CINCINNATI -- After three straight come-from-behind wins, including one that erased a seven-run deficit on Friday, the Cardinals came up just short on Saturday night.
The Reds capitalized on a three-run seventh inning, and while the Cardinals threatened late, they couldn’t push the winning run across the plate in their 3-2 loss at Great American Ball Park.
The Cardinals had won three in a row and had the opportunity to stay ahead of the Brewers in the National League Central. Instead, the Cardinals dropped 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Cubs and back to third in the division, 1/2 game behind Milwaukee.
There were two key moments in the Cardinals’ loss on Saturday:
1) Near misses hurt Mikolas
Miles Mikolas hadn’t allowed a run in 15 innings, until the seventh inning changed that.
Mikolas walked Eugenio Suarez to lead off the inning and, with two strikes on Yasiel Puig, threw a sinker that was a little too low. Puig pounced on it for an off-the-wall RBI double.
“One guy you don’t want to work down to is Puig,” Mikolas said. “Tried to get one up and kind of stuck in that driving-the-ball-down mentality. Not exactly where I want that pitch.”
Two pitches later, Mikolas threw a fastball inside to lefty Josh VanMeter, who crushed it for his first career home run, which proved to be the game-winner.
“[He] put a good swing on it,” Mikolas said. “They’d been hitting the ball pretty decent all game, we made some good plays, they finally snuck some [runs] in there.”
Other than those two pitches and a handful that gave the Reds their other four hits off of Mikolas, the Cardinals right-hander continued what he labeled a “reset” after the All-Star break. He was coming off a shutout of the Pirates on Monday, and he had a shutout going into the seventh, which is why Cardinals manager Mike Shildt left Mikolas in after the Reds had tied the game.
“Other than [Puig and VanMeter’s at-bats], I felt pretty good,” Mikolas said. “It stinks. You can’t always make every pitch you want to sometimes.”
Mikolas’ outing ended after he gave up a single to Jose Peraza following VanMeter’s home run. Ryan Helsley -- who was recalled Saturday, was up at 6 a.m. for a flight and arrived at the ballpark about an hour before first pitch -- retired the next three batters and left two Reds baserunners stranded in the next inning to keep the Cardinals within striking distance.
“Only got four to five hours of sleep, so I’m pretty tired, but just try to go out there and make the most of it,” Helsley said. “Had to make some tough pitches and luckily got through it. At this part of the season, all these games are big. It was nice to be able to go out there and contribute to the team.”
But Paul Goldschmidt flied out to left field on the first pitch he saw, ending the Cardinals’ potential rally and his 0-for-4 night.
“Try to get a good pitch to hit, hit it hard,” Goldschmidt said. “Didn’t do it tonight. Had three opportunities there and was 0-for-3. Obviously, I’m not playing well out there. It’s frustrating, especially when you have a chance to drive guys in and you’re losing by one.”
In Goldschmidt’s career, he was hitting .315 with runners in scoring position, but this season, he’s hitting just .236. Before the eighth-inning flyout, Goldschmidt struck out swinging with Edman on third in the fourth inning and he did the same with Martinez on first and Mikolas on second in the sixth.
“Look, [Goldschmidt is] going to get pitched tough,” Shildt said. “He’s a presence in the middle of the lineup that people are going to respect. Probably one of the guys they aren’t going to let beat them.”
A night after the Cardinals had six hits with runners in scoring position, tying their third most in a game this season, they were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.