Kansas City, Mo. — Nate Adcock can point to his first major league start with pride after throwing five scoreless innings. What he can’t point to is a win.
Kansas City’s young right-hander faced a tough St. Louis lineup and did not yield a run. It was later that the bullpen faltered and allowed the Cardinals to win, 3-0.
“He danced in and out of trouble early on and then he really settled down,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He got his pitch count up around 75 where we wanted it. I thought he pitched pretty good.”
Jake Westbrook pitched eight shutout innings and Matt Holliday broke a scoreless tie with a two-run homer in the eighth for the Cardinals, who have won five out of six and squared the interleague series at one game apiece.
Adcock allowed only three hits. He walked one and struck out four.
“It went well,” said Adcock, who had made nine relief appearances. “I felt stronger in the fourth and fifth than the rest of the game. I wanted to pound the strike zone.”
Westbrook, (4-3) whose longest start this year had been seven innings, gave up four hits, with three walks and three strikeouts while raising his career mark in Kauffman Stadium to 3-0.
“He was throwing pitches to both sides of the plate and kept us off balance,” Royals rookie first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “Nate did a great job. I wish we could have got him some runs. Hats off to (Westbrook). He was pitching pretty good with the fastball and changeup. He was throwing any pitch for strikes at any time.”
Albert Pujols singled off Tim Collins (2-2) with one out in the eighth and then Holliday, who came in with an NL-leading .357 average, hit reliever Blake Wood’s 2-1 pitch 433 feet over the left field fence.
Fernando Salas pitched the ninth for his sixth save in six opportunities.
The Cardinals added a run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Theriot.
Adcock struggled early, but allowed only three hits and one walk while striking out four. He was relieved starting the sixth by rookie Louis Coleman. Collins pitched one inning.
Westbrook had faced the minimum the first three innings when Alex Gordon and Melky Cabrera singled leading off the fourth and Hosmer walked, loading the bases with none out. But Jeff Francoeur hit into a 1-2-3 double play and shortstop Ryan Theriot made a good play on Billy Butler’s grounder up the middle and threw out the slow-running DH.
“It was tough luck,” Hosmer said. “Frenchy hit the ball right at him.”
In spite of the loss, the Royals tied their team record of 11 straight games without an error.
The Cardinals had a runner at second base with less than two out in each of the first three innings but Adcock escaped each time. Theriot doubled leading off the first, Molina doubled leading off the second and Jon Jay singled with one out in the third, moved up when Pujols was hit by a pitch, but got no father as Holliday flied out and Colby Rasmus struck out. Adcock was noncommittal when asked about another start.
“I’ll let them decide that. I’m just going to keep trying to pound the strike zone.”
Alex Gordon and Mike Aviles were each picked off first, raising to six the numbers of Royals who have either been picked off or caught stealing in the last four games. In addition, Hosmer was doubled off first on Friday night.
“We’ve been a bit overaggressive at times,” said Yost.
Gordon walked leading off the sixth but was picked off by catcher Molina and Westbrook, with a quick move, got Aviles after he singled with two out in the seventh.
“Molina and Pujols work that (pickoff) play as good as any. We got too aggressive and got picked off,” Yost said.
Cabrera made a great catch of Allen Craig’s deep drive in the second inning, running toward the wall and leaping at the last second to snare the ball and prevent Molina from scoring from second.
Notes: Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman missed a third straight game with a sprained right wrist. He was hurt making a diving catch on Wednesday. ... Theriot’s leadoff double in the first stretched his hitting streak to seven games. ... Pujols, who went to high school and junior college in the Kansas City area, has reached safely in all but one of the 47 interleague games he’s played against the Royals.