Cards unaccustomed to defensive issues

May 14th, 2016
Kolten Wong is pulled off second base by Matt Carpenter's throwing error. (Harry How/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES -- A team that scored 200 runs quicker than any other in the National League sits only two games above .500 largely because of the same complications that led to its unraveling in an 8-4 loss to the Dodgers on Friday night.

The Cardinals' starters haven't pitched well enough, their collective ERA at 4.09 after Michael Wacha's four-inning outing. And, even more flagrant, their defense has, at times, been indefensible.

Statistically, Friday's defensive performance ranks as the club's worst since Mike Matheny took over as manager in 2012. It was the first time since '11 that the Cardinals committed four errors and allowed five unearned runs in a game. Those unearned runs were the difference between the Cardinals extending their winning streak to four or falling eight games behind the National League Central-leading Cubs.

"I think, historically, our teams for the last several years here have played very consistent defense," said Matheny, responding to the notion that the Cardinals' defense hasn't been crisp enough all year. "We have different pieces coming in all the time. Once again, you have guys learning to play at this level. Things are going to happen. Probably a whole lot more is made of it than maybe what should [be]. … Some days it's just not going to look how you want it to."

Three of the errors were charged to Aledmys Diaz, who has now committed eight in his first 31 games at shortstop. Navigating without Jhonny Peralta at that position, Cardinals shortstops have tallied 14 errors. That's six more than Peralta had in 148 games last season. The Cardinals have a team-wide error total of 33.

"I played very bad defense today," said Diaz, who did help get one run back with his sixth home run. "It cost us a lot of runs. I thought [starter Michael] Wacha made good pitches. He got ground balls, and we weren't able to make the plays on the defense. I'm frustrated by that, for sure."

Errors by Diaz allowed the Dodgers to put their leadoff runner aboard in the second and fourth innings. The Dodgers went on to score three times in the second, an inning further muddied by Wacha's inability to snare Yasiel Puig's chopper back to the mound.

Though he wasn't charged with an error, Wacha watched the ball nick off his glove, foiling a chance at a double play.

"I expect myself to make that play," Wacha said. "I feel like that was one of the turning points in the game there."

Errors by third baseman Matt Carpenter and Diaz in the fourth inning led to two more unearned runs off Wacha. Diaz's third error, a fifth-inning miscue, resulted in another.

Now with 19 unearned runs allowed this season, the Cardinals have more than every other team except the Reds. Four of the six runs charged to Wacha were unearned.

"Errors are going to happen in games," said Wacha. "It's all about how you deal with them. I have to do a better job of, when those errors do happen, getting the next guy out, making your pitches, not letting it bother you. I feel like anybody on this team is good enough to get four outs in an inning without them scoring."