ST. LOUIS -- Life is not getting any easier for Ryan Franklin.
Franklin was the unfortunate man on the mound at the end of a very unfortunate top of the eighth inning for the Cardinals on Saturday, as they watched a late lead evaporate in a 5-3 loss to the Reds. Miguel Cairo's two-run single against Franklin was the deciding blow, but only the last indignity in a truly miserable half-inning for the home team and its fans.
"That one inning, we made several mistakes," manager Tony La Russa admitted after the game.
Miguel Batista took the mound to start the inning shortly after 5 p.m. CT, but before Batista had thrown a pitch, rain began pelting Busch Stadium and the game was halted for 42 minutes with St. Louis leading, 3-2. When play resumed, Batista got Ryan Hanigan to ground out, and the Cardinals were five outs from victory. Things quickly went south from there, however.
Drew Stubbs hit a soft roller to the right side, and though David Freese made a nifty play to scoop it and release a throw, the ball sailed well out of Albert Pujols' reach for a two-base error. Still, Batista struck out Brandon Phillips, and the Cardinals were one out away from escaping.
La Russa called for an intentional walk to reigning National League Most Valuable Player Joey Votto, putting two men on for Jonny Gomes. The Cards then came even closer to escaping, as Batista got an 0-2 count on Gomes, but he hit the Cincinnati outfielder with the next pitch to load the bases.
"I had him against the wall," Batista said. "It was a count that you don't want to leave a ball over the plate. Even Cairo is a guy that can put the ball behind the fence if you make a mistake. I've known Jonny since he used to be with Tampa Bay. You get 0-2, I'm just trying to make sure to get him out on that pitch, and it slipped out of my hand and I ended up hitting him."
Left-hander Trever Miller, who had warmed up repeatedly in recent days but not pitched in a game since Sunday, was brought in to face Jay Bruce, and he wasn't sharp. Miller walked Bruce to force in a run and he was done.
Miller adamantly dismissed any notion that he suffered from rust.
"It's our job to stay ready," he said. "I was ready. I've been up in the bullpen three days in a row. My stuff may have been a little bit too big today. The breaking ball was breaking a little too much. ... Couldn't get it in the strike zone. You've got to throw strikes in that situation. Didn't do it."
In came the struggling Franklin, removed from closing duties early in the week but not finding himself in any easier a spot. The righty was greeted by Cairo's game-winning single, and then by a round of boos from the fans who stuck around after the rain delay.
"It was a [split-fingered fastball]," he said. "I didn't get it to where I wanted to, obviously. But then again, I didn't want to throw it in the dirt with the winning run on third base. I've got all the faith in the world in [catcher Yadier Molina], but something could happen. And the way things have been going for me... So I tried to throw it low."
Instead, he left it up too much, and Cairo made his old team pay.
"They've been throwing me a lot of breaking pitches when they were ahead," Cairo said. "I was just trying to stay back and see what was coming. He left one over the plate and I was just lucky enough to get a hit."
The rally cost Chris Carpenter yet another win. Carpenter didn't have his best command at times but had plenty good enough stuff to pitch six innings with only two runs, and he took a no-hit bid into the fifth inning. Saturday marked the fourth time in his five starts that he has pitched at least six innings and allowed no more than two runs, but he does not yet have a win.
On Saturday he needed 103 pitches to get through six innings.
"They're a quality team, quality offensive team that puts tough at-bats on you," Carpenter said. "You've got to go out there and execute. They foul pitches off. They take tough, close pitches. I felt throughout the day that I did what I needed to do to control the counts and get outs."
Albert Pujols' sixth-inning solo homer had given the Cards their 3-2 edge after a two-run Votto homer tied the score in the top half of the same inning.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.