Cardinals extend Lee’s playoff woes
PHILADELPHIA - Jon Jay knocked Carlos Ruiz backward with a hard forearm shiver, then the Cardinals flipped this series around.
Albert Pujols hit a go-ahead single in the seventh inning after Cliff Lee blew a four-run lead, and the Cardinals rallied past the Phillies last night, 5-4, to even their National League Division Series at one game each.
Down early, Jay jolted Philadelphia’s catcher on a bruising play at the plate. Jay was out, ending the fourth inning. The Phillies, however, couldn’t block the Cardinals’ path to victory.
The NLDS shifts to St. Louis for Game 3 tomorrow. Cole Hamels will be the third straight All-Star pitcher to face the Cardinals, who’ll send Jaime Garcia to the mound.
The Cardinals, who earned the wild card only after the Phillies beat Atlanta in the regular-season finale, got the split they were looking for on the road against the team that had the best record in the majors.
Lee hardly looked like the guy who used to be so dominant in the postseason. He gave up five runs and 12 hits, striking out nine in six-plus innings, to lose his third straight playoff start.
“I wasn’t able to make my pitches, so I take full responsibility,’’ Lee said.
Pitching on three days’ rest for the first time in his career, Chris Carpenter struggled for the Cardinals. But six relievers combined to toss six shutout innings, allowing just one hit. Jason Motte finished for a four-out save.
“We’ve been doing this all year. We don’t give up,’’ Motte said. “People counted us out, [but] we kind of went out there and just kept playing hard.’’
After chipping away for a few innings, the Cardinals took the lead in the seventh. Allen Craig led off with a triple off center fielder Shane Victorino’s glove. A three-time Gold Glove winner, Victorino misplayed the ball. He had to go a long way to make the catch, but overran it and the ball bounced off his glove.
Pujols, who struck out in his previous two at-bats, lined a single over drawn-in shortstop Jimmy Rollins to give St. Louis a 5-4 lead.
Cardinals players jumped up and cheered wildly in the dugout, while Phillies fans sat silently in disbelief. The red-clad faithful had their hearts broken already once yesterday. Just a few hours earlier, the Eagles blew a 20-point lead and lost to the San Francisco 49ers in an NFL game across the street.
Many fans walked over to watch the two-sport doubleheader, and the crowd of 46,575 was the largest in the eight-year history of Citizens Bank Park.
For a while, it seemed the Phillies had this one under control.
After all, Lee is one of the best postseason pitchers in history, and he was 17-9 with a 2.40 ERA and a major league-best six shutouts this season.
Lee was 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA in his first eight playoff starts - 4-0 with the Phillies in 2009 - before losing Games 1 and 5 of the World Series to the San Francisco Giants as a member of the Rangers last year.
He’s 0-3 with a 7.13 ERA in the last three outings.
On a chilly night when the game-time temperature was 50 degrees, Lee was the only starter in short sleeves.
“Any time I got a 4-0 lead in the first or second, I feel I have the game well in hand,’’ Lee said.
Clinging to a 4-3 lead, Lee got the first two outs in the sixth. Then Ryan Theriot lined a double to left and Jay followed with an opposite-field single to left. Theriot slid home safely ahead of Raul Ibanez’s high throw to tie it at 4.
Down 4-0, the Cardinals started their rally in the fourth. Berkman walked and Yadier Molina hit a one-out infield single. Theriot sliced an RBI double down the right-field line and Jay followed with an RBI single to get St. Louis within 4-2.
Jay advanced to second on the throw to the plate, and Carpenter was pulled for pinch-hitter Nick Punto. Lee fired a 92-mile-per-hour fastball by Punto for the second out.
But Rafael Furcal followed with a single to left. Theriot scored and Jay came rumbling around the bases. Ibanez made a perfect one-hop throw and the ball arrived along with Jay. He slammed into Ruiz, his left forearm knocking the stocky catcher backward. But Ruiz held to temporarily prevent the tying run from scoring.
“I thought that was my only option,’’ Jay said. “I thought I got him all right, and I was hoping that the ball would come out, but it didn’t. He did a good job of holding onto the ball.’’
Carpenter, the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner, allowed four runs and five hits in three innings. It was the shortest outing of the season for Carpenter, who led the NL with 237 1/3 innings pitched this year.