BOSTON — For the second time in the last three days, a Cardinals reliever’s poor performance on Sunday created too big of a deficit for the offense to overcome with a ninth-inning rally.
Drew VerHagen gave up a three-run homer in the eighth inning that turned a 3-1 game into a 6-1 lead, allowing the Red Sox to withstand a pinch-hit, three-run homer by Juan Yepez and come away with the win in Boston.
On Friday night, it was T.J. McFarland who allowed three runs (one inherited runner was charged to Adam Wainwright) in the seventh before the Cardinals scored four times in the ninth before losing 6-5.
The Cardinals have struggled all season to find relievers who can get outs when the team is losing and reluctant to use Ryan Helsley or Giovanny Gallegos.
The Cardinals also might have lost more than the game. Tyler O’Neill, who had three hits for the second game in a row, had to leave after pulling up between first and second on his double in the ninth. The injury was initially diagnosed as a sore left hamstring.
Here is how the game broke down:
At the plate: The Cardinals only run through the first eight innings came in the fourth. O’Neill singled, stole second and scored on a two-out single from Harrison Bader… Seven consecutive batters struck out between the sixth and eighth innings and the Cardinals fanned a season-high 14 times in the game … After O’Neill’s double leading off the ninth, Nolan Gorman walked before Yepez homered over the Green Monster, his sixth of the season, with two outs. Tommy Edman beat out an infield single and took second on a throwing error to get the tying run to the plate, but Brendan Donovan stuck out to end the game.
On the mound: Andre Pallante pitched into the sixth inning, allowing just two runs. He gave up a two-out homer to Trevor Story in the second and a two-out RBI single to Jackie Bradley Jr. in the fifth … Genesis Cabrera relieved with two runners on base and two outs in the sixth and after walking the first batter he faced to load the bases, got out of the jam by getting Story to pop out … In the seventh, Christian Vasquez led off with a double off Cabrera and scored on a two-out single … VerHagen got the final out in the seventh, but with one out in the eighth gave up a single and a walk before Vasquez launched a three-run homer.
Key stat: In his last five appearances, VerHagen has allowed nine runs (eight earned) on 12 hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings, raising his ERA for the season to 5.95.
Worth noting: It was a tough series for Donovan, who was 0-of-5 on Sunday and 1-of-14 in the three games with seven strikeouts … Albert Pujols struck out in all three of his at-bats, dropping his average against righthanders this season to .127 (9-of-71) … Ivan Herrera made his first start behind the plate and also struck out in all three of his at-bats.
Looking ahead: The Cardinals will be in Milwaukee on Monday night to begin a four-game series against the Brewers. Miles Mikolas, who came within one out of a no-hitter in his last start, will pitch the opener, followed by Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright and Dakota Hudson.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains