|Cardinals, slumping Ozuna face Mets again|
It was the kind of situation for which the St. Louis Cardinals acquired Marcell Ozuna.
With the game tied at 5, two on and one out in the bottom of the ninth, Ozuna stepped to the plate with a chance to produce the game-winning hit. Instead, Ozuna bounced into a 5-4-3 double play to force extra innings Tuesday night, and the Cardinals lost to the New York Mets 6-5 in the 10th inning.
It capped an 0-for-5 night that made Ozuna, who drove in 124 runs for Miami last year, 1-for-his-last-23. It dropped his average to .233, but it doesn't sound like St. Louis manager Mike Matheny is planning to bench him for Wednesday night's matchup with New York in Busch Stadium.
"He's going to be fine," Matheny said of Ozuna. "Borderline pitches are getting him into bad counts and he's trying to make it up all at once. He's just trying to find the feel for his swing. Nobody's immune to (slumps). He can flat hit."
Ozuna, who was batting .328 before his skid, has two homers and 11 RBIs. One way he could help himself is to improve his walk-to-strikeout ratio. He has three walks and 23 punchouts in his 20 games this season.
Ozuna has always been an aggressive hitter, sometimes to a fault. But he reined that in somewhat last year, drawing a career-high 64 walks. That was the first time in his career he had drawn more than 43 walks, and his .312 average was 43 points higher than his previous career best.
While Ozuna's ninth-inning failure ended a promising rally, it wasn't the only frustrating moment for St. Louis (13-9). Cardinals pitchers walked eight hitters, with four scoring, and coughed up a 4-1 lead.
"Any time you have a three-run lead and can't hold on to it," Matheny said, "that's going to hurt. You've just got to move on."
The Cardinals will try to move on behind Michael Wacha (3-1, 4.22 ERA), who has won three straight since absorbing a 6-2 loss to the Mets on March 31 in New York. Wacha posted a 4-2 win Friday night over Cincinnati, allowing only one run on six hits over 6 2/3 innings with a walk and three strikeouts.
The big right-hander is 4-2 with a 2.70 earned run average in six career starts against New York, including a complete-game shutout last July at Citi Field.
Left-hander Steven Matz (1-1, 4.42) gets the call for New York (15-6), looking to avenge a 5-1 loss to St. Louis on April 1, when he allowed three runs on four hits and three walks in four innings. Matz is coming off a no-decision on April 18 in an 11-5 win over Washington, when he gave up three hits and three runs in four innings.
Matz is 0-2 with an 8.64 ERA in two career starts against the Cardinals.
The Mets displayed more of their early-season resilience on Tuesday in overcoming a three-run deficit, finally taking the lead for good on Jay Bruce's solo shot in the 10th inning.
"You work, you prepare and you try to give yourself a chance to be successful," Bruce said. "I was fortunate to learn that at a young age. You're never really at a finish line, in my opinion."