ST. LOUIS -- Though their final lead was lost by the reliever actually appearing in his scripted role, the Cardinals saw the late innings of Friday's 6-5 loss to the Giants complicated mightily by the unavailability of one critical reliever.
With usual eighth-inning setup man Trevor Rosenthal not cleared by the medical staff, manager Mike Matheny called upon other relievers to pitch in unfamiliar spots. He hoped that together they could carry a lead to closer Seung Hwan Oh. And though they did, there were significant hiccups along the way.
Trying to save right-hander Matt Bowman and lefty Kevin Siegrist to cover the eighth inning, Matheny turned to Jonathan Broxton after Michael Wacha's start of six scoreless innings. Broxton faced two batters, both of whom singled. With the team's two-run lead loosening, Matheny quickly moved on to Bowman, who had stranded 10 of 12 inherited runners this season.
Bowman didn't get much help.
His defense committed a costly error, and home-plate umpire Nic Lentz made a couple of borderline calls that went in San Francisco's favor. The latter led to Matheny's second ejection of the year, and by the time the inning, delayed at one point by a 46-minute rain delay, came to an end, the Cardinals trailed, 3-2.
"We needed to get through the bottom of the lineup in that seventh inning," Matheny said, "And they got us in trouble right out of the gate."
Siegrist did help Bowman out of a bases-loaded mess, but the bullpen became vulnerable again in the eighth when Sam Tuivailala took over. A recent callup who has made few career appearances in similar high-leverage spots, Tuivailala gave up one run. It pulled the Giants to within one.
Oh, who gave up three hits to the first four batters he faced, then capped the bullpen's rocky night by suffering his second blown save of the season.
Two days after losing for the first time when holding a lead after seven, this was the Cardinals' first loss in a game they led through the eighth.
"There was nothing that went well," Oh, speaking through a translator, said of his appearance. "First thing, letting the leadoff hitter go on the base and second of all was a missed pitch against Nunez. The first pitch was pretty weak."
The night's sequencing of relievers all traced back to the decision to hold Rosenthal back, as the Cardinals have done numerous times this year. Matheny wouldn't specify why Rosenthal was deemed unavailable -- "just kind of a broad stroke [soreness]," he said -- but concerns about the right-hander's durability clearly persist.
The Cardinals went the entire first month of the season without pitching him on back-to-back days. He had pitched just once in four days leading into Friday's series opener.
"Just kind of what we said from the beginning: We'll keep an eye on him, have the trainers take a close look and if something doesn't feel or look quite right, we're going to shut him down," Matheny said. "We're going to have to do that from time to time, and today was one of those days."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.