Missed opportunities come back to haunt Cards

Missed opportunities come back to haunt Cards

WASHINGTON -- On a night when the Cardinals scored just once despite establishing a season high in hits and placing at least one runner aboard in every inning, manager Mike Matheny, following his team's 2-1 loss to the Nationals, struggled to pinpoint many obvious missed opportunities.

Sure, there was a bases-loaded chance in the fifth that went untapped, but the rally had been entirely concocted with two outs. And aside from Matt Carpenter scoring the tying run in the ninth, it actually marked the only time the Cardinals advanced a runner to third.

That wasn't a particularly easy feat given that the club tallied 13 hits, including two in four different innings. The Cardinals also drew four walks, all off the Nationals' Gio Gonzalez during his six-inning start. But seven of the team's hits came with two outs, and twice a rally was stalled by the pitcher's spot coming up with multiple runners on base.

"It's not like we blew a bunch of opportunities with guys on third base," Matheny said. "We never felt like we had that big opportunity that we could come through on. ... It was odd. You look up there and saw how many hits we had. Usually when that happens, you're thinking we've had so many good opportunities. It just wasn't there."

The Cardinals placed 17 runners on the bases over 10 innings. Twelve of those baserunners reached against Gonzalez, who fell just one baserunner shy of equaling the Major League record for most baserunners allowed in a scoreless start of no more than six innings.

Gonzalez's pitch count reached 107 by the time he wiggled out of sixth-inning trouble thanks to a botched sacrifice bunt attempt by Lance Lynn and a double play. It was one of two double plays the Cardinals hit into, the other erased a leadoff runner in the fourth.

"We just couldn't get that big hit today," said center fielder Jon Jay, who went 1-for-5 but contributed three key defensive catches. "Obviously we ran into a good pitcher, but we had our chances."

It didn't help the offense's cause, either, that only one of the team's hits went for extra bases. That was Yadier Molina's double with two out in the fourth. It led Gonzalez to issue an intentional walk so he could take his chances with Lynn, who grounded out to leave two stranded.

The Cardinals finished 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, lowering their season average in such spots to .242.

"We didn't put anything together," said Matt Holliday, the only one who actually did, as he contributed a four-hit game. "We had some chances, and they got out of it. It was one of those nights where you have opportunities, where you have runners and we didn't score."

Around the horn:
• In order to clear a roster spot for right-hander Mitch Harris, the Cardinals designated outfielder Gary Brown for assignment. Brown, who was taken off waivers by the Cardinals earlier this month, was 4-for-25 with Triple-A Memphis.

Jaime Garcia (left shoulder inflammation) threw another session of batting practice without issue on Monday. Garcia is scheduled to throw in a simulated game as part of extended spring training on Saturday.

• Shortstop Aledmys Diaz took a personal leave of absence from the Double-A Springfield club so that he could attend an immigration meeting in Palm Beach, Fla. It is part of the process necessary for him to establish residency in the United States. Diaz, a native of Cuba, is expected back with Springfield on Wednesday.

Peter Bourjos' wife, Ashely, gave birth to the couple's first child, Maxton Christopher Bourjos, on Tuesday morning. Bourjos is expected to rejoin the team in Milwaukee on Friday after a three-day paternity leave.

• With Bourjos away and Randal Grichuk on the disabled list, the Cardinals are currently down two center fielders. Matheny said Pete Kozma is earmarked as the backup center fielder in Bourjos' absence. Jason Heyward can also play the position, if needed.

• The Cardinals announced plans to host a sixth annual Green Week from April 27-30 at Busch Stadium. The club is also hosting an electronics recycling/donations drive, which begins on Wednesday. Fans can drop off their donations in the Lot C Parking lot, located at the corner of 8th and Cerre Streets, between 7 a.m.and 6 p.m. CT. For more information on this or other upcoming Green Week activities, visit cardinals.com/greenweek.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB and like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.