Harrison Bader hit a weak ground ball towards third base, hustled down the baseline and beat out the throw by Padres pitcher Adam Cimber for the Cardinals first baserunner of the evening.
It was the sixth inning.
The Cardinals only mustered up five hits in a 4-2 loss Tuesday night in a game where they couldn’t string much together.
“Every offense in the game could take the strain off a pitching staff by going out and scoring double digits every night,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Been taking better at-bats, like the way they’re grinding through them, seeing guys getting locked in.”
Miles Mikolas had another solid start in his second loss of the season. Although it wasn’t as stellar as Cardinals fans have become accustomed to, Mikolas’ six inning, five strikeout performance in which he gave up three runs, set his team up in decent enough position to win.
San Diego’s bullpen had other ideas.
Padres manager Andy Green decided to use a strategy the Tampa Bay Rays have been making famous: starting a solid bullpen arm that can last a couple innings and shuffle in other dominant pitchers from that point on.
It’s an unorthodox approach, but it stifled the St. Louis bats. Relief pitchers Matt Strahm and Cimber combined for six innings pitched, seven strikeouts, no runs and a lone hit on Bader’s infield single.
“There is good stuff out there on the mound. I think that’s what we saw,” manager Mike Matheny said. “That’s how they wanted to design it, and it worked.”
The bottom of the seventh provided some hope for the Cardinals, as two straight singles by Matt Carpenter and Tommy Pham led to eventual runs, but that was all they’d get as they stranded a runner with the tying run at the plate in each of the final three frames.
“That’s kind of how baseball goes sometimes, especially for our lineup,” Harrison Bader said. “I thought our offense did a good job of getting somethings rolling toward the end of the game. The reason we have these walk-off wins that we have this season is the offense is there, it’s always been there, and it’s going to show up at some point.”
One of the sole bright spots for St. Louis in Tuesday’s loss was rookie relief pitcher Jordan Hicks. He continually kept the Padres hitters off-balance as his triple-digit sinker and mid-80’s slider were working better than usual.
Hicks struck out the side in order on 12 pitches in the eighth and had a 1-2-3 inning in the ninth with another strikeout. While he’s typically inconsistent with his control, he was stellar on Tuesday, throwing only four balls of his 19 pitches.
Rookie Luke Weaver (3-5, 4.35 ERA) takes the bump against Eric Lauer (2-4, 6.64 ERA) as the Cardinals look to take the series against San Diego on Wednesday.