Cards come up empty, and lose Berkman

Cards come up empty, and lose Berkman

Cards come up empty, and lose Berkman
LOS ANGELES -- Following another forgettable night at Dodger Stadium, the Cardinals can now only collectively hope that they are not staring at a much more critical and enduring loss than the one Clayton Kershaw dealt them on Saturday.

A 6-0 defeat to the Dodgers, one again laced with defensive deficiencies, took an initial backseat on a night in which St. Louis and 39,383 on hand watched first baseman Lance Berkman helped off the field in the second inning.

It was later announced that Berkman had suffered a right knee injury. Few additional details were known postgame, either. A magnetic resonance imaging exam, which Berkman is scheduled to undergo in St. Louis, will clarify the diagnosis and prognosis on Monday.

For now, though, it's the latest blow to a Cardinals team that, since Monday, has already placed three players on the disabled list. Berkman is likely to join the group next, less than a week after he wrapped up a multiple-week recovery from a left calf strain.

But recent injuries have not been an excuse during the team's recent rut, and that isn't expected to change, even as the number grows.

"It is not 'woe is me' around here," manager Mike Matheny said. "It just gives another opportunity for someone to step up. That's really how we look at it."

Berkman suffered the injury catching a throw from shortstop Rafael Furcal to end the second. He fell to the ground and, despite trying, could not make it to the dugout without assistance. Matt Carpenter replaced Berkman at first base for the rest of the game.

"You're going to have some [injuries] throughout the course of the season. It happens," said Berkman, who remains cautiously optimistic that this latest knee injury won't sideline him long term.

"I feel like we certainly have experienced our fair share of hardship to this point, even going back to losing [starter Chris Carpenter] in Spring Training. But if this team has shown anything, it's resilient enough to hang in there until we can get our ducks in a row and make a run. We feel like no matter who it is that is down, we're going to be right there."

While the injuries continue to pile up for St. Louis, so, too, do the losses. This was the seventh in nine games for the Cardinals, who are 13-15 since beginning the year with a 9-3 record. Defensive miscues have been a part of much of the team's recent trouble, and that was no different on Saturday.

The Cardinals committed two more errors, including one by Carpenter at first base that led to an unearned run in the fourth. Another two defensive plays that could have been made but weren't put even more onus on starter Jake Westbrook, a ground-ball pitcher who relies as heavily on the defense as anyone on the Cardinals' staff.

"It definitely makes it tougher, but it's our job as pitchers to pick up our defense," Westbrook said. "Physical errors happen. That's part of the game. It's up to us to make pitches after that and get out of jams."

The Dodgers scored four times off Westbrook, with the first two coming home when Carpenter couldn't corral a grounder. Attempting to make a backhanded pick on a short hop so that he could try for the forceout at home, Carpenter watched the ball skip into right field.

"That's a play I know I can make," Carpenter said. "I'm not going to make excuses. I watched it again on film -- it's not like it was hit hard. It didn't take a tricky hop, but obviously it didn't go in the glove."

That error increased the team's total in the last week to 10, only one shy of matching their National League-low total from April. Those most recent 10 errors have led to five unearned runs.

"When you go up against a lineup like that, when you go up against a pitcher like Kershaw, you know that any kind of mistake is probably going to cost you," Matheny said. "And it did."

Aside from sandwiching a walk and two doubles around that fourth-inning error, Westbrook (4-3) was stingy until the seventh. That last inning was the one that left him particularly irritated afterward.

Westbrook entered the seventh having allowed just four hits, but he left a pair of pitches high to Justin Sellers and Kershaw. Sellers hit his over the left-field wall for a solo homer. Kershaw followed with a double that turned around outfielder Matt Holliday and knocked Westbrook from the game. Kershaw later scored off reliever Eduardo Sanchez, swelling the Dodgers' cushion to four.

"The bottom line is I didn't do the job I needed to do there in the seventh inning to keep it close," Westbrook said. "That's what's frustrating."

The bleeding continued once Westbrook was out. Sanchez allowed his own pair of two-out runs.

It was all more than enough for Kershaw, who twirled his first complete game of 2012. Now 4-1 this season, Kershaw, last year's NL Cy Young Award winner, didn't allow St. Louis to advance a runner past second. And he never allowed more than one runner to reach in a frame.

"You just try to establish your fastball, and they were showing that they were going to swing at it, a lot," said Kershaw, who countered by then relying more heavily on breaking pitches as the night progressed. "It's a game of adjustments."

The Cardinals, who have not shut out an opponent this year, have now been shut out three times themselves. The team's ERA this month sits at 4.83. It was 2.61 in 22 April games.

"I think what we saw in April is who we are," Matheny said. "That's what I believe. A couple of miscues don't define us. For us to start like we did, I think, sets the expectations of who we've got to be, who we can be."

Right now, though, it's just not what they are.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.