Matt Vierling’s storybook day comes up an inch short in Phillies’ loss to Cardinals

ST. LOUIS — The attendance at Busch Stadium for Sunday afternoon’s game between the Phillies and host St. Louis Cardinals was 36,112.

Several dozen of those people were family and friends of Matt Vierling, the Phillies’ rookie center fielder who grew up in the area.

“Thirty,” he said, putting a number on it. “There were others scattered around the stadium from high school and stuff.”

Vierling wanted to put on a good show for the home folk. And he did. He had an RBI single in the fourth inning. But he wanted more. That’s why the bottom of the eighth inning and the Phillies’ 4-3 loss to the Cards stung just a little bit extra.

The Cardinals pushed across the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth when pinch-runner Dylan Carlson scored from third on a sacrifice fly to center field by Tommy Edman.

Vierling’s throw from center was powerful and on target.

Carlson crossed the plate with a feet-first slide and, at first, was called out by home plate umpire Todd Tichenor. The call, however, was reversed after the Cardinals challenged.

Vierling saw the bad news in real time on the video board above center field.

“I saw him sneak his hand in there,” he said. “I really wanted that one. I really did. Uh. That’s a tough pill to swallow. Man, that’s a hard one.”

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Phillies, who still control the third and final NL wild-card spot with a game lead over the Cardinals.

The Phils won the first two games of this four-game series, both by shutout, and will look to win the series behind Aaron Nola on Monday night.

Vierling, 25, grew up a Cardinals fan and, like any kid his age, idolized Albert Pujols, who is 42 now and back with the Cardinals for the final season of his Hall of Fame career.

Now a part-time player, Pujols got the start on Sunday. He had three hits, including his 684th homer, and started the go-ahead rally in the eighth with a base hit.

“It’s pretty special competing against him,” said Vierling, who had his picture taken with Pujols last week in Philadelphia. “He’s still doing it and it’s pretty impressive.”

Pujols’ hit in the eighth came against Phillies bullpen ace Seranthony Dominguez, who was working for the third time in four days and struggled with location. Dominguez allowed two hits and his first walk since May 21. He had gone 17 outings without a walk before issuing one on four pitches to pinch-hitter Paul Goldschmidt to load the bases before Edman’s go-ahead sacrifice fly.

The Phillies were in control of the game in the middle innings. Kyle Schwarber gave them a 3-1 lead with his 28th homer in the fifth. Cristopher Sanchez gave up the homer to Pujols in the sixth and a leadoff hit to Austin Romine that turned into the tying run in the seventh. The Cards took the lead in the eighth on the close play at the plate.

“Great throw by Vierling,” manager Rob Thomson said.

“We’ve had a bunch of super-close games, right down to the wire against these guys,” Vierling said.

One more Monday night. The Phils are 4-2 against the Cards this season.

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