Cardinals fall just short against Royals

Cardinals fall just short against Royals

Cardinals fall just short against Royals
ST. LOUIS -- An otherwise nondescript game at Busch Stadium ended amid controversy on Friday, with several Cardinals players using their postgame platform to push for instant replay. In this case, however, even that likely would not have changed the outcome.

A stolen-base attempt by Tyler Greene turned into a dash around the bases when the Royals began a series of errant throws. Safe on his first two slides, Greene didn't get the call on the third. And with his emphatic out call, home-plate umpire Alan Porter dashed the hopes of a Cardinals comeback and sealed a 3-2 Royals win in front of 42,001.

"I just make a quick decision and try to run with every steam I have left," Greene said. "That's something you have to react to. I thought it was the right gamble."

The right gamble, but with the wrong result -- though not everyone in the Cardinals' clubhouse was so sure.

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Uncontested was the gutsiness of Greene's decision to run. With his team trailing by one and down to its final out, Greene beat out an infield hit to keep the game going. He was given the green light to run, and picked his spot on Royals closer Jonathan Broxton's second pitch.

"I knew Broxton isn't too quick to the plate," Greene said, "so I figured it was a good time to go."

He chose wisely. Royals catcher Humberto Quintero threw off line to second base. His throw appeared to hit Greene, and it trickled off toward the shortstop position. With no one there, Greene hopped up and took off for third.

That drew a throw well wide of the base. As the ball caromed off the netting on the visiting dugout, Greene took off for home.

"We have to make something happen right there," manager Mike Matheny said. "We're up against a wall."

The ball and Greene reached home nearly simultaneously. Quintero made a scooping tag, appearing to miss Greene's leg before getting his chest. Greene poked his left leg in, trying to push it around Quintero's right foot, which was blocking the plate.

Quintero got the call.

"We've been practicing that play," Royals manager Ned Yost said, slyly, afterward. "It's a play we've been working on all spring. We executed it flawlessly."

Replays of whether the tag or the touch came first were inconclusive, as Matheny noted afterward.

"It's hard to tell when you slow it down," he said. "When a guy blocks a plate, comes up with a ball, most of the time the call is going to be out. It looked like the ball beat him. I couldn't tell if the foot slipped in or not. Even slowing it down, it's not obvious."

Similar sentiments weren't shared by those in the Cardinals' clubhouse.

"Close?" starter Kyle Lohse said sarcastically when asked about the play. He later added that he felt the wrong call was made.

Carlos Beltran, who had also just exited the video room, was likewise confident in what he saw.

"It was clear for me," Beltran said. "That's why I'm a believer that replay has to be more involved in games like that. The big thing about this game is being able to make the right call. As a player, we're just asking for that."

Lohse's push for replay was rooted in the same argument.

"We play hard," said Lohse, who allowed three runs in his seven-inning start. "Look into it and see how to implement something. Both sides played really hard. It's tough when something happens like that."

While the out was magnified, given that it was the final one, it shouldn't overshadow all the other missed opportunities by a Cardinals lineup that got most of its production from the bottom.

Seven of the team's 11 hits came from the final three spots in the batting order. Matt Adams had two, including an RBI double in the Cardinals' two-run seventh. Greene had three. Lohse knocked a fifth-inning single, and Shane Robinson brought the Cardinals to within one when he pinch-hit in the spot and laced a seventh-inning single to right to score Adams.

The rest of the lineup went quietly against Royals starter Vin Mazzaro and the four relievers who took the reins after the sixth.

"It seems like we're having to come back late a lot instead of cashing in on [those early opportunities]," Matheny said.

Lohse wasn't sharp on Friday, but he would have been good enough had the Cardinals made more of their hits. The absence of much timely offense, while an anomaly in the context of the season, has been commonplace since the Cardinals' competition began coming from the American League Central.

A team that has averaged 5.2 runs against National League opponents this season has scored just 14 runs in seven Interleague games. That has left St. Louis to squander several quality starts this homestand.

Lohse's was the sixth quality start in Interleague Play. The only one not falling in that category should have been good enough, too, as it was Joe Kelly's five-inning, one-run Major League debut against the Indians.

"We've just got to keep it going," said Lohse, who took his first loss since May 4. "We're doing the things that we need to do to be successful. That didn't translate into a win tonight, but I think we're getting back to where we should be."

Separate the outcome, there was also history made at Busch Stadium on Friday. Facing the team that drafted and developed him, Beltran swiped second base after a second-inning single. With it, he became the first switch-hitter in Major League history to steal 300 bases and hit 300 home runs.

"I've been fortunate to be able to play this game for long, and today, it's great," said Beltran, who will take home second base as a keepsake. "It would have been great if we would have won."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.