SAN DIEGO -- On the final leg of this road trip toward the trade deadline, the St. Louis Cardinals got a chance to observe something they saw only much earlier this season and may not see again outside of playing the Padres a few more times.
Here, at the spacious confines of Petco Park, was a team that had scored less than them -- the only team in the majors that could claim that.
But it wasn't true Tuesday night.
Unable to help themselves, the Cardinals aided San Diego's moribund offense to a 3-1 victory at their downtown ballpark. One of the Cardinals' three errors in the game led to the Padres' first run and Jason Motte's ongoing troubles with homers allowed the final one.
Padres starter Tyson Ross generously walked five of the first 12 batters he faced, and yet the closest the Cardinals got to scoring a run during that stretch was third base.
The Cardinals slipped to eight for their last 68 with runners in scoring position.
Cardinals starter Lance Lynn allowed one earned run but took the loss after six innings of work. Jedd Gyorko broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning with an RBI single off Lynn, and the Padres' Yangervis Solarte expanded the lead with a solo homer off Motte in the seventh inning. The homer was the seventh Motte has allowed in 21 innings since returning from elbow surgery.
A loss by Milwaukee earlier in the day kept the Cardinals 11/2 games back in the National League Central.
Lynn's first start at Petco Park turned on him in the sixth inning with back-to-back walks to open the inning and prime the Padres' rally. Solarte drew the first walk from Lynn and Seth Smith followed with a walk that followed a visit to the mound from pitching coach Derek Lilliquist. Recently back from injury and trying to excavate himself from the early-season slump that's anchored his average, second baseman Gyorko lined a single to left field that scored Solarte from second base to loose the 1-1 knot.
All three of Lynn's walks came in that sixth inning and the third loaded the bases with a pinch-hitter coming to the plate.
Manager Mike Matheny stayed with Lynn against Yasmani Grandal.
Grandal saw seven pitches from Lynn, all of them fastballs. The Cardinals' righty fell behind 3-0 before getting a strike over the plate. Grandal fouled off a 3-2 fastball. He missed on the next pitch, a 93 mph fastball that kept the inning from unraveling further. Lynn was done with that pitch, having allowed the two runs (one earned) through six innings on 117 pitches.
Ross matched Lynn's six innings and also saw his pitch count bloat because of walks. His came earlier. He dared the Cardinals' lineup to take advantage of him by walking Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday in each of their first two plate appearances. Ross then sped through the middle of the Cardinals' order. The middle three batters went a combined one for nine against the 27-year-old righty and struck out four times.
Ross entered the game having allowed no more than two runs in seven consecutive starts and had pitched well enough to have more than nine wins had the Padres only provided him with more support. He controls opponents with a wicked slider that can be as wild (walks) as effective (strikeouts). In the sixth inning, Ross struck out the side and his final pitch of the game -- his 106th pitch overall -- was an 88 mph slider that bit sharply down and away from Jon Jay's swing.
The strikeout was his seventh -- to allay the five walks.
The Cardinals nearly got the swing to tie the score in the eighth inning from a hitter the team is desperate to get untracked. Allen Craig, making his first start since Friday, tagged a two-strike pitch from reliever Kevin Quackenbush that had the distance to leave the ballpark for two RBIs. It just went to the wrong part of the park for that. Padres center fielder Alexi Amarista tracked the ball down with a leaping catch at the wall -- 400 feet away from home.
In the fifth inning, shortly after tying the score at a run apiece, the Cardinals encouraged the umpiring crew to take a look at a play at the plate that maybe, with the right view of the rules, would allow them to steal a run. Carpenter came home from third base when Matt Holliday made contact for a ground ball to the shortstop. The Padres' Everth Cabrera threw to catcher Rene Rivera, who had his position in front of the plate.
Carpenter was a stride away from the plate when the ball arrived, but he was able to dodge the initial swipe from Rivera and end up on the other side of the plate. Rivera tagged him out.
Matheny came put to the plate to discuss with home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo a rule that the Cardinals manager advocated this past winter. Experimental rule 7.13 governs how a catcher blocks the plate, and it was adopted during spring training for the purpose of limiting collisions at the plate. The application and interpretation of the rule this season has been difficult because of the lack of definition and baseball's reluctance to just outlaw collisions at the plate. The rule allows for the catcher to block the plate – if he has possession of the baseball. By getting crew chief Brian Gorman to review the play, Matheny wanted to make sure that Rivera didn't close off Carpenter's lane to the plate before he had the ball.
Whether or not Carpenter was close to the plate at that time may not influence the rule.
The review validated the call and the score remained 1-1.
It got there through an exchange of sacrifice flies. No teams in the majors have scored as few runs as the Cardinals and Padres, and so it was somewhat fitting for the two pedestrian lineups to score their first runs on outs. It took the Cardinals' second error of the game to boost San Diego toward its first run. Kolten Wong threw high to first base in the third inning, and that allowed Rivera to reach on the error and take second on the overthrow. Rivera scored on Amarista's sacrifice fly two batters later.
The Cardinals answered in the fifth against Ross, but it was Lynn who sparked the rally. He lined a single past a diving Cabrera and got to third base on Carpenter's double. Wong lofted a fly ball to center field that was deep enough to advance both runners and tie the score.
Carpenter going on contact on the grounder foiled the rally before a second run scored.
The Cardinals couldn't replay that.
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