Cards go quietly in nightcap, back at .500

August 28th, 2020

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals’ pitching performances in Thursday’s doubleheader would seem enough for one, if not two wins, after St. Louis’ starters allowed just two earned runs and the pitching staff didn’t allow an extra-base hit in either game.

Expanding the box score tells a different story.

After three costly errors led to a Game 1 loss in extra innings, the Cardinals failed to find a spark offensively in their 2-0 loss in Game 2 at Busch Stadium. The doubleheader sweep by the last-place Pirates put the Cardinals back at .500 and three games behind the Cubs, who didn’t play Thursday, in the National League Central. St. Louis has lost three of its last four games to slip to 5-4 so far in this homestand and will welcome the Indians for a three-game set this weekend.

“I feel like we got great starting pitching on both ends of the doubleheader, and going in we were comfortable and calm that we were going to get five or six innings out of the starters,” manager Mike Shildt said. “Got two earned runs. We would have taken that every day of the week. It wasn’t enough for us to bring one home, or two.”

In his second start of the season, rookie earned a third Major League appearance by holding Pittsburgh to two runs over five innings. Both tallies came in the third after a walk and three consecutive singles. Lefty Austin Gomber kept the Pirates off the board in the final two innings to keep the score within reach.

The Cardinals had a runner in scoring position in three of the six innings against Pirates starter Cody Ponce (1-0), but made little of it. Double plays halted rallies in the first two innings. Trailing by two runs in the sixth inning, Brad Miller hit a two-out triple that pushed Ponce out of the game, but he didn’t get any further after Tyler O’Neill fouled out to end the inning. Between the two games, the Cardinals left 11 on base and were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

“It was just one of those days where we couldn’t put anything together,” Shildt said.

It’s not as if the Cardinals aren’t getting on base or that they’re striking out a ton. Three batters struck out in each game Thursday, and the Cardinals had runners on base in 10 of the 15 innings played.

“Let me make sure I make this clear,” Shildt said when asked about the offense. “Both their starters threw the ball really well. ... We need to give some credit to both their starters. We had opportunities. We didn’t cash in with the big hit with runners in scoring position. We had something shaking early in the game with a runner on second but weren’t able to cash in some runs. I think both their starters pitched well and pitched deep.”

The Cardinals are going to continue to run into solid starting pitching as August turns into September and teams race toward the end of the season. St. Louis is in the midst of a formidable schedule, with 36 games in 31 days to finish out the season. The club's effort is unquestioned; the execution needs to align. The offense and defense will have to pick up the pitching -- which will once again be tested in this stretch.

“I’m confident we’ve got the depth to handle it,” Shildt said. “Clearly, we’re going to have to be thrifty with it, be smart about it. We’re going to have to continue to throw strikes and play as clean as possible and not give extra outs.”