The bitter churn of how Monday’s game against Milwaukee ended with the Cardinals losing a lead, losing their way, and then losing the game rankled manager Mike Matheny long after the final out in the 12th inning late that night.
All day Tuesday, Matheny admitted, “I felt sick.”
The sequel provided no elixir.
For the second time in as many nights at Busch Stadium, the Brewers rallied from a three-run deficit and upended the Cardinals in extra innings. Lyle Overbay twice attempted to bunt a teammate over to third before swinging away with two strikes for an RBI single that delivered a 5-4 victory in the 11th inning Tuesday. A short distance from where Tums antacid tablets have been manufactured, the Cardinals continue to play games that even they find difficult to digest. And the real upset so far this week is how the traits the Cardinals most like to have, they can see clearly — in Milwaukee.
The Brewers are, in Matheny’s words, the confident club.
Even a failed bunt turns sunny for Milwaukee.
“You see them do the little things right,” Matheny said. “We have those situations in these close games where it’s going to be the little things that either help us or kill us. We’ve been having trouble getting guys over, getting them in. Something that we’ve had a lot of confidence in ourselves getting it done. It’s almost a confidence issue now because we’re seeing the opposite side of it.”
The Cardinals claimed a 3-0 lead on Yadier Molina’s first-inning home run and watched it fizzle when starter Lance Lynn couldn’t retire opposing starter Kyle Lohse. The righty and former Cardinal tied the score with a two-run, two-out single. The Cardinals rallied to force extra innings but could have done so much more in the seventh. They didn’t, and that allowed the short-handed Brewers – playing without four regulars in the lineup – to hang in, hang in, and then pull away in the 11th. Overbay’s single off Kevin Siegrist scored Khris Davis with no outs in the 11th inning.
Daniel Descalso’s pinch-hit single in the bottom of the inning brought the go-ahead run to the plate, but only briefly before Francisco Rodriguez nailed down his 13th save of the season.
The surging Brewers wake up with a 6½-game lead on the Cardinals.
“It’s April,” Matt Adams said.
It may matter.
The Cardinals forced extra innings by tying the score in the seventh shortly after the Brewers took their first lead of the game. The Cardinals could have had at least one more than the single run needed to tie. Allen Craig’s triple into the right-field corner scored Matt Carpenter from first base and put the go-ahead run at third with one out. A ball in play and the Cardinals probably would have had the lead. The next two batters couldn’t provide one as Brewers reliever Will Smith struck out Adams and Molina to end the threat.
Lohse outlasted Cardinals starter Lynn by stretching close to the same amount of pitches over one more inning. Lohse struck out nine and left the game with the lead after six innings of work. Lynn didn’t survive the fifth because of so many pitch-laden innings.
The Cardinals had relocated Tyler Lyons to the bullpen each of the past two nights because they won’t be needing him, as advertised, this weekend at Wrigley Field.
With an off day Thursday, the Cardinals intend to shrink to a four-man rotation and skip Lyons’ next assigned day. Adam Wainwright will start instead Friday. Lyons will next be needed to start Tuesday in Atlanta. In the meantime, Lyons offered the Cardinals a second lefty as Siegrist recovered from back tightness and a long man for a situation like Tuesday’s.
Lyons had to absorb innings that Lynn left behind.
The lefty struck out three of the first four batters he faced, but he did slip behind the Brewers when Carlos Gomez connected for a solo homer in the seventh inning. Lyons covered two innings to funnel the game to the bullpen, which held till extra innings.
Lynn had a bloated pitch count by the fourth inning, and it only climbed deeper into the 90s as the Brewers rallied to tie the score.
It took Lynn 77 pitches to get through 17 batters, and he had collected only 11 outs. Lohse hit Lynn’s 88th pitch of the game for a two-run single that knotted the score. Lynn only got through the fifth inning without earlier assistance from Lyons because he retired the side on eight pitches – an economy that he wasn’t able to strike earlier.
The fourth inning turned on him when he walked a batter to load the bases and face Lohse, who entered the game hitless for 2013.
The former Cardinals starter watched two balls from the current Cardinals starter before he received a strike. Lohse then fouled off three consecutive fastballs to remain alive in the at-bat. All he saw was fastball after fastball.
“I kind of went into swing mode,” Lohse said. “If he bounced a slider I’d have probably swung over the top. But he kept coming with fastballs. He kind of did me a favor.”
Lohse connected for a two-out single to left field that scored two and made it a 3-3 game. Overbay had scarred Lynn’s shutout with an RBI single earlier in the inning, and Milwaukee finished with three runs on three hits, two wild pitches and two walks.
And one regrettable sequence to Lohse.
“You get three runs in the first, you need to win that game,” Lynn said. “If you can’t put the pitcher away with two outs and the bases loaded and a two-run lead, you deserve not to win the game. Plain and simple. You’ve got to be better than that.”
It wasn’t just the inability to retire Lohse. Lynn faced a diluted Brewers lineup and still saw his pitch count balloon. Milwaukee, the best team in the NL so far this season, started the day with a lineup lacking injured stars Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and shortstop Jean Segura, and catcher Jonathan Lucroy was in need of a breather after 12 innings behind the plate Monday. Manager Ron Roenicke admitted that “trying to find a third and fourth hitter is not easy to do when you have (Lucroy), Rami, and Brauny out.”
The Brewers have missing All-Stars from the lineup.
The Cardinals have misfiring All-Stars in the lineup.
Craig’s average is on the rise and the right fielder walked, scored a run and had the game-tying triple. But lower in the order is a desert. The bottom three position players in the lineup struck out a combined eight times. Veteran Mark Ellis had three of them. Asked if Ellis’ timing was off because of an abbreviated rehab assignment, Matheny said: “Could be. Could be.”
The churn continues.