Errors hurt Phelps in St. Louis homecoming
ST LOUIS -- David Phelps heard people calling his name when he ran onto the field at Busch Stadium on Tuesday. He looked up. There in the stands he saw his former algebra and calculus teachers cheering him.
Phelps, a native of Florissant, Mo., who grew up 15 minutes from downtown St. Louis, waited 27 years to finally play at Busch Stadium. It took just one inning filled with early hits and missed opportunities to spoil the experience.
Three St. Louis hits and two errors by the New York defense in the third inning were enough for the Cardinals, who put four runs on the board and shut down the Yankees' offense to cruise to a 6-0 victory.
"It's unfortunate," manager Joe Girardi said. "We didn't play very well behind him tonight. We gave them a bunch of extra outs, which led to extra runs in that inning. Then we weren't able to do much off of [Cardinals starter Lance] Lynn, either."
Phelps labored through a 28-pitch first inning but eventually worked out of a jam after he walked one and allowed a single to put runners on the corners with two outs.
He wouldn't be so lucky in the third.
With runners on the corners and one out, Phelps left a slider over the plate, and Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams bounced a ball over the fence in right-center, plating the first run of the game. An intentional walk loaded the bases, and from there the inning fell apart.
Phelps got Cardinals right fielder Allen Craig to roll over on a two-seamer, getting a ground ball to shortstop Derek Jeter. The Yankees would concede a run by choice but ultimately gave away the out on an error when Jeter's throw took first baseman Kelly Johnson up the line.
Johnson made contact with Craig as he tagged him, and the ball fell to the ground.
"It was in my glove," Johnson said. "The tag was made, and then contact, ball comes out. You don't want to ever give away outs. You'd like to do a better job as a team backing up your pitcher. That one inning cost us the most."
With two runs already across, Phelps faced shortstop Jhonny Peralta with the bases still loaded and one out. On a 1-2 pitch, he got a grounder to Brian Roberts at second base. Roberts took a split second to look up and gauge the runners, and that was all it took. The ball skipped away and into center field, and two more scored.
"I looked up to see where the runner was to just get a feel of what kind of play it was going to be," Roberts said. "Obviously, I looked up at the wrong time."
Phelps worked out of the inning, but the damage was done.
"We were able to work some counts and get his pitch count up, and they made a couple mistakes on defense that extended the inning and cost him extra pitches," Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday said. "But he's a good pitcher. We worked some good at-bats off him."
The Yankees scattered five hits throughout the night, and because of three walks, were able to put two on base on three occasions. But Lynn, who tossed the first shutout of his professional career, would erase each opportunity.
In the fourth and sixth innings, New York put two on with one out. A double-play ball erased the runners and ended the threat in the fourth, and a popup and flyout erased the threat in the sixth. The Yankees put two on with two out in the eighth, but a flyout thwarted the attempt and ended their three-game winning streak.
Tuesday marked the first time the Yankees have been shut out since April 5, against Toronto. And though his team was playing the eighth game of a nine-game road trip, Girardi refused to blame the sluggish offensive performance on fatigue.
"This is baseball. I mean, this is what we train to do," he said. "We didn't play a very good game today, but we've run out three pretty good games in a row. It's just part of the game -- you have ups and downs. I don't think it's fatigue, I think it's too early for that."
Phelps finished three more innings after the third, in which the Cardinals batted around. He ended his night after allowing eight hits and five runs (three earned).
He allowed his final run in the fifth when he left a changeup over the plate to Craig, who drove the pitch to right. The ball ricocheted off Alfonso Soriano's glove and landed over the fence.
"I didn't think [Phelps] threw poorly," Girardi said. "He probably should have given up three runs in six innings, which is not a bad outing. You give your team a chance to win."
But the big hits never came, and the one inning filled with missed opportunities unraveled Phelps' homecoming.
"Phelps was great, we just didn't help him out much," Roberts said. "He's been throwing the ball tremendous, and he's a great competitor, and I know that was hard for him to be out there and feel like he was throwing the ball well and not get any help.
"We certainly as a defense take blame for that one."