ST. LOUIS — The situation was playing out as well as the Cardinals could have asked for.
A day after scoring the chaotic and gutsy winning run in Game 3, Allen Craig was again at the plate to pinch hit, and his one-out 370-foot single off Koji Uehara gave the Cardinals life down two runs in the ninth.
There was no way Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was going to ask him to run the bases again.
Instead, he sent infielder Kolten Wong to pinch run for him.
A Matt Carpenter fly ball made it two outs, but with Carlos Beltran at the plate and Matt Holliday on deck, the Cardinals still liked their chances.
Beltran saw two pitches, and before he could even swing the game was over.
Uehara hadn’t picked a runner off all year. He had only done it twice in his career. But he caught Wong slipping — literally.
“Once I went to plant and go back, my back foot just gave out and I ended up falling short,” Wong said.
After watching their pinch runner get picked off, the Cardinals had to swallow a 4-2 loss with the bat still in one of their best hitter’s hands.
Wong was told to stay alert, Matheny said.
“He knew,” Matheny said. “We had meetings early on. We go over all these guys. We talk very clearly about a very good pickoff move. He was reminded once he got on base, and also reminded that run didn’t mean much, be careful, shorten up. And he got a little extra, then he slipped and the slip cost him.”
It wasn’t a matter of dozing off at the wheel, Wong said. He was just trying to get a head start if Beltran got a hold of one.
“I’m aware of what’s going on,” Wong said. “Just got a little too far off and my back foot slipped out. Just being ready to go first to third if Carlos drive me in, but I just got too far off and he made a good throw.”
Wong had been successful on all three of his stolen base attempts this season and had never been picked off before.
Red Sox base-running specialist Quentin Berry, who swiped his fourth bag of the postseason (making him 29 for 29 for his career in the regular season and the playoffs), empathized.
“With those two dudes who were coming up, you definitely don’t want to get picked off right there,” Berry said. “I feel for him. I understand that’s not what he’s trying to do. I know people are going to point their fingers. It’s just a mistake. I’m glad it happened, but I feel for him because I lot of people are looking at him right now.’’
Wong tweeted an apology after the game.
All i want to say is i'm sorry #CardinalNation I go out everyday playing this game as hard as I can and leaving everything on the field.
— Kolten Wong (@KoltenWong) October 28, 2013