By Jenifer Langosch and Jeffrey Flanagan
MLB.com |@FlannyMLB |
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' home skid extended to seven on Thursday night, as the Royals retained I-70 Series bragging rights with a 4-2 victory at Busch Stadium. The win was punctuated by another big night from Kendrys Morales, who finished 12-for-16 in the four games.
Morales logged a pair of doubles -- the second of which pushed the Royals ahead, 3-1, in the sixth -- and then added breathing room again with a 456-foot, according to Statcast™, solo homer off reliever Tyler Lyons in the eighth. The homer, Morales' 11th, was deflating for the Cardinals, who had previously twice pulled to within one run of Kansas City's lead.
"He's sure picking us up," Royals manager Ned Yost said of Morales. "He's on fire offensively and doing a very solid job in the outfield for us."
The Royals took advantage of some shoddy St. Louis defense early to build a lead against starter Mike Leake. The right-hander finished seven innings, but watched his record drop to 5-6 with the lack of run support.
"I felt like there were a couple pitches I would like to take back," Leake said. "We're chugging along. We're trying to fight."
The Cardinals tallied two hits -- solo homers from Brandon Moss and Jhonny Peralta -- but were also unable to take advantage of Royals starter Chris Young's command troubles. Young walked six in a 91-pitch, four-inning start, but was hurt only by Moss' homer.
"I wasn't missing as much as it seemed," Young said. "But the main thing is we won. I left with the lead, and that's what you want to do."
With the win, the Royals remained six games behind the American League Central-leading Indians.
"It's a good way to start the road trip," Young said. "And we took three of four from the Cardinals and that's a pretty good team over there. Hopefully we can build on it."
The Cardinals, now 15-23 at home, completed their first losing month (12-13) since June 2012. Their seven-game home losing streak is the longest in franchise history since 1983.
"I would say that we haven't hit our stride," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It's all there, and it's just a matter of us continuing to work. .... When we have games that don't look like what we want them to look like, we can't buy into the fact that that's who we are because that's not. I know we have it in us."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED No slowing Mo: Morales continued his torrid hitting. He came into the game hitting .472 in his last 14 starts (25-for-53) and promptly doubled down the left-field line leading off the fourth. Morales, with Alex Gordon on second and one out in the sixth, raked a double off the right-field wall that gave the Royals a 3-1 lead. Morales saved his best for last -- he unleashed a blast that bounced off the facade of the third deck in left. Cardinal officials also estimated it at 456 feet, tying it for the longest homer by an opponent at the new Busch Stadium. Statcast™ had the homer measured with a 115.6 mph exit velocity. More >
Morales started the month with a .193 average. He's now at .262.
"I haven't had a streak like this in the big leagues," Morales said through interpreter Pedro Grifol. "It feels good."
Indefensible defense: The Cardinals' defense struggled in all three losses to the Royals this week. It was particularly porous on Thursday, as mistakes in the field helped the Royals to their first three runs. First-inning errors by Peralta and Brayan Pena helped gain a lead without recording a hit. Peralta's inability to finish a catch on a fly ball to left in the second led to another run. Then an errant pickoff throw preceded the Royals' sixth-inning tally. It was the Cardinals' sixth three-error game of the season.
"I know our guys hold themselves to a high level of expectation," Matheny said. "Some of the plays that happened aren't in those expectations. We have to continue to figure out how to get it right on a consistent basis."
That's what speed do: The Royals clearly came into the game wanting to run on their former catcher Pena. In the first inning, after reaching on an error, Whit Merrifield took off for third in an attempted steal. He made it and scored on Pena's throwing error. In the second, Alcides Escobar singled with two out, stole second base and scored on Jarrod Dyson's popup to short left that was ruled a double.
"We were just aggressive," Yost said. "We look for spots where we think we can make it."
Lopsided matchup: Moss has crushed Young throughout his career, and he added another monstrous blast to that matchup history. Moss improved to 6-for-20 with five homers vs. Young when he belted a solo homer that Statcast™ estimated to travel 454 feet. According to Statcast™, the homer became the second longest hit at Busch Stadium this season -- until Morales' blast passed it four innings later.
"Once you get used to him, I see him well," Moss said. "That first at-bat against him is always different because he's so tall, but he actually dips down and throws the ball uphill. He's a very unique pitcher, and it takes some time to get used to him."
"I'm very embarrassed about my performance today, but I have to pick myself up and keep working and try to do my best next time. I was ready, but things didn't work out my way." -- Pena, on committing a throwing error in the first inning of his first start this season
The Royals challenged an out call at first on a potential double-play grounder hit by Salvador Perez in the sixth. Cards second baseman Matt Carpenter bobbled the throw at the bag as he made his turn. Perez didn't run hard to first and Carpenter had time to still throw him out, or so the Cards thought. The play was overturned and Perez was safe -- that led to Matheny's ejection for then arguing with home-plate umpire and crew chief Mike Everitt. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Right-hander Ian Kennedy (6-6, 3.96 ERA) gets the ball on Friday at 6:05 p.m. CT for the opener of a three-game set against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Kennedy pitched seven innings against the Astros last Sunday and gave up one run and three hits while striking out 11.
Cardinals: Left-hander Jaime Garcia (5-6, 4.09) will get the start on Friday at 7:15 p.m. CT when the Cardinals open a three-game series against the Brewers at Busch Stadium. In two starts this season against the Brewers, Garcia gave up two runs in 14 innings.