Cardinals Bats Go Cold In Loss To Royals

May 22, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (2) scores a run as St. Louis Cardinals catcher Francisco Pena (46) waits for the ball during the ninth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

Down a run with a man on third and two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Cardinals fans had exactly who they wanted up to bat: surging rookie Tyler O’Neill.

O’Neill was 8 for his last 14  and roped a single to right field two innings prior. If anyone were to get the job done, it would be him.

An 0-2 slider from Jason Hammel fooled O’Neill, striking out the hottest-hitting Cardinal to end the inning. O’Neill cooled off quite a bit, going 1-4 with three strikeouts.

Failing to convert with runners in scoring position was the tale of a 5-1 Cardinals loss Tuesday night, as the Cardinals left six men stranded

“We had guys in scoring position, had chances for the big hit… [It was just] one of those days,” manager Mike Matheny said. “[We] couldn’t get the big hit and left a lot of guys on third base. That usually doesn’t turn out well.

The Cardinals only run came when Royals’ third baseman Mike Moustakas bobbled a pickoff throw from catcher Salvador Perez, allowing Jose Martinez to score.

In the Cardinals past four contests, the team averaged four extra-base hits per game. The offense scored a combined 29 runs.

Luke Weaver pitched as well as he could, (7.0 IP, 8 K, 3 ER) but picked up the loss.

“Overall, he threw the ball really well. He had good stuff,” Matheny said. “He had a couple solo home runs that got him… I think it looks different if we have any kind of offensive production.”

Weaver has had quality starts in his last two outings, but hasn’t gotten a win in either because the offense failed to produce.

Part of the offensive struggles Tuesday came from two veterans having career-worst years.

Dexter Fowler continued his abysmal season, going 0-4 with a strikeout in the second inning with two men in scoring position.

“I think [Fowler] is looking for a couple things… Just off timing-wise, not getting the ball to jump and not carrying the barrel through the zone,” Matheny said. “He’s been in a positive place here lately, and going back to the track record, we know this is a guy who’s taken good at-bats.”

Matt Carpenter also went hitless Tuesday, snapping his six-game hit streak.

There were some positives amidst a frustrating loss as Marcell Ozuna and rookie Yairo Muñoz showed improvement.

Ozuna had three hits and is now 5-7 since breaking out of his most recent cold spell.

Muñoz, who only had two career hits before Tuesday, took advantage of his first career start at shortstop, going 4-4.

With no timetable on Paul DeJong’s return and an injury to Greg Garcia Monday night, Muñoz will get plenty of opportunities in both DeJong and Garcia’s absence.

If it weren’t for yet another miserable outing by Greg Holland, Munoz’ ninth-inning single would have made him the possible tying run. However, Holland (0-2, 8.76 ERA, 2.59 WHIP) let up two runs on three hits and a walk. He’s retired only three of the last 14 batters faced.

“Holland is a tremendous competitor with heart and whatever else it takes to be a dynamic closer, and it’s not going to be long before he’s back,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen in my life, and he pitched his heart out for me for years and years and years. He’s going to do it here in St. Louis, too.”

Michael Wacha (5-1, 3.08 ERA) squares off against Jakob Junis (5-3, 3.51 ERA) in the rubber match of the I-70 Series at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday at Busch Stadium.

Jack Parodi covers the St. Louis Cardinals and you can find him on Twitter @jack_parodi