ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- After the elation of Monday’s record-setting home opener, the Cardinals felt the deflation of a late loss to the NL Central’s weakest squad Wednesday night.
The Brewers scored six runs on nine hits, outpacing the Cardinals’ totals of four and six.
Three of those St. Louis hits came in the first inning, as the Redbirds raced out to a 3-1 lead.
But as quickly and loudly as the offense roared, it was silenced.
From the second inning until the sixth, the Cards sent 13 batters to the plate without a hit and managed only one baserunner. They got a man to second base in the sixth inning, but erased him on a botched steal attempt. The only offensive authority to appear in the back half of the game was Brandon Moss, who hit his third career pinch-hit home run to pull things even 4-4 in the eighth.
Perhaps more frustrating than a flash-chilled offense was Milwaukee plating every one of their runs on two outs.
“I should get better about finishing the inning, not letting them string a couple hits together,” said starter Mike Leake, who allowed the first four Brewers runs over six innings. “I’m still needing to get the ball down a little more.”
Leake once again posted an enigmatic line that told two different stories. He was efficient, throwing 84 pitches over six innings. He struck out four, got nine groundouts and walked only one. But he surrendered eight hits and allowed 10 baserunners, and was unable to put the Brewers to bed when he had them on the ropes in the first, fourth and fifth innings.
The two runs in the fifth that gave Milwaukee a 4-3 lead came after back-to-back strikeouts. A single and a throwing error put the tying run in scoring position, and Jonathan Lucroy singled him home when a grounder found its way up the middle.
“He’s tough for me,” Leake said of Lucroy, who went 3-for-3 against him with two RBIs. “In that position, maybe I could have been a little more educated with the pitch. We had another guy behind him, I probably could have picked a better location.”
The Brewers’ lead was erased by Moss’ 420-foot jack, but Trevor Rosenthal gave Milwaukee the advantage again when Domingo Santana laced a 98 mile-per-hour fastball over the wall for a two-run shot in the ninth. That decisive blow also came with two outs, after Rosenthal had worked mightily to get them.
“Most of the guys I faced, I probably threw too many balls. I got behind in counts. I kind of gave them an advantage there, to get something going, to see more pitches,” Rosenthal said.
He ended up throwing 33 pitches in the inning, only 19 of them for strikes. It was the second time in as many games the righty crossed the 30-pitch threshold in an appearance. But 13 of Wednesday’s pitches came after not only two outs, but after the Cardinal closer had pinch hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis down 1-2.
“That was one that was tough to let get away,” Rosenthal said of the eventual walk. “I get ahead, and I feel like it was in a good spot, and I just couldn’t make a pitch to finish him off.”
The quote could serve as the perfect summation of a disappointing loss. The Cardinals are the better team, they had the lead they wanted, had their opponent smothered and just lost their footing every time they went to step on the Brewers’ neck.
The Cardinals have one more game with Milwaukee before hosting the Reds over the weekend. With the 7-1 Cubs coming to town the following week, every opportunity against sub-par competition must be exploited. The schedule granted the Cardinals nine of those opportunities in a row. Wednesday, one of them slipped away.