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Unsettled Cards bullpen loses lead vs. Reds

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals put a three-run lead in the hands of their two most reliable relievers Sunday, but endured an unraveling in the late innings.

Cincinnati escaped with a 5-4 win, leaving the Cardinals back at .500 and lamenting a lead wasted. It was also an indicator that things still haven't settled in the Cardinals' bullpen, which posted the franchise's highest April ERA (5.55) since 1924.

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ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals put a three-run lead in the hands of their two most reliable relievers Sunday, but endured an unraveling in the late innings.

Cincinnati escaped with a 5-4 win, leaving the Cardinals back at .500 and lamenting a lead wasted. It was also an indicator that things still haven't settled in the Cardinals' bullpen, which posted the franchise's highest April ERA (5.55) since 1924.

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"This is one of those games," manager Mike Matheny said, "that we're going to look at and realize we need to put away."

Trouble first brewed in the seventh, when reliever Matt Bowman inherited a 4-1 lead. He retired two after allowing a leadoff single before Adam Duvall connected for the first of Cincinnati's three successive RBI hits.

Despite a lead lost, the Cardinals liked their position as they handed a tie game to Rosenthal. Not only has Rosenthal been throwing harder than anyone in the game not named Aroldis Chapman, but he had been throwing strikes as well. However, those didn't come so easily Sunday.

After having gone to a three-ball count just twice over his first seven appearances (26 batters), Rosenthal did so against each of the first three Reds hitters he saw. Two drew walks and the other singled, leaving Rosenthal in a bases-loaded, no-out mess.

Joey Votto's single drove in the only run the Reds would need.

Video: CIN@STL: Votto's line-drive single scores Alcantara

"He's a tough guy to match up against," said Votto, who had been hitless in five at-bats against Rosenthal. "He's always coming in in big spots. He's got good stuff, especially when he's throwing his secondary stuff for strikes. He's very, very challenging."

But in this 32-pitch inning, Rosenthal didn't throw much of that secondary stuff. Twenty-nine of his pitches were four-seam fastballs, from which he generated only one swing and miss. According to Statcast™, Rosenthal had been averaging one whiff for every six fastballs thrown entering the day.

The Reds tallied more hits (two) off 100 mph pitches on Sunday than opponents had against Rosenthal all month.

"The ball was starting to elevate, which is just the timing of when he gets his hand on top of the ball when it's behind him," Matheny said. "If it's just a little bit late, then the ball is going to sail. He tried to fight his way through it, and to be honest, to get out of that with one run, he made some good pitches when he had to. But he wasn't as sharp today."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

St. Louis Cardinals, Trevor Rosenthal