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Defense lets down Cardinals, who lose 7-1 to White Sox for two-game sweep

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ST. LOUIS — Though it won't show in the box score, defensive breakdowns were critical in both of the St. Louis Cardinals' losses to the Chicago White Sox.

The White Sox got an early boost in Wednesday night's 7-1 victory when first baseman Mark Reynolds bobbled a grounder by Carlos Sanchez and could only get one out instead of a double play. Tyler Flowers advanced to second and scored the tying run on Adam Eaton's single.

If Reynolds fielded the ball cleanly, manager Mike Matheny said it could have "drastically changed the game."

"We consider those non-plays, even though they're not errors," the manager added. "In those tight games, those non-plays are going to hurt you."

A night earlier, second baseman Pete Kozma had at least a force out at second on Eaton's grounder, but dropped the ball and had to make the safe play at first. Pitcher Chris Sale advanced and scored on Jose Abreu's single off the second-base bag to put the White Sox up early in a 2-1, 11-inning victory.

Melky Cabrera homered to back a strong outing from Jose Quintana, and the White Sox pulled away late in a game interrupted by three rain delays.

The Cardinals lead the majors with a 51-26 record and had a six-game winning streak entering the two-game series, but were held to a single run in each of the losses. They were 0 for 16 with runners in scoring position, including seven hitless at-bats Wednesday.

Matheny refused to use soggy conditions as an excuse.

"It's the exact same for them," the manager said. "It's not like we're the only guys in a holding pattern."

Quintana (4-7) allowed a run in six innings with eight strikeouts to win for the first time in four starts. The lefty worked at least six innings for the 10th straight time, none of the starts lasting longer than seven innings.

Cabrera homered in the sixth to give the White Sox the lead. Flowers' two-run homer highlighted a five-run ninth for the White Sox, who had dropped 12 of 16 entering the series.

There were 2 hours, 19 minutes in delays, all but a half-hour coming before the first pitch. On Sunday, the Cardinals beat the Cubs in a game that lasted 2:28 but consumed 2:29 in delays.

PHOTO: St. Louis Cardinals grounds keepers cover the infield with a tarp as rain begins to fall shortly after the scheduled game time for a baseball match-up between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, July 1, 2015, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dipatch via AP)
St. Louis Cardinals grounds keepers cover the infield with a tarp as rain begins to fall shortly after the scheduled game time for a baseball match-up between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, July 1, 2015, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dipatch via AP)

John Lackey (6-5) allowed two runs in seven innings with six strikeouts and two walks. The 36-year-old right-hander worked seven or more innings for the sixth time in seven starts.

Lackey left Busch Stadium without speaking to reporters.

Cabrera hit his third homer, and second in three games, for a 2-1 lead leading off the sixth. Flowers has homered in his last three games, a career best.

The Cardinals wasted Reynolds' first triple since 2011 in the sixth after Eaton missed on a sliding attempt in center field when Quintana struck out Randal Grichuk and Yadier Molina flied out.

Jhonny Peralta had an RBI double in the first for St. Louis.

TRAINER'S ROOM

White Sox: LHP Dan Jennings (neck) was activated from the 15-day disabled list.

Cardinals: LHP Jaime Garcia was ruled out for Thursday's start against the Padres but is optimistic about returning from a mild groin strain Tuesday in a doubleheader against the Cubs.

UP NEXT

White Sox: John Danks, who faces the Orioles on Friday, was 0-4 with a 6.85 ERA in four starts last month.

Cardinals: Rookie Tim Cooney will be recalled from Triple-A Memphis to face the Padres Thursday. It'll be Cooney's second career start — the lefty lasted just 2 1-3 innings April 30 against the Phillies.

TOUGH ASSIGNMENT

Marcus Hatley made his major league debut for St. Louis in the ninth, entering with the bases loaded and nobody out and top Chicago RBI man Jose Abreu at the plate. Abreu hit a two-run single through a drawn-in infield.

"It was awesome, a great experience," Hatley said. "It felt like forever down there. It was a long game, but I was excited to get in there."

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