ST. LOUIS -- Insistent that their Trade Deadline activity was not akin to waving a white flag on this season, the Cardinals took the field Tuesday night ready to lean on a recently revamped pitching staff and a collection of young contributors to keep them in the mix for a
ST. LOUIS -- Insistent that their Trade Deadline activity was not akin to waving a white flag on this season, the Cardinals took the field Tuesday night ready to lean on a recently revamped pitching staff and a collection of young contributors to keep them in the mix for a postseason berth.
But an opportunity to gain ground on the Rockies -- one of five teams sitting ahead of them in the National League Wild Card Race -- eluded the Cardinals, who, even with a bit of late-inning life, couldn't overcome Colorado's early pop of power. The 6-3 loss at Busch Stadium leaves the Cardinals entering August as a fourth-place team in the division and four games back of a Wild Card spot.
"This is what we've got, so we've got to go out and try to make a run at it and keep pushing," said Matt Carpenter, now the second-longest tenured Cardinal on the active roster. "Anytime you shuffle some players out, it opens up an opportunity for young guys, and it looks like that's what we've got going on. I'm looking forward to them contributing and hopefully making a run at this thing."
The recent turnover has been most drastic on the pitching side, though Tuesday's starter Jack Flaherty has been a rotation mainstay since mid-May. He protected the early lead Carpenter provided with a leadoff homer until the fifth, which opened with a 12-pitch walk to Ryan McMahon. Then, on Flaherty's 22nd pitch of that inning, Charlie Blackmon took him deep.
Flaherty retired just two more batters as he was unable to finish six innings for the fifth consecutive start. He needed 105 pitches to cover 5 1/3 innings.
"Jack understands how this works," interim manager Mike Shildt said. "He's getting the experience now. He went out there and made a lot of quality pitches tonight, and they took some really quality at-bats that drove his count up a little bit."
It was a frustratingly familiar sequence for Flaherty, whose recent run of short starts has been dotted by inefficiency and home runs. Six of the eight runs he has allowed over his last three starts have come via the long ball. He's averaged 19 pitches per inning over his last five outings.
"With all of us young guys here, it's that point in the season where, for most of us who have been here long enough and experienced it, it's time for us to stop playing like rookies and really take ownership of what's going on," Flaherty said. "We shouldn't expect to go out and be OK, but to go out and dominate. Take ownership of really wanting this. We're not done yet, by any means."
Flaherty, one of the pieces the Cardinals intend to build their present and future around, was followed by a few others auditioning to fit on the staff. Making his first appearance since being traded by the Yankees, Chasen Shreve allowed an inherited runner to score in the Rockies' two-run sixth.
Carlos Gonzalez's two-run blast off John Brebbia, who has yo-yoed between St. Louis and Memphis all year, deepened the deficit in the seventh.
In between Carpenter's leadoff homer and the Cardinals' two-run eighth, Rockies starter Jon Gray held St. Louis to an infield hit.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
With his 22nd career leadoff homer, Carpenter surpassed Hall of Famer Lou Brock for the most in franchise history. Carpenter ambushed Gray on an 0-2 fastball and sent it 369 feet for his seventh leadoff homer this year. That, too, is a franchise record. The home run gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead and put Carpenter four homers away from becoming the sixth left-handed hitter in Cardinals history to hit 30 in a season.
"A win would've made it even more special, but any time your name is in the same sentence with guys like Lou Brock, it's pretty humbling," said Carpenter, who ranks second in the NL with 26 homers on the season. "Not really a lot of words to describe it, but it's pretty cool."
HE SAID IT
"I think every stint that I have up here is another experience for me to just learn from. The competition up here is way better. You just have to rise to the occasion." -- Tyler O'Neill, on being called back up to the Majors on Tuesday.
After earning his first win of the season at Busch Stadium in his start last Friday, Luke Weaver (6-9, 4.70 ERA) will return to the mound Wednesday to start a 7:15 p.m. CT game against the Rockies. He'll be opposed by lefty Kyle Freeland (9-6, 3.13 ERA). In his only previous start against Colorado, Weaver allowed a grand slam to Nolan Arenado and lasted just two innings.
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.