Cardinals’ offensive drought continues in rain-soaked loss to White Sox

USATSI 23188804

ST. LOUIS — The talking point of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 6-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox in 10 innings on Saturday will center on the timing of a sudden rain delay.

Despite 80-degree weather and blue skies for most of the game, a monstrous thunderstorm descended over downtown St. Louis just before 4:30 p.m. At the same time, the ballgame had reached its most pivotal point. The Cardinals, down one run, had loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the 10th inning. The White Sox, who entered play Saturday as owners of one of the worst records in baseball at 6-26, responded by recording two outs, bringing the game to its final batter.

The scene made for peak drama, but Mother Nature had other plans. Crew chief Dan Iassogna suspended play midway through Nolan Gorman’s at-bat as sheets of rain pelted Busch Stadium. What followed was a three-hour and three-minute rain delay before the game’s final out could be played.

But for the Cardinals, the rain delay should have never taken place. They had ample opportunity to win the game outright, long before the storm clouds rolled in.

“We load the bases and then just didn’t take quality at-bats after that in order to be able to give ourselves a chance,” Cardinals manager Oli Marmol said after the loss. “That’s the bottom line. There’s no excuse for it. The game should end there.”

Trailing the White Sox by one and with a slight drizzle falling, Nolan Arenado led off the 10th inning with a hard-hit single up the middle off reliever John Brebbia, which advanced Paul Goldschmidt (the automatic runner on second base) to third. Alec Burleson followed with a hot grounder to third base, which was speared by third baseman Rafael Ortega.

Because of how hard the ball was hit, Goldschmidt broke for home to eliminate the chance of the White Sox turning a 5-4-3 double play. The thought process here is that if Chicago did indeed turn that double play, the Cardinals are left with two outs and a runner on third, which doesn’t make for a high-probability scoring situation. By risking the lead runner instead, St. Louis can maximize its scoring chances even if Goldschmidt is thrown out, as they’d have two runners on base with just one out.

It’s a scenario the Cardinals practice regularly, and it worked in their favor immensely when Ortega rushed his throw to home. The ball bounced in the dirt for a throwing error, allowing Goldschmidt to retreat to third, while Arenado and Burleson reached second and first base safely.

It’s here where the Cardinals spoiled their best chances to win. A ball that leaves the infield most likely scores a run, and even a double-play ball, while not ideal, ties the game. Instead, their next two hitters, Lars Nootbaar and Masyn Winn, struck out swinging. That left the game in Gorman’s hands as rain began to pelt Busch Stadium. Brebbia laid in a first-pitch strike to Gorman, but the weather conditions became so severe that he couldn’t get a dry baseball. It was then that the umpiring crew decided to suspend play.

Play was called at 4:28 p.m. and resumed at 7:31 p.m.

By 7:32 p.m., the game was over.

During that 60 seconds or so of resumed play, the White Sox turned to their only remaining reliever, left-hander Tanner Banks, and Marmol opted to play the splits and subbed in Iván Herrera for Gorman. Herrera saw four pitches before being rung up by home-plate umpire C.B. Bucknor on a ball outside the zone. But that was hardly the play that decided the game. The Cardinals’ inability to score before the rain delay ultimately decided their fate.

“I chased a pitch under the zone,” Nootbaar said. “I didn’t get a good pitch to hit (on the) first pitch, saw another one, fouled a fastball off and then chased. In that situation, I have to be better.

“One thing you do is obviously re-evaluate your game,” he added. “I haven’t been perfect by any means. Far from it.”

The Cardinals’ inability to cash in has been their theme of the season. Offensive woes have plagued their lineup, but over the past week, a few players looked close to turning the corner. Arenado was one of those players, and after driving two doubles and plating all the Cardinals’ runs in a 3-0 win Friday, he put up an even better performance on Saturday. Arenado reached base safely all five times, and his go-ahead three-run homer topped off a five-run fifth that propelled the Cardinals back into the ballgame.

But starting pitcher Lance Lynn walked the first two batters he faced in the sixth and both runners would come around to score, quickly knotting things at 5-5. The score remained there through nine innings, but St. Louis liked its chances, even when Chicago scored its automatic runner in the top of the 10th.

Quickly though, they saw those chances unravel.

“It was brutal,” Arenado said. “It was tough. Brebbia did a good job, made some good pitches, and guys aren’t feeling very comfortable either. It’s tough. We want those guys hitting in those positions, and we have to find a way to be better. But it’s not from a lack of effort.”

True, how the Cardinals have performed this season is not a reflection of effort. Despite a pitching staff that has exceeded expectations and a defense that ranks among the league’s best, the Cardinals haven’t been able to secure winnable ballgames. Of their 33 games this season, 25 have been decided by three runs or fewer (the second-most in baseball). With their loss on Saturday, St. Louis is now 13-12 in those games and 15-18 overall, a record that would look vastly different if they had been able to score consistently.

Instead, the Cardinals will fight Sunday to salvage a series win against a feeble opponent. They’ll get a boost to their lineup, as Dylan Carlson is expected to be activated off the injured list ahead of Sunday’s game after missing the first month of the season with a sprained AC joint. But they’re also down a starting pitcher with Steven Matz hurt, and will use Matthew Liberatore to open a bullpen game.

Either way, the biggest improvement the Cardinals need is from their bats.

“Everything else is looking pretty darn good,” Marmol said. “But at-bats-wise, quality at-bats and stringing them together and production from our left-handed batters, you just go down the line and it’s been a little bit of a rut right now. We have to figure a way around it.”

(Photo of White Sox reliever John Brebbia and Nolan Gorman: Jeff Curry / USA Today)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top