PITTSBURGH -- Seeking to spoil Chris Archer's grand introduction at PNC Park on Friday night, the Cardinals got in their own way far too many times to capitalize in Archer's so-so debut. With three runners thrown out on the bases and 16 left stranded, the Cardinals let the chance to
PITTSBURGH -- Seeking to spoil Chris Archer's grand introduction at PNC Park on Friday night, the Cardinals got in their own way far too many times to capitalize in Archer's so-so debut. With three runners thrown out on the bases and 16 left stranded, the Cardinals let the chance to climb up in the National League Central standings slip away with a 7-6 loss to the Pirates.
"Sixteen guys on base, always a double-edged sword," said interim manager Mike Shildt. "A lot of positive at-bats. A lot of good stuff. Just not enough."
A collection of missed opportunities early allowed Archer to tiptoe around even more trouble in his 4 1/3-inning outing. He struck out Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong after loading the bases in the second, and he avoided an even more complicated fifth inning when Marcell Ozuna got himself in a rundown between second and third. That erased what would have been a bases-loaded, no-out chance for the Cards.
St. Louis did chase Archer while scoring three runs in the frame. But in a game the Cardinals lost on Adam Frazier's go-ahead RBI single off Jordan Hicks in the eighth, those untapped opportunities loomed large.
"When you're down 6-2 versus a guy they just traded for who is supposed to be the ace of their staff, I'm really proud of the way we came back," said Matt Carpenter, who greeted Archer with his 23rd career leadoff homer. "We just weren't able to score the one that we really needed."
The opportunities kept coming after Archer's departure. And so did the misses. Yairo Munoz struck out with the bases full in the sixth. Carpenter was thrown out at home trying to score on DeJong's single in the seventh. And Tyler O'Neill was out at the plate after breaking on contact when William Fowler, who later left the game due to a fractured left foot, knocked a grounder to first base with one out in the eighth.
Though the Cardinals tallied 15 hits -- including six with runners in scoring position (one shy of their season high) -- they left a season-high 16 on base. Four of those were stranded at third.
"That was a relentless effort from that whole club," Shildt said. "There wasn't a person in that dugout that didn't think we weren't going to win that game. That was the kind of effort we've been getting and that's what we're going to continue to get. A lot of positives, just came up short."
Despite the tally of mishaps, the Cardinals dug out of an early four-run hole, tying the game in the eighth on a Jedd Gyorko groundout. Gyorko reached base three times on the night -- as did everyone in the Cardinals' starting lineup besides Molina.
Starter John Gant allowed three runs in both the first and third, as he lasted a season-low four innings.
"I didn't have my best stuff," Gant said. "I have to be better for my team. Giving up six runs through four is never going to be alright for me. I have to do better for them."
It marked just the fourth time this season that the Cardinals have lost a game in which they scored at least six runs.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Cardinals might have escaped the bottom of the first with two runs allowed and not three, had Munoz made a different decision upon receiving a relay throw from Fowler. Gregory Polanco's hit off the Clemente Wall in right field scored Frazier and Starling Marte, the latter of whom crossed the plate as Munoz fired a throw to Molina. He never had a chance to get him. Had Munoz thrown to third, however, he likely would have had a play on Polanco, who was trying to stretch his hit into a triple. Without a throw, Polanco reached safely and was in position to then score on a sacrifice fly.
"It's a loud stadium. Maybe he didn't hear," Shildt said, acknowledging that Munoz, who had his back to the infield to receive the throw, needed direction from another infielder on where to go with it. "Maybe we didn't communicate that there was a play at third base. Yeah, it's something we'd like to think about looking at."
Fowler had to be helped off the field at the end of the eighth inning after feeling what he described as a "pop" in his left foot while running the bases. X-rays later confirmed that Fowler suffered a fracture in that foot. He will be placed on the 10-day disabled list and is set to undergo additional testing in St. Louis over the weekend.
With his 1,793rd game behind the plate on Friday, Molina moved into a 14th-place tie with Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett for the most all-time among Major League catchers. Next up for Molina to catch is Rick Farrell, who appeared in 1,806.
HE SAID IT
"You can't back Yadi into a corner that many times. He's going to eventually make you pay for it. That day is coming for sure." -- Carpenter, on being intentionally walked twice ahead of Molina
Kolten Wong is expected back in the starting lineup when the Cardinals meet the Pirates in a 6:05 p.m. CT game at PNC Park on Saturday. Wong has been on the disabled list with left knee inflammation since July 22. He'll play behind lefty Austin Gomber (1-0, 3.22 ERA), who has been tapped to fill the rotation vacancy created with Carlos Martinez's absence. Gomber will be opposed by Pittsburgh's Ivan Nova (6-6, 4.33 ERA).
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.