PHOENIX: As much as the St. Louis Cardinals have waited for some of their starting pitchers to gain traction and their offensive stalwarts to animate, a constant for the club has been exactly what they planned for all winter: the bullpen.
The Cardinals arrived at Chase Field on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) boasting one of the best relief corps in baseball based on an assortment of statistics.
It took Arizona one inning to implode them all.
The host Diamondbacks thundered away at a parade of Cardinals’ relievers for nine runs in a disastrous sixth inning Monday and then held on to win, 12-7. Arizona’s leadoff hitter Jean Segura got his fourth hit of the game in the sixth inning and typified the rally with a three-run shot that put the Diamondbacks ahead for good. Arizona would bat around im the inning, and the only one of the four pitchers the Cardinals used in the inning that didn’t give up an extra-base hit was rookie Matt Bowman.
The Cardinals entered the game with a 2.19 ERA from their relievers. Only the Washington Nationals were better in the National League. Opponents had hit .176 against the Cardinals’ relievers, and no team in the NL had held opponents to a lower average. In 53 1/3 innings the Cardinals’ bullpen had allowed 13 earned runs this season.
They allowed eight earned runs before getting a second out in the sixth.
And the inning was uglier than that sounds.
The rupture in the bullpen cost the game, but it was a cramp for the left fielder that could yet prove costliest from the game.
After legging out an RBI triple in the first inning and then trying to beat a throw on a groundout in the third inning, Matt Holliday left the game with a cramp in his right leg. The Cardinals officially announced that Holliday is “day to day” with the injury, but there will be ample concern about the left fielder and caution when it comes to how soon he returns. Holliday missed most of the 2015 season with a quadriceps tear in the same leg, and he returned too quickly from the first tear and that led to a second stint on the disabled list with a quad strain.
Holliday’s replacement in left field, rookie Jeremy Hazelbaker, impacted the game quickly as he put the Cardinals ahead by three runs with a homer in the fifth inning. Hazelbaker’s fifth homer of the season staked the Cardinals to a 5-2 lead.
It was fleeting.
It took the Cardinals three pitching changes and four different pitchers to get three outs from the Diamondbacks in the atrocious sixth inning.
A day after pitching a perfect inning against the San Diego Padres despite sweating through flu-like symptoms, lefty Kevin Siegrist wilted as the second reliever into the inning for the Cardinals. His velocity waned and so did his control, as Segura, the first batter he faced in the inning, cranked a three-run homer to put Arizona ahead. The next two batters also reached base against Siegrist, and both would score by the time Siegrist had yielded the mound to Seth Maness. The first batter Maness faced, Yasmany Tomas, ripped a ground-rule double that added another run to the Diamondbacks’ lead.
By the end of the inning, the Diamondbacks had sent 14 batters to the plate and scored nine runs, eight of them earned. They had nine hits, four of them for extra bases hits, and they had hit for the cycle as a lineup.
Wellington Castillo started the inning with a double.
He continued it with a two-run single.
He scored the first and final run of the inning.
The only spot in the order that didn’t score was the No. 9 spot, where shortstop Nick Ahmed hits for the Diamondbacks. Ahmed had two of the outs in the inning. Matt Bowman, the Cardinals’ second pitcher of the inning, struck him out immediately before Segura’s homer, and Maness got a fly ball from him to end the inning.
Two of the players who struggled most in the inning, Siegrist with his failure to get an out and Kolten Wong with an error, had been two of the players battling an illness all weekend.