Cardinals' rare defensive struggles prove costly
Error, missed double-play chance lead to pair of early runs for Giants in Game 1
ST. LOUIS -- One of the best defensive teams in the National League had an off-night on Saturday during Game 1 of the NL Championship Series.
While the Cardinals committed but one error in a 3-0 loss to the Giants at Busch Stadium, their inability to make a key catch and turn a double play certainly fed into their defensive woes.
"We would have liked to have played a little better defense for Adam," said third baseman Matt Carpenter, who had the lone error that directly led to a Giants run.
Starting pitcher Adam Wainwright allowed three runs, two earned, in 4 2/3 innings, though even on an off night, the results might have been different had the right-hander's defense made a few more plays behind him.
In the second inning of a scoreless game, the Giants got a leadoff double by Pablo Sandoval, though the right fielder, Randal Grichuk, had the ball pop out of his glove after running into the wall. A walk by Hunter Pence and a bloop single by Brandon Belt loaded the bases.
Wainwright struck Brandon Crawford, but then he allowed another bloop single, this one to Travis Ishikawa that allowed Sandoval to score. One out later, Gregor Blanco, a left-handed hitter, bounced a ball right at Carpenter, who looked to be handcuffed by the spinning action on the ball coming off a left-hander's bat.
Carpenter's inability to convert the ball into an out allowed Pence to score for a 2-0 lead.
"Waino was battling, really working hard out there," Carpenter said. " ... There were a couple of things we did as a defense that probably prolonged that. But at the end of the day, you can't win if you can't score runs."
In the third inning, the Giants got consecutive singles by Buster Posey and Sandoval to open the inning. But just as quickly as Wainwright appeared to be in trouble, he looked like he might get two outs on a ground ball, as Pence chased a cutter down, grounding a ball up the middle to second baseman Kolten Wong.
But Wong couldn't handle the ball and it kicked away from him, right to shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who was able to get the force play on Sandoval, a small concession for not being able to turn a double play. The next batter, Belt, lifted a sacrifice fly to center field to score Posey for a 3-0 advantage.
"The golden rule ... you've got to understand that you've got to get the ball first," Wong said. "I don't know what happened. It took a weird hop and hit me right in the stomach."
The Cardinals went into Saturday's game with one error and three double plays in their first four playoff games this month. They had the fourth-fewest errors (88) in the NL during the regular season.
But in October, strange things happen.
"It's already been a strange postseason," Carpenter said.