Overaggressive Cardinals come up empty in Game 5 loss

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In getting shut out by the Giants on Friday, the Cardinals never worked a walk against Barry Zito and company. Their one free pass was intentional, as Pete Kozma was walked ahead of the pitcher to set up an inning-ending double play in the second inning.

In all, the Cardinals have drawn a total of eight unintentional walks in five games against the Giants. That’s a remarkably low total from an offense that finished fourth in the NL with 533 walks. And it’s not like the Giants have been throwing Cliff Lee over and over again. They were seventh in the NL in walks allowed by their pitchers, at 489.

Matt Holliday and Jon Jay have been the most aggressive of the Cardinals hitters so far, and it seems to be taking a toll. Holliday went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts tonight and is 4-for-21 with no extra-base hits in the series. He hasn’t homered since the wild card game against the Braves two weeks ago. Jay, the Cardinals’ leadoff man, is 5-for-21 with no walks. He’s also been awful in road games all year long, so there’s a case for sitting him with the series returning to St. Louis on Sunday. However, the Cardinals value his defense so highly that it’s unlikely they’d go that route.

At the very least, hitting coach Mark McGwire should have talks with both. For Holliday, this is shaping up as his sixth lousy postseason series in seven total series with the Cardinals. He hit .289 with five homers and 10 RBI during the Rockies’ World Series run in 2007, but since arriving in St. Louis in 2009, he’s come in at .250 with three homers and 13 RBI in 108 at-bats. Much of that production came in last year’s NLCS against the Brewers. He went 3-for-19 with no RBI in the World Series last year, and he’s hitting .222 with seven RBI in 45 at-bats so far this month.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.