ST. LOUIS (BaseballStL) - Pittsburgh’s Gregory Polanco provided the proverbial fireworks with two home runs and the inability to string together hits cost the Cards in a 4-2 July 4th loss to the Pirates Monday afternoon.
“We couldn’t get the big hit and they got the big hits,” summarized Mike Matheny after the loss. “We had a chance to get a runner in from third. Not (doing that) will come back to bite you. We couldn’t find it.”
Carlos Martinez pitched well again for the Cardinals, but took a tough loss, falling to 7-6 on the year. “Carlos was good from the very beginning,” Matheny said. “He did a great job. He has that extra gear . . . has the ability to get quick outs and all the horsepower you could ever ask for.”
Polanco crushed one home run off Carlos Martinez in the fifth with a man on to erase a 1-0 deficit and then hit a solo shot in the eighth off Seth Maness as the Pirates (42-41) pulled a game closer to the second place Redbirds (43-39).
“He made good contact on that pitch,” Martinez said. “It didn’t (take away) my concentration.” Although the Cards have stumbled in several of Martinez’ quality starts, he said he trusts his teammates and believes they will get in the rhythm during this long season.
Martinez skirted danger a couple of times, wiggling out of a bases loaded, no out situation with the help of a strikeout and a double play in the fifth inning. He gave up an uncharacteristic nine hits and walked one but held the Pirates in check with key pitches at crucial times.
But the Cards could not bunch hits together despite tallying nine hits, three by Matt Carpenter and two by Martinez, who is now hitting .290 on the year (9-31). Pirate starter Jonathon Niese was 0-4 in his last four starts with an ERA of 8.86 but held the Cards to a run in 5.2 innings despite surrendering seven hits.
“Each guy is attacked differently,” Matheny said. “Any guy in this league has the potential (to pitch well in any given game). We treat all the pitchers with the same respect.”
The Cards didn’t have any better luck against Pirate relievers. In the eighth inning, Juan Nicasio struck out Piscotty, Jhonny Peralta and Yadier Molina in order on nine pitches. But in the ninth, the Cards scored one run and had the tying and winning runs on base before Matt Holliday popped up on the first pitch to end the game.
Aledmys Diaz and Holliday, the two-three hitters in the Redbird attack went 0-9 and left 10 men on between them. For the day, the Cardinals left a total of 10 men on base. Holliday is now hitless in his last 11 at bats and 2-22 on the homestand.
Outfielder Tommy Pham was a late scratch from the starting lineup with shoulder stiffness. “I dove for a ball (Sunday) and landed hard on my shoulder,” he said after the game. “It was sore yesterday afternoon and wasn’t any better today so I thought it would be better to take a day . . . and give our team a better shot at winning.” He said his shoulder was improved by the end of the game and thought he would be available Tuesday, when the Cards will try to even the series at 7:15. Mike Leake (5-6, 4.13) faces Jameson Taillon (2-1, 3.86).
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