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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cards drop opener to Bucs in extras

Homers by Glaus, Pujols not enough; Villone falters in 10th
ST. LOUIS -- After an April in which the Cardinals often scored just enough runs to win, for much of May the Redbirds have been allowing just enough runs to lose.

The Cards' offensive slump continued in an 8-4, 10-inning loss to the Pirates on Tuesday night as they could never mount an offensive push against a string of pitchers that included a starter with an 8.01 career ERA and a reliever making his Major League debut. St. Louis has lost six out of seven, scoring 24 runs in that span.

Since April 27, the Cardinals are 8-0 when they score at least five runs and 0-8 when they score four or fewer.

"That's the way the season goes," said manager Tony La Russa. "Sometimes you score, sometimes you don't score. We've scored enough to win if we had pitched a little better, and we didn't score enough to win according to what the score was.

"But there's no doubt that offensively, we can get hotter. And I expect to."

Lefty Phil Dumatrait, he of the ERA that doubles as Salt Lake City's area code, stifled the Cardinals through six innings on Tuesday. Dumatrait allowed two runners in the first inning, but neither Ryan Ludwick nor Troy Glaus could drive in a run to get the home team on the board. That was the last chance St. Louis would have until the sixth, as Dumatrait permitted just one baserunner from the second through the fifth.

By that time, Kyle Lohse had allowed a two-run homer to Nate McLouth, and the Cards faced a deficit. But Glaus' three-run homer, his second long ball of the year, put the home team ahead and gave Lohse a chance to be the winning pitcher.

The lead, however, was extremely brief. Jason Bay and Ronny Paulino hit consecutive doubles to tie the game, and Jose Bautista stroked a go-ahead single.

"I made a couple pitches that, I went backed and looked on film, and they're both on the corners, just up," Lohse said. "To tell you the truth, I don't know how Paulino did what he did with that pitch. It was inside, just below the belt, on the black. I don't know how you drive it the other way like that. It's a good piece of hitting. Nine times out of 10, the guy is going to pop the ball up."

Albert Pujols' solo homer in the eighth tied the game, but the Cardinals couldn't add on. John Grabow retired Yadier Molina with two men on to end the eighth, straddling the Cardinals with their fifth and sixth stranded baserunners.

The Cardinals missed an exceptional chance to score in the ninth against Marino Salas, who was making his Major League debut. Salas walked the bases loaded (one intentionally), but Ludwick popped up on the first pitch to end the threat.

"I got the exact pitch I was looking for," Ludwick said. "The ball was right down the middle of the plate. You couldn't ask for a better pitch. I just didn't stay on top of it. Hit it straight up in the air. I just didn't get it done this time."

Given extra life, the Pirates took advantage. Freddy Sanchez hit a leadoff single against Ron Villone, and the inning eroded for Villone after that. A sacrifice bunt put Sanchez in scoring position, so Villone walked Bay intentionally. But Paulino struck again with an RBI single, and after another walk, Adam LaRoche drilled a three-run double for plenty of insurance.

Matt Capps retired the Cardinals 1-2-3 in the 10th, sending St. Louis to its sixth loss in seven games. The Cardinals are batting .258 with a .349 on-base percentage and a .401 slugging percentage in May, all down from their April averages. They're scoring 4.08 runs per game for the month, the third-lowest mark in the National League.

"It would be nice for all of us to get clicking at once," Ludwick said. "We've been playing good baseball this year. We've been grinding out wins and playing a hard nine, but we really haven't had that game where seven, eight guys in the lineup are all busting out at once. It would be nice to put a 15-spot up there one time. It's going to happen. It's just a matter of when."

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