ST. LOUIS — Matt Carpenter’s heart has been here since the Cardinals drafted him in 2009. And though he left in the offseason and has resurrected his career with the Yankees, Carpenter reads the St. Louis box scores every night, roots for his old teammates, hopes for them to win. Until now.
“This will be the first three (games) where it’s not the case,” he said Friday afternoon.
Even with a strong return from Carpenter, the Yankees couldn’t hold off the Cardinals, who smacked around their best reliever to take the lead in the eighth inning of a 4-3 Yankees loss at Busch Stadium on Friday night.
The Yankees fell to 6-9 since the All-Star break. They have lost their last three games. Manager Aaron Boone’s club entered Friday with a 10 1/2-game lead in the American League East.
Righty Clay Holmes was given a 3-2 lead and dropped it. With two on and two out, Holmes left a 96-mph fastball over the plate to Paul DeJong, who ripped it into the right-field corner to score both runners. It came after Nolan Arenado hit a weak tapper for a hit to third base and then Tyler O’Neill drew a two-out walk.
Anthony Rizzo was a last-minute lineup scratch, dealing with lower-back tightness that held him out of four straight games in early July. Aaron Hicks went hitless in three at-bats to extend his futility streak to 0-for-26.
The Yankees outhit the Cardinals, 10-5, but left eight runners on base. They were thrown out twice on the bases to end innings in ugly fashion.
Aaron Judge and Josh Donaldson each had two hits.
Carpenter had a single and a double, and he nearly hit a three-run shot in the seventh. Instead, the ball fell in just before the warning track to end the inning. Before his first at-bat, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina stepped out from behind home plate to allow the sold-out crowd of 46,940 to shower Carpenter with applause, celebrating his 11 years in white and red.
In the ninth, Carpenter stepped to the plate with a chance to retake the lead with two outs but couldn’t beat out a checked-swing grounder to second base for the final out. It came after DJ LeMahieu drew a one-out walk and speedy Tim Locastro pinch ran for for him. Judge popped up for the second out.
Nestor Cortes got an early hook by manager Aaron Boone, completing 5 1/3 innings on 83 pitches. He gave up two runs, strike out four and walked four while surrendering just one hit.
Boone pulled Cortes with one out in the sixth after he walked Paul Goldschmidt, bringing in Albert Abreu to face Nolan Arenado, who singled Goldschmidt to second base. Then with one out Abreu gave up a line-drive single through the right side to Tyler O’Neill, slicing the Yankees’ lead to 3-2.
Donaldson’s double to the right-center wall drove in the Yankees’ first run with two outs in the first inning. It brought home DJ LeMahieu, who led off with a walk and then moved to third base on Carpenter’s single.
St. Louis tied it up, 1-1, in the second. Yadier Molina ripped a two-strike, two-out fastball back up the middle — whizzing past Cortes’ head — to score Nolan Aeranado, who walked to start the inning.
The Yankees went back ahead, 2-1, in the third inning thanks to Donaldson’s one-out, line-drive single up the gut. It it brought home Judge from third base and moved Carpenter to second base, but he was stranded.
In the fifth inning, reliever Andrew Pallante couldn’t glove Gleyber Torres’s one-out chopper up back at him, and second baseman Tommy Edman’s throw pulled Paul Goldschmidt off the bag. It plated Judge from third base to give the Yankees a 3-1 advantage.
The Yankees put runners on first and second in the eighth but couldn’t capitalize.
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Brendan Kuty may be reached at [email protected].