ST. LOUIS — Monday night turned into another missed opportunity for the St. Louis Cardinals, and it could have been so much worse.
St. Louis entered the ninth inning on the verge of being the first no-hit victims in Busch Stadium III’s 11-year history, but Jeremy Hazelbaker’s leadoff homer on an 0-2 pitch from Chicago Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks saved it from that distinction, if not the indignity of a 4-1 loss.
What’s more, the New York Mets’ 8-1 loss in Washington kept the Cardinals (75-68) a half-game out of the National League’s second wild-card spot. They’ll hope for similar help Tuesday night as well as a better result in game two of their series with the Cubs.
Manager Mike Matheny, perhaps looking for any positive from an offense that’s scored in just four of their last 34 innings, pointed to the last three outs of Monday night’s defeat as a good sign.
“It’s always good to score and then get another guy on base,” he said. “You try to make something happen and put a little pressure on them. We didn’t care how it happened; we wanted to get something going.”
Time is running out to get something going for St. Louis, especially at home, where it fell to 32-40 and must win its last nine games to avoid its first sub-.500 season since Busch III opened in 2006.It won’t help that it’ll have to face Jason Hammel (14-8, 3.50), who already owns two wins against it this year, a 2-1 decision on April 19 and a 12-3 verdict on May 24 in which he worked six shutout innings despite not having his best stuff.
But the recent version of Hammel is one they might be able to hit. He’s coming off a dreary 12-5 defeat Sept. 6 in Milwaukee, where he allowed 13 hits and nine runs, eight earned, in 5 2/3 innings.
However, Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia hasn’t been much better. Garcia (10-12, 4.58) has been pummeled in four of his last five starts, including a 12-6 loss Thursday night to the Brewers at home.
Garcia was lit up for eight hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings, walking one and whiffing three, as he suffered his fourth straight loss.
What’s more, St. Louis might have another injury concern to deal with as first baseman Matt Carpenter departed Monday night’s game after seven innings with back tightness. His status for Tuesday night isn’t known.
What is known is that Chicago would love to clinch on its archrivals’ turf. The proof of that might have come in the sixth inning Monday night, when right fielder Jason Heyward enraged the fans who cheered for him last year by falling into the seats to snatch Hazelbaker’s foul fly.
It also highlighted one of the big differences in the teams. While the Cardinals have been one of the game’s shakiest teams defensively, the Cubs sport plus defenders and good athletes at almost every spot on the field.
“Heyward jumping into the seats, Addy (shortstop Addison Russell) in the hole, JB (second baseman Javier Baez) all over the place,” manager Joe Maddon said. “All of that.”
Posted Tuesday 09-13-16 @ 5:10p.m. EST