Inability to get down bunt haunts Cardinals

Lackey strikes out in third inning while attempting to move Jay to second

Inability to get down bunt haunts Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Four innings before the Phillies set up their game-winning rally with a sacrifice bunt, the Cardinals stalled one of their own by lacking the same execution. It loomed large, too, in the team's eventual 4-1 loss to Philadelphia to open an 11-game homestand.

Cards starter John Lackey, who has one of the rotation's two successful sacrifices this season, couldn't lay one down with Jon Jay at first in the third inning of a scoreless game. Phillies starter Cole Hamels mixed in curves, cutters and changeups to challenge the attempt.

"He showed me a little of everything," Lackey said. "It was nice pitching on his part."

The missed opportunity to advance Jay into scoring opportunity had a damaging trickle-down effect. It led manager Mike Matheny to try to get Jay to second via a hit-and-run, which didn't work out as designed when Matt Carpenter was handcuffed by a high-and-inside pitch. Jay was easily thrown out at second.

Ruiz throws out Jay

And so when the Cardinals followed with three straight singles, the possibility of landing a crooked number against Hamels was replaced with just the one run. Mark Reynolds then ended the threat with a bases-loaded groundout.

"Those usually come back to get you when you don't do the little things right like getting the bunts down," Matheny said. "In a close game, that makes a big difference. That was probably our best opportunity that inning. They got the big hit when they needed it and we didn't."

The Phillies also got the bunt down when necessary.

Philadelphia did all of its scoring off Lackey in the seventh, opening the inning with consecutive singles and then getting on the board with Ben Revere's two-run ground-rule double. The hit followed manager Ryne Sandberg's decision to send Hamels to the plate to lay down a one-out sacrifice bunt. The move, somewhat curious at the time, turned genius in execution.

It was the seventh successful sacrifice by Phillies pitchers this year, the most of any team. The Cardinals entered the day ranked 10th in the National League with two. They've had several other attempts end either in strikeouts or forceouts. In three of their last four losses -- all games determined by three or fewer runs -- a Cardinals starter has missed on an attempt.

"I think we statistically look at that every time our guys do something positive offensively, one of our pitchers, what that translates into," Matheny said. "Usually that translates into wins and that translates into runs. We're not going to beat this up. Our guys are working hard, putting together some good at-bats and putting some bunts down. It didn't happen tonight. For them it did. And it did help them immensely."

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.