ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals had 2 2/3 innings of clean relief until a three-run 10th inning sent them to a 5-2 loss to the Royals in the rubber game of the I-70 Series on Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium.Asked to throw multiple innings for the third straight appearance, Bud
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals had 2 2/3 innings of clean relief until a three-run 10th inning sent them to a 5-2 loss to the Royals in the rubber game of the I-70 Series on Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium.
Asked to throw multiple innings for the third straight appearance, Bud Norris allowed three runs in the 10th after throwing a scoreless ninth. Andrew Butera's two-run single plated the go-ahead runs, before Jonathan Jay provided insurance with a run-scoring hit off Brett Cecil. Norris' inability to cleanly field a sacrifice bunt had allowed Alcides Escobar to reach, creating a bases-loaded, none-out jam.
Norris was trying to throw out Jorge Soler, the lead runner, at third, instead of taking the out at first. Butera's two-run single one batter later brought home the go-ahead runs.
"That's unfortunate, but if I have it, if I get it in my glove, I make the play," Norris said. "It's just a costly error to say the least."
The Cardinals have asked extra of their closer in light of Greg Holland's struggles, and Norris has largely responded. On Wednesday, the additional inning proved too much.
"What we've learned is pushing [Norris] to 30 pitches isn't beyond the reach," manager Mike Matheny said. "Some days it's going to feel better than others. Giving him three days off, he wanted the ball there and he's our guy, so we gave it to him."
Following the game, Norris said he is willing to pitch multiple innings, as he has in each of his past three appearances. But the former starter relents he may be most effective when limited to one inning.
"Preferably, yeah. That's the best way it's going to play out for us bullpen guys, each of us go one clean inning," Norris said. "We know that's not going to happen each and every time. I've proven to [Matheny] that I can pitch in multiples, and I've done that all year. But today it didn't go that way."
Tied after Whit Merrifield's sacrifice fly in the sixth, Norris, Jordan Hicks and Sam Tuivailala held it that way in relief of Michael Wacha, who recovered nicely after giving up a solo homer to Salvador Perez in the second. Perez homered early in both of the last two games of this series.
Wacha surrendered just two runs (one earned) on four hits over 6 2/3 innings, but the Cardinals mustered little in support against Jakob Junis and four Kansas City relievers. St. Louis answered Perez's blast in the bottom half of the second, scoring two runs on a Harrison Bader RBI groundout and Francisco Pena's RBI double. A lineup absent of cleanup hitter Marcell Ozuna -- who didn't play after arriving late to the ballpark -- managed just two singles over the final seven innings.
"We know that guys are fighting to put together offense every single night when you're seeing pitchers who are putting together good stuff. Michael and [Luke Weaver] are in the same category, they threw the ball really well," Matheny said. "I thought that was one of Michael's better in the fact that how many different ways he was getting people out. It's a shame we can't put together any offense for them that day."
Norris and Hicks are tied for first on the Cardinals in appearances with 22. Each of Norris' past three have been multiple innings.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Tommy Pham found the wall on Wednesday while making an athletic grab in center. Pham made the catch on the warning track off Soler's line drive that had a 48 percent catch probability, according to Statcast™, in the top of the seventh inning. Had Pham not made the catch, Soler could've gone extra bases and scored on the next at-bat when Alex Gordon singled. More >
HE SAID IT
"It's just one of those unfortunate days, because he's been so good. We've known since the beginning of the season, he's been a guy that if we have him rested, we can push him further than most." -- Matheny, on Norris
Following Thursday's off-day, the Cardinals will open a six-game road trip at 6:05 p.m. CT on Friday at PNC Park. Right-hander John Gant (1-1, 4.67 ERA) will be opposed by Pirates righty Joe Musgrove, who will make his 2018 debut after dealing with a shoulder injury. Gant will be looking for his first win since April 26.
Sean Collins is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis.