Cards' missed chances precede tough call vs. Cubs

Cards' missed chances precede tough call vs. Cubs

CHICAGO -- The Cardinals had reason to be irritated with how things ended on Thursday, as video evidence seemed to back up Zach Duke's claim that what was called a game-ending ball four should actually have been a game-continuing strike two.

But while they'll never know how much longer the series opener may have stretched had home-plate umpire Ron Kulpa's call been different, the Cardinals likely would not have been left to lament a 4-3, 11-inning loss had the club executed in various spots earlier.

"We had a shot just like they had, and they were able to pull something off," manager Mike Matheny said of both teams' 11th-inning, bases-loaded chances. "We had trouble coming through."

It was more than not coming through, however, that stalled the team's attempt to steal a series-opening victory. As has happened too often this season, the Cardinals also got in their own way. Those issues started in the sixth.

After stranding runners at third in three of the first five innings, starter Carlos Martinez let the sixth speed up on him. And by the time it was over, a two-run lead had morphed into a one-run deficit.

"Everything came together really quickly and it was good for them," Martinez said. "They had good luck."

The Cubs also had help.

Martinez inexplicably cut off a throw from right fielder Brandon Moss that would have given catcher Yadier Molina a chance to make a play at the plate. Instead, another run scored to tie the game at 2. Martinez said afterward that he didn't know Rizzo was coming home from third.

Coghlan's two-run single

"I got a little confused," Martinez said. "It was my bad. I should have backed it up at home plate, and I didn't."

Martinez followed that with a rushed throw to first base on a surprise two-out bunt by the slow-footed David Ross. Martinez's throw drew Matt Carpenter off first base as the third run of the inning scored.

Ross' go-ahead bunt single

"He had time to set his feet," Matheny said. "He's got to try to find a way to make it. But it's loud. Everyone is trying to tell him he's got time, but he's thinking about making the play to get us out of it, and almost did it."

After extending the Cubs' rally in the bottom of the sixth, the Cardinals cut their own off in the next inning. Jedd Gyorko was picked off first, meaning that there was no one on base when Randal Grichuk clobbered a game-tying, pinch-hit home run.

Grichuk's game-tying solo homer

The inning then ended with Carpenter getting thrown out at the plate trying to score from first on Stephen Piscotty's two-out double. It was an aggressive gamble that, while unsuccessful, Matheny backed.

"It's the right play," Matheny said. "You've got the shortstop's back turned completely to the infield, and [Addison Russell] has got a long throw that he has to put on the money or he's safe. He pulled off a perfect relay."

Statcast: Russell's strong relay

Still, it marked the 17th out the Cardinals have run into between third and home this season. Only two teams have registered more.

All of it led up to the 11th, which opened with the Cardinals squandering a bases-loaded chance. The Cubs followed with one of their own. Duke notched a key strikeout of Kris Bryant to secure the second out of the inning before losing Rizzo on a 3-1 pitch called inside.

Rizzo's walk-off walk

"[Kulpa] said he thought it ran in," Duke said. "PITCHf/x had it in the box. It's unfortunate. It's tough. We battled really hard, never gave in. That's a frustrating way to lose."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.