Rockies start August on wrong foot with loss to Cardinals

ST. LOUIS — Nondescript might have been the right word to describe the Rockies’ loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.

Until reliever Jake McGee took the mound in the eighth inning, and then the game quickly turned ugly. Charged with keeping his team within rallying distance, McGee gave up a walk and two hits, including a two-run double to Yadier Molina, as the Cardinals notched a 6-3 victory.

At 3 hours, 59 minutes, it was the longest nine-inning game of the season at Busch.

McGee, who signed a three-year, $27 million contract over the winter, was expected to be a lock-down, late-game lefty. But after getting charged with three runs Wednesday, he has a 6.81 ERA and a .299 batting average against.

“Jake has to get ahead in the count, that’s the first thing,” manager Bud Black said. “He needs to get strike one, and we’ve talked about that with a lot of our guys. He needs to utilize the high fastball and utilize his velocity. But he’s behind too many hitters, for me.”

Colorado hitters, so hot in July, were silenced by a corps of St. Louis pitchers in the first game of August. The Rockies managed just seven hits, with five of them coming in the first three innings. Nolan Arenado‘s two-out RBI double in the ninth accounted for the final score.

“They were running a lot of guys out there and maybe it kept us off-balance,” said rookie second baseman Ryan McMahon, who went 1-for-3 with a walk. “We just weren’t able to string hits together.”

A victory would have moved the Rockies into a virtual tie with Arizona atop the National League West. The Diamondbacks were idle Wednesday.

Kyle Freeland‘s start was a grind-it-out affair almost from the start. It ended with one out in the sixth, Colorado down 3-2 and with Freeland having thrown 113 pitches, just 68 for strikes. Manager Bud Black relieved the left-hander after Harrison Bader’s opposite-field double and Tyler O’Neill’s pinch-hit single through the box gave St. Louis the lead.

“The Cardinals were extremely selective tonight,” Black said. “They were really making us make our pitches in the strike zone, and we were missing, on the edges. And they did a really good job of not expanding the zone.”

In 5⅓ innings, Freeland was charged with three runs on nine hits. He walked three and struck out five. Colorado had won each of his last five outings.

“They did a great job of laying off some quality pitches,” Freeland said. “(Matt) Carpenter, for one. He had a check-swing early on some sliders, but after that he wasn’t biting on any, and we threw some good ones.”

Carpenter was 0-for-2 but walked three times.

There was a bit of good news for the Rockies. Improving right-hander Scott Oberg came in for Freeland and pitched a clean two-thirds of an inning, and then Bryan Shaw pitched a scoreless seventh. Shaw, trying to find his groove and work his way back into important innings, gave up a leadoff walk to Marcell Ozuna and uncorked a wild pitch, but then notched two strikeouts and a flyout to end the inning.

The Rockies staked Freeland to a 2-0 lead in the third inning on a walk by Ian Desmond, a single by Arenado, a two-out RBI single by Trevor Story and a run-scoring double by Gerardo Parra. St. Louis starter Luke Weaver got the hook after Parra’s double, having thrown 74 pitches in just 2⅔ innings.

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