Cardinals pitcher crushed by game-ending mistake

The St. Louis Cardinals up and down season reached an unfortunate low point on Thursday.

Not only did they lose to the lowly, rebuilding, 20-games under .500 Miami Marlins, 7-6, at Busch Stadium. They lost in perhaps the most painful way one can possibly lose a baseball game.

Pinch-running pitcher Jack Flaherty was picked off at second base as game-tying run in the 11th inning.

That’s right, the dreaded walk-off pickoff.

As we saw after the game, Flaherty was crushed by his mistake. Even after the umpires reviewed the play and confirmed the call, and even after the Marlins finished celebrating, he remained crouched at second base.

You have to feel for Flaherty.

A walk-off pickoff on its own isn’t necessarily rare. On April 20 of this season, Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez fired a bullet to first base to pick off the Tampa Bay Rays Tommy Pham to end a one-run win for Boston.

That was obviously a painful way to lose, but the circumstances surrounding the Cardinals loss trumps that.

The Cardinals were resilient most of the evening, battling back from multiple deficits to force extra frames. They again trailed by two runs in the bottom of the 11th inning, but ended up with the tying run on second base after Yadier Molina doubled home Jose Martinez.

Of course, everyone knows Molina isn’t fleet of foot on the basepaths. That’s why manager Mike Schildt summoned Flaherty in hopes that the speed upgrade would allow them to tie it again on a simple single.

Before Marlins closer Sergio Romo even threw a pitch to pinch-hitter Matt Wieters, he spun around and picked off a completely stunned Flaherty. He did not see it coming. He made a motion with his hands, then turned to check out the defense. That brief distraction was all Romo needed to find an opening.

Adding to Flaherty’s pain, it’s the second time he’s made the final out on the bases in St. Louis’ last six games. On Saturday, he was thrown out at the plate in the ninth inning of a loss to the New York Mets.

Schildt took responsibility for his decision, but it probably won’t make Cardinals fans feel much better.

At 38-36, the Cardinals margin for error is getting slimmer in the top heavy National League standings. They cannot afford anymore crushing defeats.

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