frustration was feeling like we had it, or were going to get it, and not finishing it off.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny
The loss dropped the Cardinals eight games behind the first-place Cubs (31-14). St. Louis finished 4-5 on the homestand and allowed 32 runs in three of the defeats.
“I think any time you come close and you feel like you had opportunities and didn’t (take advantage), it’s frustrating,” Grichuk said of the loss. “I don’t know if this is the most (frustrating loss), but we definitely wanted to get a ‘W.’
“Eight games (behind) is a lot. There’s a lot of baseball (remaining). We feel pretty confident in the team we have. We’re going to go try to have a good road trip against Washington and Milwaukee.”
The seven-game trip begins at 6:05 p.m. Thursday in the opener of a four-game series in Washington.
Matheny took exception to a question about Kolten Wong’s fourth-inning at-bat.
The Cardinals already had scored two runs to get within 6-4, and still had runners at first and second when Wong worked the count to 3-0 against Arrieta.
On the next pitch, however, Wong flied out to shallow left to end the inning.
Did Wong have the green light?
“He swung,” Matheny said, an indication he had given Wong freedom to swing.
Wong was frustrated he missed a pitch he has handled in the past.
“Mike gave me the green light and I was ready for it,” Wong said of Arrieta’s fastball over the heart of the plate. “He’s a guy that, with 3-0, he’s going to come right down the middle. I was waiting for it, got the pitch I was looking for and just missed by a centimeter or so.
“I’ve hit balls like that. It’s just me working my way back to being where I used to be. I’m missing pitches like that, but still putting a good swing on it. I’m not mad at the fact I swung and got out. I wish I would have done a little more, but it is what it is.”
The Cubs committed two errors but came through in the clutch on defense in the fifth.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Grichuk hit a smash down the third-base line. Tommy La Stella dived, came up with the ball and forced Molina at second to keep it 6-4.
“I hit it well,” said Grichuk, who homered and singled in his first two at-bats against Arrieta. “(La Stella) laid out and made a great play.”
Matheny believed it was the turning point in a game that had many others.
“It was a terrfic play made,” he said. “You can’t get past that. Randal took great at-bats all day long. Unfortunately, they made a plus defensive play in a big situation. It got them out of a jam.”
Carlos Martinez (4-5) surrendered all six runs of his runs in the second as the Cardinals fell behind 6-1. He lasted five innings, permitted six hits, walked three and struck out seven.
It was the second game in which a Cardinals starter had been touched for six runs in an inning. Michael Wacha allowed six in the first inning of a 12-3 loss Tuesday.
“There’s no secret here. We can’t keep putting up six-run innings and expect to stay in the game,” Matheny said. “Amazingly, we did. The guys stayed with it and Carlos was able to get through a good portion of it – more than what we thought he might. But overall, it was just a lot of ground to cover.”
Arrieta labored through five innings, allowing four runs on seven hits, with one walk and four strikeouts. He hasn’t lost in his last 23 regular-season starts.
Arrieta, however, allowed his first homer in 51 innings when Grichuk connected in the second. Arrieta also allowed more than three runs in a game for the first time since June 16, 2015.
Oh allows first HR
Seung Hwan Oh has been a rock in the Cardinals bullpen, but Oh allowed three critical sixth-inning runs that enabled the Cubs to re-establish their five-run lead at 9-4.
Addison Russell singled and pinch-hitter Matt Szczur reached on a bunt single to start the inning. Two outs later, Kris Bryant homered to deep left on a 3-2 pitch. It was the first home run allowed by Oh in 24 2/3 innings.
“He’s had a great start,” Matheny said. “You’re going to have some things that don’t always bounce your way. He’s a guy we will continue to use in big situations.”
Bryant’s homer hurt even more after Matt Holliday got the three runs back with a homer to right in the sixth against Adam Warren. The runs were unearned because of a two-out throwing error by La Stella.
Adams’ leadoff homer in the seventh against Travis Wood was the final run of the game.
Cubs 9, Cardinals 8
Chicago scored six runs in the second against Carlos Martinez and three more in the sixth against Seung Hwan Oh on Wednesday and held on to beat the Cardinals, who completed their nine-game homestand with a 4-5 record.
By the numbers
Kris Bryant homered against Oh in the sixth, the first long ball allowed by the Cardinals’ Korean reliever in 24 2/3 innings. ... The Cardinals outhit the Cubs 12-10, but stranded nine runners and were 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position. ... Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk and Matt Adams homered for St. Louis.
Mike Leake (3-3, 4.07 ERA) vs. Joe Ross (3-4, 2.70 ERA), 6:05 p.m. Thursday at Washington.