It wasn't supposed to end this way.
And by that, we don't mean a loss. A loss on the road, while not preferred, is common. It happens to every team on most road trips. And yes, the Cardinals lost the finale of their road trip and this series with the Colorado Rockies by a score of 4-3.
No, what was weird about this ending was how the starting pitcher got ejected.
Well, not "how" exactly. Call it "when." Three innings after his departure, Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez was thrown out, after veteran home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi finally had enough of CMart's dugout antics.
And that came with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, right before David Dahl raced home from first on a Daniel Murphy double off John Brebbia, to break the tie and score the win for the home team.
Martinez had been jawing at Cuzzi from the time he left the game with one out in the seventh. Strangely, this was despite a fine outing, comprising three runs, two of them earned, on five hits and two walks.
But oh, those walks. Each of them figured in a run, and each came on 3-2 counts that both Martinez and Matt Wieters thought should have been strikes on the counter. Replays proved up their beef.
"He was robbed, twice," said Wieters. "I'll probably get in trouble saying so. But we called breakers, we got breakers, they easily grabbed the edge of the plate, and (Cuzzi) felt otherwise."
The first one came in the second. With two out and Ryan McMahon on second, Trevor Story's walk allowed Murphy to drive the lead runner home.
The second was even more painful, and came in the sixth. Ian Desmond seemed to take a 3-2 strike that video showed dropped neatly over the outside corner. Then shortstop Brad Miller cleanly fielded a two-bounder and fired to first baseman Matt Carpenter, who could not cleanly pick up a hop on the throw.
Martinez briefly vented at Cuzzi at that moment, but Wieters talked him down, and the pitcher came out again to start the seventh. It was after manager Mike Shildt came out to get him that the real friction began.
From that point out, he kept up a banter with Cuzzi, who, despite his reputation for a quick trigger, held his composure with the on again, off again taunts. At least, until the bottom of the ninth, when it got too much for the umpire to take.
Brebbia's run was the first one given up by the Cards bullpen after three and a third scoreless innings. Daniel Poncedeleon, who hadn't pitched since his last start, and Tyler Webb contributed to that spell, and so did Brebbia until his trouble with a single out left to get.
The Rockies got a fine performance from Kyle Freeland, who tossed eight innings on 94 pitches. He accomplished this with a bevy of groundouts and fly balls, 19 in total.
The Cards offense wasn't terrible, it just wasn't timely. They contributed eight hits, three by Carpenter alone. Lane Thomas drove in two, and Molina the other. But they left five on base and hit into a couple double plays.
Which, with the Martinez debacle, made for an exasperating afternoon.
"I'm not thrilled about this went down, on a number of levels," said manager Mike Shildt. "But the overall results of the LA and Denver road trip were solid. Today couldn've been better. But it'll be good to get home."
Next Up and Notes: The Cards jump right into a series with Cincinnati Monday night. Shildt has not announced his starting rotation for the series, but it will include Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson. Paul DeJong's hamstring is recovering very slowly, and it's expected he'll be out for at least a few weeks. Paul Goldschmidt and Miles Mikolas are inching along but a firm date is still not set for either.