Kelly stays the course, but so does sluggish offense

Kelly stays the course, but so does sluggish offense

Kelly stays the course, but so does sluggish offense
MILWAUKEE -- For one day, the Cardinals' futility on offense since the All-Star break was hidden by the fact they were able narrowly escape the Brewers for their first win of the second half.

On Tuesday, St. Louis' struggles were brought back to the forefront, as the Cardinals managed to score in just one inning on the way to a 3-2 loss at Miller Park. Tuesday marked the fifth straight game in which St. Louis scored no more than three runs, as the Cardinals went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position. And with a Reds win, St. Louis dropped back to 4 1/2 games behind first-place Cincinnati in the National League Central.

But much like the night before, when three runs in their final at-bat rallied the Cardinals past the Brewers, St. Louis had chances late in Tuesday night's game, including the ninth inning.

Facing Milwaukee's Francisco Rodriguez, who was made closer after John Axford blew his sixth save of the season on Monday, David Freese led off the ninth inning with a double down the right-field line. Yadier Molina then followed with a single that put runners on the corners with no outs. However, the next three batters had no such luck, as Rodriguez forced a groundout, strikeout and flyout to end rally and the game.

"We had the opportunities," manager Mike Matheny said. "We were right where we wanted to be. Got a couple big hits form David, then Yadier, putting us in some good spots to make something happen. You don't get those very often, and you got to come through. Tough situation, tough pitcher. Last night it happened, and couldn't get it to work tonight."

And unlike Monday night, the Cardinals didn't wait until the ninth inning to do their damage.

After the Brewers opened the scoring with one run in the first, St. Louis was the next to strike, notching two runs in the third inning.

It didn't take long for the Brewers to erase that lead, though, as Aramis Ramirez tied the game in the next half inning with an RBI single. Then, after a scoreless fourth for St. Louis, Milwaukee reclaimed the lead for good on a booming leadoff shot by Rickie Weeks.

Cardinals rookie Joe Kelly, who has yet to give up more than three runs in seven outings, registered his fifth straight quality start, allowing just six hits and striking out four batters in six innings. And although he was happy with his performance, especially his ability to limit the Brewers to mostly ground balls, Kelly was frustrated with the pitch to Weeks.

"I fell behind, gave him a fastball right down the middle," Kelly said. "I probably would have hit out myself. That's what everybody looks for, even pitchers, something down the middle, up. It's the easiest pitch in baseball to hit."

In the seventh, the Cardinals had their first of two late chances to even the score, when Molina and Matt Carpenter led off the inning with back-to-back singles and then each advanced a base on Tyler Greene's sacrifice bunt.

Matheny then brought on Lance Berkman, who entered the game batting 3-for-32 (.094) with seven strikeouts against Brewers starter Randy Wolf. Matheny said it was an "easy decision" to send Berkman to the plate, but it did not go well, as he struck out on a check swing. Berkman argued the call and, after going into the clubhouse to watch a replay, he returned to the dugout and yelled at home-plate umpire Brian Gorman, who ejected him from the game. Still not satisfied, Berkman went back on the field to argue with Gorman while Milwaukee made a pitching change.

Berkman said the replay confirmed that he did not swing, in his mind, but he was most upset Gorman did not ask for confirmation on the call.

"I don't think they should be allowed to make that call," Berkman said. "I don't think you can be watching the strike zone and also tell if a guy swings a bat. It happens too fast. And I know these guys pride themselves on being able to see everything, but it's impossible. They're human beings, and I feel like action happens too fast; they need to appeal that. They should take it out of the umpire's hands."

Berkman's strikeout ended the inning, and continued a theme of missed opportunities that has become all too familiar for the Cardinals, who now are 8-for-45 with runners in scoring positon since the All-Star break.

"We played lousy," Berkman said. "We haven't been hitting well. We should have won this game tonight. There's no reason we shouldn't have. They didn't beat us; we beat ourselves."

Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.