Without “Big Three” Cards Drop Finale To Reds

Sometimes, it’s just not your day. When Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman and David Freese are all sitting on the bench, the “not your day” odds go up.

In today’s series finale with the Reds, manager Mike Matheny decided to rest the middle of his everyday lineup, opting to utilize tomorrow’s day off and rest up his veterans.

Matheny had to exercise his managing-when-struggling skills today in a Cardinals loss to the Reds.

Things started off okay.

Daniel Descalso singled in the second with two outs. But, then he was picked off at first. Threat over.

Today’s starter Jaime Garcia nearly hit a homer of his own — he had the distance, but not the direction, as it went just foul.

Still, the Cardinals took the lead in the third after a Garcia single, a Rafael Furcal triple, and a Jon Jay solo home run — Jay’s first of the young season.

3-0, good guys.

It doesn’t show in the line score, but that scoring burst was assisted by a 14-pitch at bat by Erik Komatsu. Until then, Cardinals’ arch-nemesis Johnny Cueto had been chipping away at the tough Cardinals lineup. But after the Komatsu AB, he was rattled.

Garcia had a tough go of it, too, in the colder-than-normal temps (46 degrees at game time). He started the bottom of the third with back-to-back singles, then a double that Matt Holliday couldn’t wrangle, and the Reds were on the board.

The offense didn’t do Garcia many favors. The scrambled up lineup managed eight hits, but struggled to move guys into scoring position, much less bring them home. The three runs would be all Jaime had to work with. The question was, would it be enough.

Now, we all watched last season as Garcia stymied the best of the best in St. Louis, and was blasted by everyone on the road. A lot of hopes hinged on improvement in Garcia’s mental strength and his ability to work out of trouble away from home.

Well, he did that. Twice.

But the next round of back-to-back singles to start an inning, followed by a walk and a sacrifice fly to score Reds’ run #2 was too much to recover from, it seems. Add to that the second bunt single by Wilson Valdez, and the game was tied, Garcia was gone, and the game belonged to the ‘pen for the first time this season.

Victor Marte and Kyle McClellan pitched their way through two 3 1/3 scoreless innings.

Then came Scrabble.

A 9th inning Joey Votto double off Marc Rzepczynski and a walk to former Cardinal Ryan Ludwick wasn’t the quick out Matheny was hoping for. Then an all-too-hittable fastball from Fernando Salaz to pinch hitter Chris Heisey was more than enough to spoil the sweep.

Reds win 4-3.

The trouble with a blistering start like the Redbirds have had is, losses like this are even harder to swallow.

Don’t worry, no one’s jumping off the bandwagon or breaking out the “I told you so’s.” Nothing that drastic. But, it does expose some weaknesses that will need to be addressed.

Garcia on the road. Matheny’s situational pitching choices. Those pitchers then getting the job done. And again, hitting with runners in scoring position.

The good news is, this ends the long, season-opening road trip around the NL Central. Friday is a new day — and not just any day. It’s Opening Day at Busch. A day Mike Matheny described today as being unlike Opening Day anywhere else.

And, it’s Adam Wainwright day. Now if only Berkman’s calf is good to go, I think we have a perfect recipe for getting back on track!

Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball and a contributor to Around the Horn. Follow her on Twitter @tarawellman.

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