Three runs for the good guys. Three times three runs in the game. Three extra innings. And three losses out of four in the series.
Frustrated on the road and amidst their worst stretch of the still-young season, the St. Louis Cardinals took another loss Thursday, this time 6-3 in 12 innings, at the hands of the San Diego Padres.
By falling again, the Cards dropped to 18-13 and saw their lead over Cincinnati in the National League Central fall to two games.
The crowning blow was a three-run, walkoff home run off the bat of former Cardinal Greg Garcia. With Garcia's rare home run -- this was only his 15th in over 1,000 career at bats -- he joins ex-Redbird Tommy Pham as a Cardinal killer in this series.
Garcia's short-porch, right-field pull came off GIovanny Gallegos, who had been little used as of late (but for no particular reason, according to team sources). Gallegos was off his groove the whole inning, and in fact did not get a batter out; a walk, single and home run were the sum of his outing.
The Garcia homer ruined a noble effort by the Cards, who had fought back twice in regulation, coming from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to tie the game.
The pitching matchup between Adam Wainwright and Garrett Richards would not have been the one in the series most likely to produce nine shutout halves out of the gate. And yet, nary a run, and only seven total hits and walks, came off the starters leading into the bottom of the fifth inning.
But then Waino succumbed to a too-hot-to-handle one-hopper by Fernando Tatis Jr to Tommy Edman at third, which was ruled a hit because of its velocity and a modest bad hop. And after Pham lined to second, Manny Machado walloped a blast about 15 rows into the left-field stands.
"It wasn't a bad pitch, but it's Machado. That's what a really good hitter can do. I was more upset about the (Tatis) hit because I left it flat and he just plain smoked it. The Manny one, that was all him and what he's capable of."
The Cards came right back in the sixth. Dylan Carlson, playing left, drag bunted from the left side almost on top of the line, and both Richards and Hosmer rushed in and avoided a collision by some means. Harrison Bader lashed a triple in the left-center gap, scoring Carlson, and Edmundo Sosa executed a lovely safety squeeze to plate Bader.
"We knew (Sosa) bunted well," said bench coach Oliver Marmol. "This was a great time to test it out. And, you know, sometimes the best laid plans actually work."
The 2-2 score remained in place until the bottom of the seventh, which was handled on the mound by John Gant. Garcia was plunked in the ribcage by Gant, and then advanced first to second, then to third, on successive ground outs.
And then a fastball went totally awry, sailing over Matt Wieters head behind the plate, and Garcia scored. One run, no hits, no walks.
But in the top of the ninth, Dexter Fowler, playing first for a change, doubled on a ball that seemed to stay up in the air forever and then glanced off the top of the wall.
"I admit, I didn't run hard enough," said Fowler. "I thought, this is either a sure out or a homer, and so I dogged it. I'll be paying into the kitty on this one. Shoulda been a triple."
Fowler gained a reprieve, however, when Tyler O'neill singled him home to tie the game at 3-all.
The Padres had no chances of note in the ninth off Tyler Webb, who also worked the 10th before giving way to Gallegos, perfect in the 11th but not so much the following frame.
Next Up and Notes: The weekend will be an interesting one for the Cards. Not only must they travel back to the Midwest and Milwaukee to face the Brewers, but they're hoping that both Paul DeJong and Lane Thomas can return for at least one of the three.
They're also hoping for some healthy starts, as the bullpen has been taxed a bit in the last few days, and could use a breather. So it's probably good that ace Jack Flaherty's turn is up Friday. He looked good last Sunday, mixing strikeouts and groundouts in the victory over the Miami Marlins.