Los Angeles A sinking line drive sailed through the chilly evening air toward Matt Holliday. All he needed to do was make the catch, and St. Louis would have a series-tying victory.
Instead, the ball smacked him in the gut and dropped to the grass — and the Cardinals never recovered.
Holliday’s crucial error with two outs in the ninth inning led to a two-run rally that gave the Los Angeles Dodgers a 3-2 victory Thursday and put the Cardinals on the brink of playoff elimination.
“I didn’t see the ball,” Holliday said. “Obviously, I can catch a ball that’s hit right at me. It’s very difficult to swallow. We had a chance to win the game. It was unfortunate that it happened when it did.”
Ex-Cardinal Ronnie Belliard and pinch-hitter Mark Loretta came through with RBI singles off All-Star closer Ryan Franklin, giving the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. They can close it out with a sweep in Game 3 on Saturday in St. Louis.
Holliday, who homered in the second inning, was a huge reason the Cardinals won the NL Central. Acquired from Oakland in a July trade, his hitting tear helped them cruise to the division title. Along the way, he committed one error in 63 regular-season games with his new team.
But his fielding gaffe Thursday cost the Cardinals dearly.
“It’s about as tough a loss as you can have, except we still have an opportunity to play Saturday,” manager Tony La Russa said. “Right now I think it’s important to get upset about the game that got away. We did a lot to win that one and didn’t win it. Turn the page too quickly means you don’t care.”
The Cardinals got a stellar performance from starter Adam Wainwright, who left with a 2-1 lead after eight innings. Still, St. Louis went home empty-handed after opening the series with two Cy Young Award contenders on the mound: Chris Carpenter and Wainwright.
With the bases empty in the ninth, Holliday charged in on James Loney’s shot to left field. But he couldn’t make the play, allowing Loney to reach second.
“That ball got lost in 50,000 white towels shaking in front of Matt’s face,” Wainwright said. “It doesn’t really seem fair that an opposing team should be able to allow their fans to shake white towels when there’s a white baseball flying through the air. How about Dodger Blue towels?”