SAN FRANCISCO – Question after question came Matt Adams’ way Wednesday night, but they all centered on the same theme after the Cardinals’ 6-4 loss to the Giants.
What happened on the back-to-back defensive blunders by the St. Louis first baseman in the sixth inning, which led to the tying and go-ahead runs for the Giants in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series?
In the bigger picture, what’s happened to the Cardinals? A steady defensive club over the grind of the long regular season, St. Louis has watched Games 3 and 4 of this series slip through its fingers largely because of pivotal defensive miscues.
“We didn't get the job done. We've just got to come ready to play tomorrow,” Adams said quietly to a swarm of reporters gathered around his locker.
The Giants had runners at second and third with one out in the sixth, trailing 4-3, when consecutive balls came Adams’ way. Gregor Blanco bounced a chopper that Adams charged and fielded. He appeared to struggle getting the ball out of his glove, then bounced a short throw to the plate that allowed Juan Perez to score the tying run.
“I was coming in and I made the throw off-balance,” Adams said. “… I threw the ball in the dirt. If I make a good throw, there's a good chance he's out.”
That play left runners on the corners as Joe Panik hit another one Adams’ way. His momentum took him toward first as he fielded the ball and he stepped on the bag for the second out. Without so much as a glance toward the runner at third, Adams turned and threw an off-target rainbow to shortstop Jhonny Peralta that didn’t have a chance at getting Blanco running to second base.
That’s when Brandon Crawford broke from third and easily made it home for the go-ahead run that put the Giants up 5-4.
“It’s the right play by touching the base,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “He’s just got to check home at that point. And the runner wasn’t going. We eat the ball … and we’ve got a lot of different options we can go to at that point. But, you know, they took off once he released the ball to second. That’s not really the play we want.”
Added Adams: “When I touched the base, I was right in line with (Blanco) so I was trying to get the ball around him. I should have checked home.”
No doubt it was a tough sequence for Adams, who had a busy night defensively. In the third, he made a diving stop of Blanco’s sharp grounder and got the out at first.
But he wasn’t the only one to make a costly miscue with the glove.
In the bottom of the first, Blanco led off with a deep but catchable fly ball to center that glanced off Jon Jay’s glove. It was scored a double, and Blanco eventually came home on Buster Posey’s sacrifice fly.
“When the ball hits off my glove, I expect to make (the play),” Jay said.
The Cardinals haven’t made all the plays. They lost Game 3 in the 10th when reliever Randy Choate committed a throwing error that brought home the game-winner for the Giants in a 5-4 contest.
Now they’re down 3-1 in this best-of-seven series. To stave off elimination Thursday, they’ll have to break through against Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, who blanked them over 7 2/3 innings in Game 1.
“We know how hard we work and how prepared we are,” Jay said. “It’s part of the game, (mistakes) happen. We’ve gotta turn the page and be ready to play tomorrow.”