(BaseballStL) — What began as a happy return to action for Jaime Garcia ended in heartbreaking fashion for the Cardinals Friday.
Taking a hard-fought, one-run lead into the ninth, St. Louis was on the verge of sweeping the Braves and moving four games above .500.
A lead off single spelled trouble for closer Trevor Rosenthal, but he would pitch his way to two outs with a man on. Pinch hitter Ryan Doumit silenced the crowd with a double down the line, leaving men on second and third with Evan Gattis stepping in.
Rosenthal would fall being Gattis, eventually walking him intentionally to face Jordan Shafer. Shafer would get ahead 3-1 before Rosenthal caught up to load the count. Busch Stadium was roaring, and despite the wild ride, the young fireballer was one strike away from an escape. A pair of foul balls followed, each building the tension until not a seat in the stadium was occupied.
As the pleading cheers crescendoed to a peak, Rosenthal released eight pitch of the at-bat. The pitch was down and in, and for the split seconds following it hitting the mitt, 40,000 held their breath waiting for the call. The umpire remained motionless, and it became clear no ring up was coming. As the realization spread through the stadium, a vacuum seemed to fill the space. A low, sorrowful sound swept the crowd and cascaded onto the field, as Freddie Freeman trotted in to tie the game for the Braves.
Carlos Martinez would enter, called upon to stop the bleeding. Instead he would open a fresh wound, throwing a wild pitch to his first hitter to give the Braves the lead.
The Cardinals would go to the bottom of the ninth trailing 6-5, and face closer Craig Kimbrel. Despite a single from Matt Adams, the Birds would fail to plate a run, losing the game and missing the sweep.