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Cards' missed chances lead to loss vs. Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- With two outs and two runners on in the ninth Wednesday, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina put a weak swing on a pitch and the ball dribbled back to Twins closer Glen Perkins. Perkins tossed it to Joe Mauer for the final out in the Twins' 3-1 victory.

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The play ended one of those nights for the Cardinals -- the kind where rallies were hard to come by, and making a couple mistakes loomed large as the Twins snapped St. Louis' five-game winning streak.

"Giving extra bases, giving outs, is not a good recipe," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.

Most notably, first baseman Mark Reynolds picked up an error on a pickoff throw from starter Carlos Martinez in the fourth. At that point, the Twins had runners on first and third. Trevor Plouffe scored on the pla,y and Eddie Rosario picked up two bases, moving to third. The next batter, Eduardo Nunez, drove in Rosario with a sacrifice fly.

Video: [email protected]: Plouffe scores on missed pickoff attempt

The Cardinals also ran into an out on the basepaths in the seventh, when Molina, trying to stretch a single into a double, was easily nailed on a throw from Rosario.

St. Louis' lone run came in the second inning. After leading off the inning with two hits, Jason Heyward came through, driving in a run. Peter Bourjos and Pete Kozma both struck out, ending the inning with two runners in scoring position.

"Little bit of a chance there to do a little bit more, but also, we gave them a little bit, too," Matheny said.

Martinez pitched 6 2/3 innings, giving up just two hits and one earned run. Wednesday marked the sixth consecutive quality start for the righty, who lowered his ERA to 2.80.

Martinez said through a translator that he tried to keep his focus on the game and battle the whole way, and Matheny said he thought Martinez kept his composure, enabling the Cardinals to stay in the game.

"Carlos had a good fastball working today. He was getting hit early with the slider," Matheny said. "He was getting a little jumpy at times, but when the game kept going, I thought he found a better rhythm."

But behind Martinez, the offense struggled to do much against Tommy Milone and the Twins.

"We've got to score some runs. We've got to get more than one," Matheny said.

During each game of the Cardinals' five-game winning streak, opponents scored two or fewer runs. The team's pitchers did a good job Wednesday, too, keeping the Cards in the game, but the offense couldn't come through.

"In the ninth, we had first and second against a good closer, a couple of hard-hit balls, a couple strikeouts put us in a bad spot," Matheny said. "Up until that point, the game's still in reach. You look up and down our lineup, that's the kind of offense that's going to produce. Some days you just don't have it."

Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for
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