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Cards' bullpen can't hold lead in 10-inning loss

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny's reasoning for asking Jordan Hicks for a little extra, once again, was simple. And with closer Bud Norris unavailable, Matheny's margins for error were notably slimmer.

"Because he's been so good," Matheny said of Hicks.

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ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny's reasoning for asking Jordan Hicks for a little extra, once again, was simple. And with closer Bud Norris unavailable, Matheny's margins for error were notably slimmer.

"Because he's been so good," Matheny said of Hicks.

View Full Game Coverage

Hicks' ability to throw multiple innings essentially gives Matheny the luxury of two distinct bullpen strategies: one when Hicks pitches, and another when he doesn't. Without Hicks, the late innings can be pieced together with matchups. With Hicks, Matheny can try to ram through the final frames using fewer pitchers. That latter strategy was on display in Tuesday's 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Mets, the first example of a time it didn't work this season.

Looking to pitch two innings for the second straight appearance, the 21-year-old Hicks allowed a game-tying run on an Adrian Gonzalez sacrifice fly in the eighth. Scoreless appearances from Luke Gregerson (two-thirds of an inning) and Greg Holland (one inning) held the score until the 10th, when Matheny would have normally called on Norris to try to hold a tied game at home.

But with Norris battling arm soreness, extra-inning duties fell to middle reliever Matt Bowman. The solo home run that Bowman allowed to Jay Bruce handed the Cardinals their second loss in 10 games.

"Those are tough ones to recover from," Matheny said.

Video: NYM@STL: Wong drives an RBI double the other way

The Cardinals led by three runs after four innings and by one after five, and both times, the Mets fought back. Yoenis Cespedes erased the Cards' 4-1 lead with a mammoth home run off starter Luke Weaver in the fourth. Paul DeJong put St. Louis back ahead with an RBI double in the fifth, before New York tied it again in the eighth.

"Any time you have a three-run lead and you can't hold onto it, that's going to hurt." Matheny said.

Video: NYM@STL: Matheny on loss and Weaver's performance

The one blemish in Hicks' sensational first Major League month has been control. When it doesn't sink, the 21-year-old's triple-digit sinker can sail, usually up and out of the zone. But often, he's overcome that on nastiness alone.

Tuesday proved that is unsustainable, for Hicks and the Cardinals. St. Louis pitchers had eight walks, four of which came around to score.

"Too many," Matheny said. "Especially those leadoff walks."

Mets third baseman Todd Frazier was twice the recipient of a costly free pass -- against Hicks in the eighth and Weaver in the second. The normally precise Weaver was at a loss to explain what happened in the fifth, when he allowed Cespedes' homer and issued three of his career-high six walks.

"I don't know what it was," Weaver said. "Working too quick, out of breath, not really taking a moment to figure it out. The game kind of sped up there, and I never found out."

Video: NYM@STL: Weaver strikes out Cabrera swinging

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Pham-tastic return: Half of the four runs the Cardinals scored before Cespedes' blast came courtesy of Tommy Pham, who enjoyed a perfect day at the plate in his return to the lineup. Sidelined for three of the previous four games due to right groin tightness, the center fielder went 3-for-3 with two walks. He opened the scoring with a two-run home run in the first off Mets starter Zack Wheeler, who lasted just four innings.

Video: NYM@STL: Pham launches a two-run dinger to center

"That was pretty impressive," Matheny said. More >

HOLLAND IMPRESSES
Holland's scoreless ninth came in the reliever's first high-leverage chance since relinquishing closing duties to Norris after his team debut. The righty struck out two, including Cespedes on a nasty slider. He did not walk a batter for the second consecutive outing, after struggling with his control over his first five appearances. Consider it a step in the right direction for Holland, who the Cardinals hope they can ease back into closing duty.

"It was exactly what we've been looking for," Matheny said. "His stuff looked right."

HE SAID IT
"I'll be 100 percent ready to go tomorrow," -- Norris, who was unavailable to pitch in extras

"We're pretty convinced it's just a one-day thing," -- Matheny on Norris' injury, described as arm soreness

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
In a last-ditch effort, the Cardinals challenged whether Bruce touched the first-base bag on his game-winning homer off Bowman in the 10th. The call stood after a 55-second review.

"Somebody saw him looking up, didn't know if he got a spike on the bag or not," Matheny said. "We took a chance, just in case."

Video: NYM@STL: Bruce drives go-ahead homer, umpires review

UP NEXT
Michael Wacha (3-1, 4.22 ERA) took his only loss of the year in a start against the Mets on March 31. He'll get the call when this series continues Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. CT at Busch Stadium. Southpaw Steven Matz (1-1, 4.22) will start for the Mets.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Paul DeJong, Jordan Hicks, Greg Holland