September 26, 2015

Cardinals Central lead slimming after ninth inning homer heroics

ST. LOUIS--BUSCH STADIUM--When Carlos Martinez exited the game after just seven pitches, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny's wheels were probably spinning out of control trying to come up with a way to stretch his bullpen for 26 outs.

Seven penmen later, the Milwaukee Brewers had come from behind twice in front of 45,057 Friday night to nip the home team, 4-3, nicking a precious game off the Cardinals' slimming N.L Central lead, now down to three games over the Pittsburgh Pirates, who edged the Chicago Cubs, 3-2, at Wrigley Field.

Martinez complained of throwing shoulder tightness and was emotional upon his return to the St. Louis dugout. Early medical examinations are positive, according to Matheny, but the Cardinals' want to look things over again Saturday.

The Brewers got five innings out of their starter, Ariel Pena, who like Martinez, earned no decision. Pena gave up all three St. Louis runs, walking one and striking out six.

Of four Milwaukee relievers, Will Smith (7-2) would pick up the win, pitching the eighth inning and striking out one.

St. Louis closer, Trevor Rosenthal, ended up the loser, giving up a ninth inning homer to the Brewers' Khris Davis, at the time breaking a 3-all tie.

Francisco Rodriguez closed for Milwaukee, his 36th save.

Blowing a couple leads in most baseball scenarios will get you a notch in the loss column, and that's how the night went for St. Louis.

The Cardinals scored first, in the bottom of the third inning when Matt Carpernter singled to right field, bringing home Tony Cruz. St. Louis gave that run back in the next half-frame when the Brewers Logan Schafer scored on a Tyler Lyons wild pitch.

It was the Cardinals turn to answer in the bottom of the fourth, Jason Heyward scoring on a line drive single to left field by Stephen Piscotty. Cruz helped add another run to the St. Louis cause with a sacrifice fly to center field, Jhonny Peralta tagging and scoring from third base, making it a 3-1 lead. Peralta would go 3-for-4 on the night.

Schafer scored again in the Brewers' sixth on a Jhonathan Lucroy grounder that found its way into left field for a single, closing the gap to one run at 3-2.

Milwaukee tied the game in the seventh inning on a Greg Garcia error at second base allowing Jean Segura to score.

The tiebreaker came in the top of the ninth when Khris Davis played hero for the Brewers with a solo home run, a line drive over the right field wall and into the Cardinals bullpen, which by then was all but empty.

The loss broke a five-game winning streak for St. Louis.

With the four-game series tied at a game apiece, game three plays at 6:15 p.m. CDT at Busch Stadium Saturday night.

Central Race
St. Louis will throw Jaime Garcia against the Milwaukee's Taylor Wagner in hopes of maintaining what little lead remains over Pittsburgh, now down to three games. The Bucs defeated the Cubs Friday and will play them again Saturday at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs clinched a playoff berth with the help of an Oakland Athletics nipping of the San Fransisco Giants, 5-4, on the West Coast.

The Cardinals division lead is three games on the Pirates and seven and a half games on the Cubs.