Cards struggling to cash in on chances

Cards struggling to cash in on chances

ST. LOUIS -- Trading two outs for a run is hardly a feat worth celebrating, but if you were looking for offensive highlights from the Cardinals' 2-1 loss to the Padres at Busch Stadium on Friday night, that was the most appealing option.

Xavier Scruggs grounded into a double play that sent home Jason Heyward in the fifth inning, and that was the only offense St. Louis could muster in its fourth straight loss.

"It's a shame we're kind of at that point where we have bases loaded, nobody out, and we are almost happy when we get one because we have so many swing-and-misses in those situations," manager Mike Matheny said. "Once again, it's a spot our club is in right now."

The Cardinals have one hit in their last 35 at-bats with runners in scoring position and have scored six runs over their last four games.

Yadier Molina was stranded at third when Tommy Pham grounded out to the second baseman to end the fifth, with only Scruggs' run-scoring double play to show for an inning that began with back-to-back hits.

Scruggs' hit leads to run

The frustration mounted in the eighth, when pinch-hitter Greg Garcia struck out swinging for the second out with the speedy Peter Bourjos standing on third, needing just a fly ball to the outfield for a sacrifice fly that would give the Cardinals a lead. Kolten Wong followed Garcia and ended the inning with a deep out to left field.

"It's part of it, and just learning from it, really," said Garcia, who provided eighth-inning pinch-hit heroics with a game-tying home run against the Cubs on June 26. "You've got to learn the good with the bad. Tomorrow is a new day, and I'll just try to do my job the best I can."

That mantra is the same for a team that is suddenly struggling in close games after jumping out to a 51-24 record by seemingly always finding a way to win them.

"But we've got too good of hitters, too good of an offense for this to continue, and we're going to fix it," Matheny said. "But it's a shame to let a few of these slip, because that's a start we have to capitalize on. We have to come out with a win."

The Cardinals fell victim to four double plays on Friday, including on the game's final play, when Heyward grounded to shortstop Clint Barmes, who stepped on second and fired to first.

"We follow the leaders on this team, and there's no quit in any of these guys," Garcia said. "So we'll just follow the leaders, and we'll right this ship pretty quick."

David Cobb is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.