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Cardinals won't blame blown game on bullpen

| Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, 10:09 p.m.

If Cardinals starter Joe Kelly was going to give up the ball with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, he saw it as the perfect situation for reliever Seth Maness to do what he does best.

Get a groundout.

Maness ranks among baseball's best in forcing groundouts, retiring 68.4 percent of the batters he has faced. So Kelly had no gripe with Cardinals manager Mike Matheny's decision to replace him.

“It was a good move on Mike's part,” Kelly said. “We have the leading double-play candidate in the whole entire league for relievers. It was a good move.”

Maness entered Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Pirates at PNC Park with the bases loaded and Russell Martin at the plate. Martin drove a fly ball to deep center, scoring Andrew McCutchen to give the Pirates the lead.

“I was trying to get a ground ball there, and I got beat,” said Maness, 24. “You're not really prepared for it until you're actually in that situation. Playoffs are different. I just didn't get it done.”

It was the first of several mistakes by the bullpen, which twice allowed runs after the Cardinals had pulled even in the Pirates' 5-3 victory Sunday.

Among Maness, Carlos Martinez and Keith Siegrist — John Axford recorded a 1-2-3 seventh inning — Cardinals relievers allowed three hits and two runs in the final 2 23 innings.

“(Maness has) been all year long giving ground balls and taking us out of situations. We're here because of guys like him. We're here because of guys like Siegrist: rookie guys that have been able to come in and be spot for us in the regular season,” Cardinals star Carlos Beltran said. “You know what? You spar with it. They're trying to go out and get the job done. Sometimes it doesn't happen the way you expect it.”

After Beltran belted a solo home run to tie the game at 3-3, Matheny sent flamethrower Martinez to the mound to face the heart of the Pirates' order in the bottom of the eighth — only to see it backfire.

McCutchen led off by doubling down the left-field line. The Cardinals got a break when shortstop Pete Kozma threw out McCutchen at third on a fielder's choice, but Marlon Byrd drew a walk.

“Carlos has done a really nice job,” Matheny said. “That was easily a momentum-changer with the big play from Kozma at third to get McCutchen, but just a couple of balls too much at the plate.”

With two runners on, Matheny got another desired matchup. With left-handed hitting Pedro Alvarez up, Matheny turned to Siegrist, a 6-foot-5 left-hander. Alvarez sliced an RBI single to right for a 4-3 lead and moved Byrd to third. Martin then hit an RBI single to left.

“That's the matchup we wanted,” Matheny said. “And today they won.”

The Cardinals' bullpen wasn't rattled by the experience, despite its inexperience.

“You can't let it get to you,” Siegrist said. “There's another game (Monday). You just take it from there. We'll bounce back.”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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