CHICAGO – Starlin Castro is continuing to find new ways to make 2013 the worst season in his young career.
Castro was benched shortly after making a mental mistake that allowed the St. Louis Cardinals to score a run and the Cardinals went on to defeat the Cubs, 4-0, on Saturday.
Already up 1-0, the Cardinals loaded the bases with one out in the fifth. Matt Carpenter lofted a pop-up to short left field and Castro called off Junior Lake to make the catch. Castro immediately put his head down and hesitated to throw home. Jon Jay took advantage of the mistake, tagging up and scoring from third base.
"I know the outs and everything," Castro said. "I just put my head down, like a mental mistake. I don't want to [make] any excuse for that, it's my mistake and that's why I pay for that, that's why I got taken out of the game. I feel really, really bad that that happened."
After the inning, manager Dale Sveum said something to Castro as he walked down the steps of the dugout. When the Cubs came out to play defense in the sixth, Donnie Murphy switched from third base to shortstop to replace Castro, and Cody Ransom came off the bench to play third.
"Obviously we had a big blunder there," Sveum said. "Lost track of what was going on for whatever reasons and I pulled him out of the game."
Sveum was then asked if Castro gave him an explanation for the mistake.
"No," Sveum responded. "There is no explanation."
After the game, Castro repeatedly apologized to his teammates, coaching staff and to hard-luck loser Travis Wood.
Wood (7-10) retired the first nine St. Louis batters of the game. He gave up four runs and four hits in 5 1-3 innings, including a two-run home run by Yadier Molina. Molina's ninth homer was his first hit in eight at-bats since he came off the disabled list Thursday.
But the biggest play of the day may have been Jay scoring on what the umpires ruled an infield fly.
"It was Jon doing the right thing, tagging, maybe being able to draw a throw," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I think good teams constantly find ways to put pressure on the defense, and Jon is such a heads-up player, he took two hard steps and saw he had an opportunity."
The Cubs were shutout for the fifth time in seven games at Wrigley Field. The Cubs left the bases loaded in the third. Darwin Barney and Wood singled and Lake drew a one-out walk. But Cardinals starter Joe Kelly worked out of the jam when he got Anthony Rizzo to strike out and ended the inning on a Nate Schierholtz ground out.
Kelly (4-3) tossed six shutout innings and allowed four hits while striking out six and walking three. Kelly hasn't lost since joining the Cardinals' rotation on July 6.
Despite the alarming lack of offense, the story for the Cubs was Castro's continued lack of focus on the field. Sveum said the coaching staff will continue to work with Castro, but the onus is on the young shortstop to make sure the mental lapses don't continue.
"He's played in the big leagues long enough and we've had our discussions," Sveum said. "There comes a point where you have to cross that bridge and get to the next level. He feels as bad as anybody, he knows what happened and he feels awful right now."
Sveum was unsure if Castro would play Sunday, but added that he had no intention of giving up on him. He cited Castro's past offensive success and, despite Saturday's gaffe, what Sveum believes are improvements on the defensive side.
After hitting at least .300 in his first two seasons and leading the league in hits in 2011, Castro regressed a bit in 2012. However, 2013 has seen him reach new lows, hitting only .244 with a sub-.300 on base percentage.
"It's bad. It's an unbelievable year," Castro said. "Especially for me, I've never had a year like that. I feel really bad, especially with the mistake today and my struggling at home plate. But I don't put my head down. I know I can be good and finish strong."
Notes: Cubs OF Brian Bogusevic, on the 15-day disabled list since July 15 for a strained left hamstring, will report to Triple-A Iowa to continue rehab. ... Cubs RHP Scott Baker, on the 60-day disabled list recovering from Tommy John surgery, will make his second rehab start Sunday with Single-A Dayton. ... Cubs RHP Edwin Jackson (7-12, 5.05 ERA) will face Cardinals RHP Adam Wainwright (13-7, 2.71) Sunday in the series finale. . The Cardinals recalled LHP Tyler Lyons from Triple-A Memphis before the game. He is 2-4 with a 5.35 ERA in seven starts. LHP Sam Freeman was optioned to Memphis after pitching four scoreless innings Friday against the Cubs.