The Royals fought hard to grab a three-run lead going into the bottom of the ninth. But their normally shut-down bullpen couldn’t hold the lead as St. Louis rallied for a 6-5 victory on Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.
Closer Trevor Rosenthal saved Kansas City in the bottom of the eighth, working out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam by striking out Dylan Carlson and Kolten Wong on six pitches -- all heaters.
But Rosenthal allowed two walks and a double, sandwiched around two strikeouts, to load the bases in the ninth. Manager Mike Matheny opted to bring in lefty Randy Rosario to face Yadier Molina, and Rosario hit Molina on a 2-2 pitch to force in a run. Rosario then allowed a two-run single to Tyler O’Neill on a grounder off third baseman Maikel Franco's glove that tied the score at 5.
A wild pitch and two more walks, the last to Wong, forced in the winning run.
“We talked to [Rosenthal] in the eighth, and we didn’t have anyone else who could get us out of that mess,” Matheny said. “We talked to him ahead of time and told him, ‘We’re not going to make you get five outs here. What we need to do is use up your pitches and give us a chance.’ I’m not going to pitch you too far.
“Pretty impressive thing to get us out of the eighth.”
“[Rosenthal] was starting to hit a wall,” Matheny said. “He got to the number of pitches that we didn’t feel safe anymore, and it’s a shame. We’re not going to sacrifice potential health of a player in a situation like that.
“We can’t keep this up. We can’t keep running them out there in a 162-game season, or even in a shortened season, like this. We have to have other guys stepping into roles they are not accustomed to. Once again, I’m not going to sacrifice a player’s health. We chase these things at all costs, but not that one.”
Added Merrifield, “We have the off-day [Thursday] to forget about it, and then we have 17 in a row. We still have a chance to make some ground, and even though it doesn’t look great after tonight, we have to forget about today.
“Our bullpen has been really good for us all season. These games happen to teams, all teams.”
Junis is back: Right-hander Jakob Junis was activated from the injured list after recovering from back spasms, and he made it through 3 2/3 innings while grinding through some tough spots. The Cardinals had scoring opportunities in every inning against Junis but he did a decent job of limiting the damage.
Junis, who threw 69 pitches, allowed four hits and two runs.
Cam jack: Backup catcher Cam Gallagher hit three balls on the nose Tuesday night, and he continued to swing a hot bat Wednesday. Gallagher belted a 1-0 slider from Dakota Hudson in the third inning and parked it over the left-field fence for a two-run homer, his first of the season. It was Gallagher’s first home run since Aug. 2, 2019, at Minnesota.
Kennedy’s progress: It has been no secret how much reliever Ian Kennedy has struggled this season. Coming into this series, Kennedy had allowed runs in seven of his 10 outings and had an 8.49 ERA. But Kennedy, who had 30 saves last season, threw a 1-2-3 inning on Tuesday, and he tossed another scoreless inning Wednesday. Kennedy's five-year deal ends after this season, and he could be dealt prior to Monday night’s Trade Deadline. He got the first two hitters out, then allowed two consecutive singles before getting Carlson looking on a 2-2 fastball.
Bad luck: Ryan O'Hearn's bad luck from 2019 was well-documented -- he hit just .195 but had a 44 percent hard-hit rate. Some of that bad luck returned in the first inning.
The Royals had runners at first and second with one out, seemingly ready for a potential big inning. O’Hearn, who had three hits and his first home run of the season Tuesday night, ripped a hard one-hopper [95 mph] away from the shift. But the ball went right to third baseman Matt Carpenter, the only defender on the left side of the infield, who started a 5-4-3 double play to end the threat.
Wild pitch: Junis got in trouble in the fourth with free passes. First, he hit Carpenter for the second time in the game with none out. Then, he uncorked a wild pitch, which ended up being huge. Carpenter took second base and, with two out, Carlson slapped an RBI double down the left-field line.
Wasted chance: After McBroom’s huge go-ahead pinch-hit homer in the eighth, Merrifield doubled, giving the Royals a great chance to add to their 3-2 lead. But Hunter Dozier was unable to move the runner and popped out to second base. Jorge Soler grounded out softly to third, and after an intentional walk to O’Hearn, Franco popped out.