Miscues sting Cardinals on sweltering night

Miscues sting Cardinals on sweltering night

Miscues sting Cardinals on sweltering night
ST. LOUIS -- Jake Westbrook slumped down to his knees off the third-base line, pausing for a few moments while hanging his head in frustration.

It was one of those kinds of nights for the Cardinals.

Defensive miscues and a lack of timely hits cost St. Louis in a 3-2 loss to Miami in 100-degree heat at Busch Stadium on Friday night. The defeat dropped the Cardinals to a full game back of Cincinnati for second place in the National League Central, and they fell to 8-14 in one-run games this season.

"Close games ... what can I say? Sometimes you're going to win those games and sometimes you're not," outfielder Carlos Beltran said. "We can't focus on the statistics right now."

St. Louis tied its season high with three errors in the game, and was just 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position.

Westbrook worked Jose Reyes to a full count with the game tied at 1 in the seventh. With two down and men on first and third, Reyes hit a weak grounder to the left side, which Westbrook barehanded and sailed over first baseman Allen Craig's head. Greg Dobbs scored from third to put Miami ahead, 2-1.

It was a play Westbrook had made before, but with Reyes' speed in mind, the right-hander said he rushed to make the throw quicker than he typically would have.

"I felt like I've got to get rid of this," Westbrook said. "I felt like I didn't have any time to plan ... It's just one of those things where I felt like that was the play I needed to try and make and just didn't make it."

A pair of errors by Cardinals third baseman David Freese in the sixth allowed the Marlins to erase a one-run St. Louis lead. Freese's throw on a Reyes ground ball pulled Craig off the bag at first. On the next play -- a routine double-play ball -- Freese threw wide of second base, and the Cardinals were only able to get the out at second.

Freese then let a hard-hit grounder off the bat of Carlos Lee by him, scoring Hanley Ramirez from first. Freese entered the game with five errors on the season, and his .973 fielding percentage was third-best among everyday NL third basemen.

"We've been playing good defense. David's been playing very good defense," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "There were some tough plays at him, and he's been making everything. Every once in a while they don't happen."

An RBI double by Freese scored the game's first run in the second, but the Cards failed to collect big hits in run-scoring opportunities, leaving 11 men on base. They squandered a scoring opportunity in the first, stranding Rafael Furcal on third after he led off the inning with a double. Neither Matt Holliday nor Beltran could bring Furcal home.

St. Louis' top two run producers again couldn't deliver in the seventh after Jon Jay doubled with one out. Both Holliday and Beltran grounded out to Lee at first.

"We had lots of opportunities, and these guys have been coming through," Matheny said. "You look at their stats, they've got a lot of RBIs and the reason for that is because they do come through. It just didn't happen tonight."

Miami starter Ricky Nolasco limited Beltran and Holliday to one hit apiece, and allowed just one unearned run over six innings. Beltran said Nolasco was mixing up a handful of pitches, seemingly never repeating any of them.

"Those guys keep giving you good at-bats, make you battle," Nolasco said. "They keep fighting. I just wasn't trying to give in to them and make good pitches."

Westbrook was having one of his better outings of the year through the first five innings. The right-hander had allowed three hits and just one runner to reach second base prior to the sixth.

The Cardinals had men on first and third with one out in the sixth with Westbrook coming to the plate. But because he was throwing well, Matheny said he had no thoughts of pinch-hitting for him with the game tied.

"He was the best we had right then," Matheny said. "You've got to stay with your best pitcher, and I believe in our offense to come back and do something for us if we keep the guy on the mound that's shutting them down."

The Cards mounted a rally against Marlins closer Heath Bell in the ninth, with Furcal's infield single plating Skip Schumaker. Holliday was hit by a pitch to put the potential winning run on base before Beltran grounded out to Omar Infante.

"What can I say?" Beltran said. "Days like that happen."

Furcal left the game after his hit due to a bothersome shin, but Matheny said afterward the injury was not serious.

St. Louis is now 21-20 at Busch Stadium this season, and 3-2 against Miami.

"It's frustrating. I felt like we had this one," Craig said. "But there's a lot games left. We've got to come back tomorrow, can't be thinking about this one now. It's over."

Mike Still is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.