Well, that certainly didn’t go as planned.

On Star Wars night at Busch Stadium, the St. Louis Cardinals wrapped up their series against the San Diego Padres with a 4-2 loss.

This loss caps off a nine game stretch against three of the National League’s bottom tier teams. Ideally, you’d like to go at least 6-3 over this stretch to put yourself in a good position as you head into a tough two week stretch of the season. Instead, the Cardinals went 4-5 over this stretch, losing the Miami and San Diego series. U-g-l-y.

The last time the Cardinals faced Padres starter Eric Lauer was back in May, when the Redbirds scored 6 runs on him (all by the home run) en route to a 9-5 win.

Luke Weaver, meanwhile, has 14 strikeouts and no runs allowed in his two career starts against San Diego. So one would expect that things set up pretty well for a Cardinal win tonight, right? Right?

Things didn’t get off to a great start for the Cardinals, as Freddy Galvis hit a two-run RBI double to center field for an early 2-0 San Diego lead in the first inning.

One thing Eric Lauer does well is pick guys off from first; he had picked off runners in four straight starts entering today. The Cardinals knew this, but it wasn’t enough to keep Harrison Bader from being picked off at first almost immediately after hitting a leadoff single (and Lauer almost caught Tommy Pham sleeping later in the frame).

Weaver fell behind in the count often early in the game, but was able to keep the Padres off the board through the next two innings. He was aided in part by a slick backhanded stop from Kolten Wong in the second that resulted in a double play. Unfortunately, Lauer continued to get the Cardinals out with relative efficiency. Still 2-0 Padres after three.

With Weaver continuing to settle in, it was time for the Cardinals’ offense to wake up and get some run support. Marcell Ozuna and Jedd Gyorko appeared to get something going in the fourth with a pair of singles, but they were left stranded after Yairo Munoz grounded out to the pitcher. You’ll be shocked to learn that hitting a few singles here and there without any extra base hits in between hasn’t resulted in many runs.

The Padres threatened to add to their lead in the 5th with a couple of base hits, but Weaver was able to get out of trouble without allowing another run. Lauer didn’t have to work nearly as hard in the bottom half of the inning, retiring the Cardinals 1-2-3 to keep the score 2-0 San Diego after five.

The sixth inning is where things really started to unravel. After Tommy Pham came up just short on a Franmil Reyes double, Manuel Margot lined a triple into right to make score 3-0 Padres and force Mike Matheny to go to his bullpen. Margot appeared to have a double off the bat, but hustled for third and was able to slide under Jedd Gyorko’s tag (if you want to call it that). Austin Gomber came in and immediately allowed a broken bat single to Raffy Lopez over the drawn-in infield. 4-0 Padres.

As it turns out, home runs are better than singles. Marcell Ozuna knows this, and hit a two-run homer to center field in the bottom of the sixth to cut the Padres’ lead in half, 4-2. He’s now the team leader in RBIs this season, and is starting to look more and more like the power bat the Cardinals envisioned when they acquired him last winter.

Gomber and Mike Mayers held the Padres scoreless in the 7th to keep the deficit at two runs. With Lauer out of the game, the Cardinals now had three innings to figure out a strong Padres bullpen, and…we all know what happened the last time the Cardinals faced the Padres bullpen. Jose Castillo struck out the side in the seventh to preserve San Diego’s 4-2 lead heading into the eighth.

Tonight was actually a really good outing from Cardinals relievers, who allowed just one hit and struck out five batters after taking over for Weaver in the fifth. Unfortunately, the bottom of the eighth inning included a diving catch from Manuel Margot robbed Tommy Pham of extra bases.

Brad Hand came on to finish the job in the ninth, and things got a little interesting when Yadier Molina was hit by the pitch to lead off. This brought the tying run to the plate in Jedd Gyorko, who, as we know, morphs into the greatest baseball player on the planet whenever he’s playing his former team. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen tonight, and Gyorko lined into a double play at first. The Cardinals wouldn’t reach base again, and lose 4-2. Yuck.

Tomorrow is an off-day, and the Cubs come to town for a big series this weekend. Here’s hoping the Cardinals remember how to score between now and Friday.

 

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