He’s got whatever it is that blows them away …
For only the second time this season, the Cardinals will lose a series. This time, that series goes to Houston.
It was Jaime Garcia’s fifth start and he was looking for his third win. Trouble is, he was 0-3 against Houston in his career. Add that to the fact the Redbirds don’t hit Norris well — at all! — and that it was a road game (not Garcia’s specialty) and things weren’t looking entirely promising to start with. Especially considering the spark the ‘Stros offense has shown lately.
The Cards continued their trend of scoring early — plating one run in the first inning. But, when Garcia walked the bases loaded with two outs, it was more than a little trouble. As Rick Hummel described it,
For much of the first inning at Minute Maid Park, Garcia had trouble locating the strike zone. From bouncing his first curveball about seven feet in front of the plate, Garcia proceeded to load the bases on walks with two outs.
Then, he began throwing strikes, as in two quick ones to [Chris] Johnson. The third pitch to Johnson was a strike too, if Yadier Molina would have caught it. Johnson took a pitch down in the zone and launched his first career grand slam into the Crawford (Street) boxes atop the left-field wall and the Astros had erased a 1-0 Cardinals lead built against Bud Norris in the top of the first.
Garcia surrendered just four hits in six innings, but those hits — along with four walks — scored six runs. Meanwhile the Cardinals’ offense struggled to put hits together and get runners home. As is their frustrating trend, several runners were left on base — seven, to be exact. They were just 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position on the night.
Six Cardinal starters had hits, but only two runs scored, one of which came off of a Houston error.
Speaking of scoring … Rafael Furcal scored in the first inning on a Carlos Beltran single, and changed a bit of history in the process.
Rafael Furcal extended a little-known club record. The Cardinals’ shortstop has now led off six consecutive games with a hit, extending a record he first set Friday.
So there’s that.
Also, there’s another pair of Jon Jay Gems (“Jems?”) that reinforce the value he holds as the every day center fielder. First, there was this diving grab to end the fourth inning. But because that wasn’t enough, he also made this over-the-shoulder snag to rob Jed Lowrie of extra bases in the sixth.
It’s nice to see the defense picking up the starting pitching where they can!
You know what else would be nice? Not missing out on so many scoring opportunities. Like in the sixth when Furcal and Matt Holliday drew walks, then successfully completed a double steal ahead of David Freese who also walked. Bases loaded for Yadier Molina? I like the way that sounds! Not when it ends in a ground out for out number three.
Or like in the eighth inning when Jay singled and moved to second on a passed ball, then scored on a Holliday single — all with no outs. But a strike out, a line out and a ground out eliminated the rally.
Sure, there are going to be bad days. But after a month of seeing how great this team can be, it’s hard to watch them struggle to get any momentum going their way.
Still, the focus now has to be today’s game to close out the series — and avoid the sweep. First pitch is 1:05 p.m., and it’ll be Adam Wainwright looking for his second win against J.A. Happ going for win number three.
Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball and a contributor to Around the Horn. Follow her on Twitter @tarawellman.