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Miller leaves game as Cards stumble

Miller leaves game as Cards stumble

Mike Matheny Shelby Miller

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny watches Shelby Miller try to throw after Tuesday's game was stopped in the third inning because the starting pitcher felt his back tighten. Matheny lifted Miller from the game. (AP Photo)

DENVER • A pain spiking up Shelby Miller’s back gave the Cardinals a shiver up theirs.

With three starters already on the disabled list, including two put there Monday morning, the Cardinals have had to rework their bullpen and bring a prospect up from Class AA to cover the assignments in the coming days. They have needed their healthy starters to provide more innings or more consistency, and after his back started to seize on him in the third inning Tuesday night, Miller was unable to provide either.

“I didn’t feel quite right the entire time,” Miller said. “I just felt off.”

The host Colorado Rockies got six RBIs from Justin Morneau, including a decisive three-run homer after Miller had left the game, as they held fast for a 10-5 victory at Coors Field. The loss on the field, which ended a three-game winning streak for the Cardinals, was less significant to the Cardinals than the potential loss of another starter.

The Cardinals put Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha on the disabled list with shoulder issues Monday, and righty Joe Kelly was already there with a torn hamstring. This afternoon the Cardinals will turn to rookie Marco Gonzales for his major-league debut, and they will have to clear a spot on the roster for him. Manager Mike Matheny said even though the bullpen had to cover 5 1/3 innings left over from Miller, it should be ready if Gonzales can provide a starter’s share of the innings.

Matheny added that he does not expect Miller to miss his next start, Sunday in Los Angeles.

“He seems to be pretty confident that he’ll be ready to go for his next start,” Matheny said. “It tested us there. The guys coming out of the bullpen kept us in the game until late. We don’t feel we’re too depleted down there. This looks like one we were able to head off at the pass.”

Miller allowed three runs on six hits through his 2 2/3 innings. A tell early in the game was the five walks he allowed, the trouble he had throwing strikes and the constant shrugging of his shoulders.

Matheny said the righty had a spasm in the middle of his back.

Miller described it as a “nagging little sting.”

He showed an increasing level of discomfort during the third inning, and after an intentional walk and then a 3-1 count to the opposing pitcher, catcher Tony Cruz motioned a trainer out to the mound. Miller said he felt pain through the middle of his back as he extended his arm, and four-seam fastballs started veering wildly out of the zone.

In his previous start, Miller had experienced soreness that he described as a “sting” in his hip, and on Tuesday he allowed that the two injuries could be connected. Miller stepped off the rubber during the third inning Tuesday and was stretching and rotating his shoulders as if to alleviate discomfort in his back.

Miller said he would seek treatment today and know more about his availability for his planned start at Dodger Stadium. He insisted he would be able to make it.

Miller was removed after throwing 73 pitches. After his final pitch to Jorge de la Rosa in the third inning, a team trainer and Matheny met Cruz on the mound. A lengthy conversation ensued with the righty, who did get a chance to test his back through a couple of tosses. Second-base umpire Jim Reynolds signaled to the bullpen for a replacement, and lefty Nick Greenwood came in.

The Cardinals would go ahead 4-3 after Miller left, but Morneau’s home run off Greenwood (1-1) would regain the lead for good. Morneau added a two-run single off lefty Sam Freeman to secure the win.

The Cardinals brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the eighth inning, and the Rockies went to a former Cardinal to quell the uprising. Adam Ottavino, a first-round pick by the Cardinals before their recent run of starters who speed to the majors (like today’s starter, Marco Gonzales), relieved Rex Brothers with the tying run at the plate and Yadier Molina representing it as a pinch hitter.

Molina had the day off from behind the plate but with a chance to tie the score with a swing, Matheny went to his catcher. Molina lined a single off Ottavino over the head of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

But the shot only loaded the bases.

It didn’t bring a run home.

That opportunity would be left to Jon Jay, pinch-hitting in the pitcher’s spot. Ottavino, who has been reinvented as a reliever with the Rockies since leaving the Cardinals, got ahead of his former teammate with two quick fastballs. He then struck out Jay on a 1-2, 94 mph fastball to end the threat. In the bottom of the inning, Drew Stubbs cracked his first career pinch-hit home run to extend the Rockies’ lead and set the final score.

The Cardinals grabbed their only lead of the game in the fourth inning. Jhonny Peralta launched his 11th home run of the season – a two-run shot to the left-field seats that scored Matt Adams and tied the score at 3-3. Peter Bourjos followed with a single that glanced off the second baseman’s glove. Bourjos would take second on Mark Ellis’ single, and then he would score from second on a ground ball to second base. Tony Cruz chopped a high-hopper to D.J. LeMahieu, and Bourjos never slowed as he reached and rounded third base.

Bourjos’ savvy run gave the Cardinals their 4-3 lead.

His was the first of two runs the Cardinals scored from second base without the ball getting much farther than the infield. In the top of the fifth inning, Matt Holliday doubled. He broke from second base when Allen Craig skipped a grounder toward shortstop Tulowitzki. The ball took an odd hop and came close to grazing Holliday. Colorado’s infielders all pointed to Holliday and the ball as if it had hit him. As the grounder trickled past Tulowitzki and gently into the grass of left field, Holliday kept running around third to score.

That prompted the first of two lengthy replays called upon by the Rockies and manager Walt Weiss. The call stood that Holliday did not interfere with the ball. In the seventh inning, Freeman wheeled and threw to get the lead runner, LeMahieu, as he slid into third base. Whether Matt Carpenter’s tag hit his shin before his foot hit the bag depended on the side of the field, but the umpires’ review of the play affirmed their initial call – out.

“What do we have replay for?” Weiss yelled from the dugout.

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