Cardinals fall into tie for 2nd wild card berth
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals picked the wrong time to be giving away games like the last two they've played against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It could end up costing them a wild card berth — and they all know what they did last year after earning one on the final day of the regular season.
Closer Jason Motte, brought in to protect a one-run lead for Jaime Garcia, gave up a tying RBI double by Luiz Cruz and a run-scoring single by pinch-hitter Juan Rivera, sending the Cardinals to a 4-3 loss and dropping the defending World Series champions into a tie with the Dodgers for the second extra postseason ticket with 16 games remaining for both clubs.
After this four-game series concludes on Sunday, St. Louis will play its next nine games against the Astros and Cubs — who are a combined 83 games under .500 and 69 1-2 games out of first place in the NL Central. The Cards put themselves into this precarious position by losing 13 of their last 28 games.
"We invest ourselves a lot in every game, but obviously this one stings more than others," said first baseman Allen Craig, who homered and drove in three runs against Joe Blanton. "It's a tough loss, but putting your head down and being overly concerned about it isn't going to get us anywhere. So we've just got to play better and stay positive. We're still in a good spot."
Motte (4-5) retired his first two batters, but Andre Ethier kept the Dodgers alive with a single. Pinch-runner Dee Gordon stole second before Cruz drove him in with a drive that center fielder Jon Jay barely missed on a diving attempt in front of the warning track in right-center.
Rivera batted for A.J. Ellis and lined a single off the tip of second baseman Daniel Descalso's glove, enabling pinch-runner Elian Herrera to score the winning run.
"This was pretty big. It was definitely one of our most exciting games of the season so far," Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp said. "Cruz has definitely been amazing for us. He's been hitting the ball, getting those big hits for us and doing what it takes to win. That was an all-around good team win for us, and we needed that going into tomorrow."
On Friday night, Cruz helped beat the Cardinals 8-5 with a go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth against Edward Mujica.
"It's unbelievable. It's like a dream for me," Cruz said. "I'm just trying to go out there and give a hundred percent and play hard every time. I'm having the chance to come through in big situations. I'm not going to say I'm lucky, but I've been really concentrating and having good at-bats."
Ronald Belisario (6-1) pitched 1 1-3 innings for the victory. Kemp helped make it possible in the top of the ninth. He crashed into the fence trying to catch Yadier Molina's drive over his head, but recovered in time and kept him from stretching his hit into a triple with a brilliant somersaulting throw to Cruz.
"When Molina hit the ball, I didn't know hard he hit it, but it just kept carrying," Kemp said. "I thought I might have had a play at the wall and banged into it, but I wanted to get the ball, pick it up and try to make a good throw. It turned out to be a pretty good one. That was a big out."
Kemp, whose swing hasn't been the same since he crashed into the fence at Coors Field on consecutive days (Aug. 27-28), was 0 for 4 and struck out three times in a game for the fifth time this season. He is 5 for 48 with a homer and two RBIs in his last 12 games since the Dodgers left Denver, but he is still playing with the same reckless abandon as before he got hurt.
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