Fifth straight loss drops Cards in two races
La Russa agitated by borderline strike calls in ninth inning
ST. LOUIS -- Maybe it is the impact of the first five-game losing streak of the year. Perhaps it was frustration from watching his offense compile 13 hits -- the same number as the Giants -- but come away with only three runs. Whatever the reason, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa did not take the docile "it's-one-game-in-a-long-season" approach after a 6-3 defeat to the Giants on Friday.
La Russa boiled over on the first question of the postgame news conference, saying home-plate umpire Gary Cederstrom robbed his team of a chance to compete in the ninth inning.
Against Giants All-Star closer Brian Wilson with three outs to go, the Cardinals managed to get two men on and bring Matt Holliday to the plate, representing the tying run with one out left. Holliday went down 1-2 in the count -- both strikes could have gone either way -- before bouncing out to second base to end the game.
"It wasn't as tough as it looked," La Russa said. "We had a great chance in the ninth, and MLB can go ahead and fine [me], I don't care, but there were several strikes a guy as good as Brian Wilson got, he doesn't need. Who knows how that inning would have been? You know they are supposed to review that stuff and they are supposed to fine you if you say anything about it, but that is just not right.
"I think it was three or four hitters, at least three hitters that changes counts around. Strikeout on Felipe [Lopez], that's not a strike."
The loss dropped the Cardinals three games behind the Phillies in the National League Wild Card race and 4 1/2 behind the Reds in the NL Central.
Aside from the purported handicapping in the ninth, the Cardinals' offense did a strong job putting men one base, with 14 reaching.
Driving them in, however, was a different issue.
St. Louis went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10. In four of the last five games, the Cardinals have scored three or fewer runs and are averaging 3.2 runs during the five-game losing streak.
While La Russa agreed the offense needed to improve in previous losses, he took umbrage at the question this time.
"I don't think that's very fair," La Russa responded when asked about sense of urgency on offense. "When we scored two runs, I said we could do better. How many hits did we get today? It isn't the same game. That is why I don't think it's a very fair comment. We took a lot of swings, got a lot of base hits. Doesn't that count for anything? It does with me.
"If anybody wants to write it differently, some of the same old [garbage], then go ahead and do whatever you want to, but you can't tell me this game was like the others, 'cause it was not."
Newly acquired third baseman Pedro Feliz, making his debut in St. Louis, scored off a Brendan Ryan single to get the Cardinals on the board in the second, and Albert Pujols led off the eighth with his National League-leading 32nd home run to give the offense life again. Feliz scored for the second time in the eighth to cut the lead to three.
Giants starter Madison Bumgarner made sure no crooked numbers appeared on the scoreboard, though, despite facing at least one baserunner in five of his seven innings. The left-hander finished the game with seven-plus innings, five strikeouts, nine hits and one walk.
If you ask the Giants, Bumgarner was responsible for the fourth straight Cardinals offensive struggle.
"The thing about Bumgarner is, he doesn't scare," Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "He's a country redneck who goes out there and throws. He's got great stuff, pounds the zone and doesn't walk guys. He gave up some hits there early, but you know, I'd rather not have him walk guys. He's like a veteran guy in a 21-year-old body."
Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook came through with his fifth straight quality start, but was displeased that he put the team in an early hole, giving up two runs in the second and one more in the third. He finished with six innings, three runs and seven strikeouts.
"Last couple of times out I have put us in a hole, and I need to do a better job of putting up zeros early on," Westbrook said. "It seems like the last couple times we have been playing catch up. Got to do a better job there."
Michael Bleach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.