By HAL McCOY
St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny did everything he could to hand the Cincinnati Reds a victory on a platinum platter Saturday afternoon in Busch Stadium III.
The Reds, though, said politely, “No thanks,” and absorbed another defeat, 4-3.
Matheny permitted 21-year-old Jordan Hicks, who jumped from Class A to the majors, to pitch a high-tension ninth inning with the Cardinals clinging to a one-run lead.
Hicks throws the fastest fast ball in baseball, even harder than Aroldis Chapman. But in nine inning this year he had walked seven.
He retired the first batter, Phillip Ervin, on a popout to shortstop. Then he reverted to form. He walked Jesse Winker, hit Jose Peraza with a pitch and walked Joey Votto.
That filled the bases with one out. At the end of spring training the Cardinals signed closer Greg Holland to a one-year $14 million contract. And he was warmed and ready.
So what did Matheny do? He permitted Hicks to stay in the game to face Scooter Gennett. Like magic, Gennett hit into a game-ending double play and just like that the Reds are 3-and-17.
Matheny did something strange in the seventh inning, too. With his team up 3-0. Relief pitcher Luke Gregerson retired the first two Reds, then Phillip Ervin singled.
With three of the next four Reds hitters left handed, Matheny went to left handed pitcher Tyler Lyons. It was a disaster and he didn’t retire any of those lefties.
The Reds scored three runs with two outs to tie it, 3-3. Jesse Winker and Jose Peraza both singled to make it 3-1. Votto walked to load the bases and Gennett lobbed a two-run single to right field and it was 3-3.
It only lasted until Reds relief pitcher Jared Hughes faced Yadier Molina in the bottom of the seventh. Throughout his career Molina has tormented the Reds game after game after game.
His two-run double Friday night was the different in a 4-2 St. Louis win. This time he lifted a home run over the left field fence to give the Cardinals a 4-3 lead.
Hicks pitched a 1-2-3 eighth then took his walk on the wild side in the ninth before displaying his David Copperfield escape act.
Before the bullpen excitement on both sides, Carlos Martinez and Homer Bailey engaged in a pitcher’s duel.
It seems all Martinez has to do is set up a life-sized cardboard cutout of himself on the mound and the Reds are dead.
Martinez and Bailey hooked up last week in Cincinnati. Martinez pitched seven innings and gave up no runs and two hits and struck out 11. This time he pitched six innings and gave up no runs, three hits and struck out seven.
So in less than a week Martinez beat the Reds twice, giving up no runs, five hits and striking out 18 in 13 innings.
Bailey gave up three runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings and all three runs came on two St. Louis home runs. Paul DeJong followed an infield hit by Marcell Ozuna with a two-run home run in the second. And Dexter Fowler led the sixth inning with a home run over the right field fence for a 3-0 lead.
Both Tyler Mahle and Homer Bailey should sue the offense for non-support. Mahle has the least run support of any starting pitcher in the National League and Bailey has the second least support in the league.
There were several false start for the Reds in this one.
They had two on with one out in the first before Martinez struck out Gennett and Adam Duvall.
They had two on with two outs in the third but Martinez slipped a called third strike past Gennett.
They had two on with one out in the fifth but Peraza hit into a fielder’s choice and Votto drove on to the wall in center field, but it was caught for the final out.
The Reds are 0-and-5 against the Cardinals this year, have lost 10 straight to the Cardinals and have lost 12 of their last 13 games.