MILWAUKEE -- The St. Louis Cardinals have had a host of problems in this slow-moving season, but now they have only one that really matters. Their players keep limping off the field, often not to return for a while.
Manager Mike Matheny and his medical trainer wore a path from the visiting dugout to the Miller Park infield Friday during a 4-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. Michael Wacha, Matt Holliday and Trevor Rosenthal all left the game because of injuries.
That trail of attrition came within days of the Cardinals putting their two most powerful hitters and one of their key relievers on the disabled list.
It appears the latest trio of injuries could be relatively minor, but with this team lately, you never know. The spasms in Rosenthal's hamstring might be the most worrisome. General manager John Mozeliak said the reliever was not scheduled for an MRI on Friday night, but trainers won't be certain of his status until Saturday morning. Holliday wasn't limping too badly an hour after he had to come out because of a twisted left ankle, but nobody thought Brandon Moss would be out long earlier this week with a similar injury. Now he's wearing a walking boot and is on the disabled list.
Wacha can thank the hard plastic of his cleats for sparing him a more serious injury. He took a vicious line drive off his right heel, but said he felt no pain in the area later in the evening. The Cardinals don't expect him to miss any time.
Asked about the mounting array of injuries, catcher Yadier Molina said, "You don't want to think about that."
Molina staved off a loss temporarily by doing something he has rarely done this season. He hit a home run, his second in 288 at-bats. But Milwaukee mounted the winning rally after Rosenthal left the game and Seung Hwan Oh entered. Jonathan Villar singled to left field to drive in Kirk Nieuwenhuis with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. That set off an on-field celebration that had to hit pause for a minute or two while umpires reviewed, then confirmed, a safe call on a close play at the plate.
The Cardinals are limping into the All-Star break, with injuries to their best overall hitter, Matt Carpenter, their most powerful hitter, Brandon Moss, and one of their leading relievers, Kevin Siegrist, hitting them on the last homestand.
"We don't like it, but it's one of those things you can't allow yourself to start going down that road of feeling sorry for yourself or saying too much," Matheny said. "Just keep playing. We've got very good players who can make it happen. We came close to making it happen tonight."
Villar hit a screaming line drive off Wacha's right heel in the seventh inning. The ball ricocheted violently, and loudly, to third baseman Greg Garcia, who threw out Villar. Wacha collapsed and was sprawled on the mound for several minutes before he shakily got to his feet and walked off.
Holliday turned his left ankle while rounding the first-base bag after his third-inning RBI single. He stayed in a few more innings, but it tightened up and he was removed in a double-switch when Wacha came out.
Early last week, the Cardinals had the most powerful bench in baseball. On Friday, the players at Matheny's disposal were Michael McKenry, Alberto Rosario, Jedd Gyorko, Tommy Pham and Jhonny Peralta, who hadn't played in three days because of a thumb injury. Peralta pinch hit and nearly hit a decisive home run in the ninth inning, and Matheny said he should be healthy enough to start Saturday's game.
Before the ball hit his ankle, Wacha continued the rotation's uptick. He gave up only five hits, but three of them were solo home runs in 6 2/3 innings. In his past six starts, Wacha has a 3.00 ERA. In his previous eight starts, he had a 6.44 ERA.