Still reeling from the death of pitcher Josh Hancock, the St. Louis Cardinals continue a difficult series on Tuesday when they play the second of a three-game set against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
St. Louis (10-14) lost Monday’s series opener 7-1 with Hancock’s jersey hanging in the bullpen and the dugout and black patches with his No. 32 on its uniform sleeves. Scott Spiezio was overcome with emotion just before the first pitch and was pulled from the starting lineup.
“I got a little caught up right before gametime,” Spiezio said. “Seeing the patch, seeing the jersey. It’s hard to escape, you know? Usually, you’ve got stuff going on and when you get to the park, you can escape it. Here, you can’t.”
Hancock was killed shortly after midnight Sunday, when his SUV struck the rear of a flatbed tow truck on a St. Louis highway. The Cardinals’ scheduled home game against Chicago on Sunday night was postponed.
“Obviously, everybody’s grieving and sad about the loss that we have,” Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter said. “Josh was a great player, a great teammate, a great guy in the clubhouse.”
The Cardinals made a number of mental errors in the field and scored their only run on a balk by Milwaukee starter Jeff Suppan, a former teammate of Hancock’s who pitched a complete game. However, manager Tony La Russa didn’t blame his team’s emotions for its sloppy play.
“I think the whole first month, we’ve been a little fuzzy,” said La Russa, whose team has dropped three straight. “We just need to sharpen our focus.”
Ben Sheets (1-2, 4.50 ERA) will take the mound Tuesday for Milwaukee after leaving his start last Wednesday after three innings with a strained groin. The right-hander, who threw a bullpen session on Saturday, was examined by team physician William Raasch on Monday after participating in fielding and batting practice and cleared to pitch.
“I trust Benny, and he says he doesn’t feel a thing,” manager Ned Yost told the Brewers’ official Web site. “We put him through a really hard workout today on the field to make sure that he couldn’t replicate or feel that pain. He felt good and strong. He bounced around out there pretty good.”
Sheets has struggled against the Cardinals, going 4-14 with a 4.36 ERA in 22 career starts against them. They are the only opponent to which he’s lost more than eight times.
He was pounded for eight runs in five innings of a 10-2 loss at St. Louis on April 15.
“I don’t think I always struggle,” Sheets said after that contest. “I don’t come out on the winning end all the time, but I’ve had plenty of good games against these guys, and I’ve had plenty of games like today against these guys.”
Braden Looper (3-1, 1.91), who starts Tuesday for the Cardinals, was the winner in that game, allowing two runs in six innings. The converted reliever, who had never made a major league start before this season, gave up one run in seven innings without receiving a decision in the Cardinals’ 5-2 win over Cincinnati on Wednesday and has allowed just four runs over 27 innings in his last four starts.
Before the April 15 outing, Looper had made 26 relief appearances against the Brewers, going 2-2 with a 3.34 ERA.