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Gomber struggles; Cards fall from playoff spot

September 25, 2018

ST. LOUIS -- Credit the Cardinals for making a spirited comeback attempt after digging into an early six-run hole. But this was not a night for moral victories, not as the Rockies blew out the Phillies for their fifth consecutive win and thus shot past the Cardinals in the National

ST. LOUIS -- Credit the Cardinals for making a spirited comeback attempt after digging into an early six-run hole. But this was not a night for moral victories, not as the Rockies blew out the Phillies for their fifth consecutive win and thus shot past the Cardinals in the National League Wild Card standings.
In falling, 12-4, to the Brewers at Busch Stadium on Tuesday, the Cardinals also fell out of postseason position.
"We've backed ourselves in a corner," said Matt Carpenter, whose night ended with a seventh-inning ejection. "We fought way too hard and way too long to get put in a situation like this that we're not going to give up. We're going to find a way and that's the end of it."

To end a two-year playoff drought, the Cardinals now need some help. With four games to play, they trail Colorado by a half-game for the second Wild Card spot. And they'll have to salvage Wednesday's series finale to avoid watching the Brewers celebrate their return to October on St. Louis' home field.
"They're swinging the bats well and getting the big hits and we're not," Jedd Gyorko said. "I think it's safe to say that we need to win the rest of the games. We know nobody is going to give it to us, so we've got to go out and play good baseball."
Before Yadier Molina jolted the Cardinals back to life with a three-run blast in the fourth, the Brewers built a 6-0 lead while chasing Austin Gomber and pouncing on Tyson Ross. Gomber served up back-to-back homers in the first and then earned an early exit by allowing three consecutive two-out singles in the fourth.

The last came off the bat of opposing starter Giovany Gonzalez, a career .092 hitter. It put the Brewers ahead by three and brought manager Mike Shildt out for the pitching change.
"We didn't want to go down any more," Shildt said of his decision to go to Ross as the Brewers turned their lineup over for a third time. "He's a guy we've been able to count on in multiple innings and get us out of jams and keep us in games. That's what we were looking for right there."
Brought in to face Lorenzo Cain, Ross walked the leadoff hitter to create a bases-loaded opportunity for MVP frontrunner Christian Yelich. Yelich tallied the first three of his career-high six RBIs with a bases-clearing triple.

Even still, the Cardinals had opportunities to creep back in. Molina's home run pulled the team to within three, but the Cards, with Gyorko at the plate, stalled with bases-loaded chances in the fifth and seventh.
"We had our chances," Gyorko said. "I mean, I had our chances, and I just didn't get the job done. Obviously, it's easy to sit back and say I'm going to go up there and get a hit every time, but the situations present themselves, and this time of year you have to find a way to get the job done, and sorry I wasn't able to do it."

Of more pressing concern, however, is the subpar starting pitching the Cardinals continue to get in September. Gomber's 3 2/3-inning start marked the eighth time this month a Cardinals starter hasn't been able to complete at least five innings. In 15 of their 23 games, Cardinals starters have finished fewer than six innings.
Gomber and Flaherty -- the two losing pitchers in this critical series -- have felt the sharpest regression. The two rookies combined for a 1.77 ERA while leading the Cardinals to an 11-0 record in their August starts. The Cardinals are 1-8 behind the pair in September. Flaherty and Gomber have a combined 5.98 ERA.
Stranded runners sting: Before Tuesday became a blowout, Gyorko had three opportunities to change the complexion of the game. But he struck out with two on to end the first, grounded into a double play to sap a bases-loaded chance in the fifth and flied out with the bases full again in the seventh. He was responsible for stranding all of the team's runners on base in the loss.

"We get a couple hits in those middle innings when there's guys on base and it's a completely different game," Gyorko said. "This one is kind of on me. I've got to find a way to get the job done in those situations."
Gomber hurt by Gio: Gomber's night came to an abrupt end when Gonzalez, who had three hits in 48 at-bats this year, shot a first-pitch slider to center to put the Brewers ahead, 3-0. It was the start of a four-run inning for the Brewers, who scored all of their runs in that frame -- and 11 of their 12 on the night -- after Cardinals pitchers retired the first two batters of the inning. Gonzalez had not tallied an RBI all season.
"Two out, nobody on, we just have to be better," Shildt said. "It wasn't our night."

Molina halved a six-run deficit with one swing when he took Gonzalez deep in the fourth. It was Molina's first home run in 33 career plate appearances against Gonzalez and his 20th this season. Molina, who reached that 20-homer mark despite missing a month due to injury, joins Ted Simmons as the only catchers in franchise history to hit 20 home runs in multiple seasons. With 146 career home runs, Molina is tied with Enos Slaughter for 13th on the franchise's all-time list.

"We feel good about the spot we're in still. We don't have absolute control, but we can control how we play from here on out and let the chips fall where they may. ... We've made a run to get back in the mix and take control of this opportunity." -- Shildt
"I thought I had the best breaking ball and curveball I've had all year. I thought I got into a nice groove and was able to miss bats. Outside of two home runs in the first, I thought I did a good job of coming in and holding the damage." -- Gomber
In what could be the last game played at Busch Stadium in 2018, the Cardinals will close out the home portion of their regular-season schedule Wednesday with a 6:10 p.m. CT game against the Brewers. Right-hander John Gant (7-6, 3.53 ERA) will make the start for St. Louis as he seeks to rebound from a season-short 2 2/3-inning start Friday. He'll be opposed by Jhoulys Chacin (14-8, 3.61 ERA), who is 1-2 with a 6.10 ERA in four starts against the Cardinals this season.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.