Marlins fall to Cardinals 5-4 on ninth-inning error

Miami Marlins manager Mike Redmond (11) argues with umpire Bill Welke (52) during the fourth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY)

ST. LOUIS — On what proved to be the final play of Saturday’s game against the Cardinals, Marlins rightfielder Giancarlo Stanton’s objective was simple: charge the ground-ball single, get the ball in quickly and prevent the go-ahead run from scoring.

Whether in practices or games, it’s a drill he’s performed flawlessly countless times the entirety of his playing career.

This was that lone exception, though. This was that rare moment when one small step in the objective’s sequence got out of wack.

On a walk-off throwing error charged to Stanton, the Cardinals beat the Marlins at Busch Stadium, 5-4.

“Unfortunate way to lose a game,” said Marlins manager Mike Redmond, who watched the play from inside Miami’s clubhouse following a fourth-inning ejection. “This is a tough place to win ballgames, and we kind of had ourselves set up perfectly.

“It just didn’t work out.”

After a pair of early home runs gave the Marlins a 4-2 lead, they watched the game slip away across the final three innings. A pair of pinch hitters drove in St. Louis’ final three runs. The first two scored on game-tying homer that came off a mistake pitch in the seventh.

Then there was Stanton’s error in the ninth.

On the fateful game-altering, last-inning play, Stanton was attempting to hit his cut-off man, first baseman Logan Morrison, on a two-out throw that would make Cardinals baserunner John Jay freeze at third. Jay started the play at first base and was put in motion ahead of Shane Robinson’s 3-2 swing.

As the throw came in, Morrison stepped up to meet it.

It was too low.

The in-between hop caught Morrison off guard. Instead of landing perfectly in the webbing of his glove, the ball skipped underneath it, grazing it slightly. The little contact he made with the ball caused it to dribble slowly and timidly through the infield grass toward home plate some 80 feet away.

Catcher Jeff Mathis took a quick jab step, seemingly thinking about sprinting out from the plate to scoop up the ball. As he realized his efforts would have been futile, he just stood still and watched the ball roll
as Jay gleefully sprinted across the plate, outstretching his arms.

“I should have just played it back or let it go because it was on line,” Morrison said. “We should have won that game. There is no doubt about it. But we didn’t. It’s over.”

Stanton was working out after the game, and was unavailable for comment.

With the loss, the Marlins will earn their first series loss in two series. Even if they win Sunday’s game, Friday’s loss clinched a series win for the Cardinals.

The loss also marred a strong 6 2/3-inning outing from Marlins starter Nathan Eovaldi. He allowed five hits and struck out three. Eovaldi allowed three runs, but two of them came off a home run that was allowed by his replacement.

In addition to Stanton's error, an inside fastball from reliever Mike Dunn also doomed the Marlins. With two outs in the seventh, the left-handed Dunn came in for Eovaldi, brought on to face lefty pinch hitter Matt Adams.

The decision to play for matchups backfired. On a 1-2 count, Adams lifted a two-run, game-tying homer into the Cardinals’ bullpen beyond the right field fence. The ball didn’t get over the wall by much. As it was dropping, Stanton climbed onto the fence, leaned his massive torso across the top rail and desperately stretched his glove for it.

He was mere feet from robbing it.