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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Izzy can't close door in Cards' loss

Pujols' seventh homer, Wellemeyer's solid start for naughtMILWAUKEE -- Two pitches. Two outs.

It should have been a successful recipe for St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen, who barely broke a sweat retiring the first two men in the ninth inning of a one-run game.

Instead, it was an unlikely prequel to Milwaukee's dramatic rally, part of a 4-3 outcome that not only gave the Cardinals a three-game losing streak for the first time this season, but also put the back end of the bullpen in flux.

Rickie Weeks singled home the go-ahead runs, and the Brewers snapped a six-game losing streak at the expense of Isringhausen, who now has five blown saves, including back-to-back opportunities.

"It's just time for Tony [La Russa, manager], 'Dunc' [pitching coach Dave Duncan] and 'Mo' [general manager John Mozeliak] to figure out what to do," Isringhausen said. "Until I can get back on track or whatever the case might be, I'm sick of embarrassing myself and letting my team down."

Trying to shake off the residuals from a blown save two nights earlier, Isringhausen mowed through Corey Hart and Bill Hall on two pitches. But J.J. Hardy and Gabe Kapler followed with singles, and Jason Kendall walked to set up Weeks.

The second baseman, batting under .200 for most of the season, delivered a sharp liner to left.

"We should have five more wins in the win column, in my mind," Isringhausen said. "We should be out in first place even more. They can't keep sending me out there when I'm pitching the way I'm pitching. I'm going to have to figure out some kind of remedy. I'm sure that remedy will give me some time off from the role and get someone in there who can do a better job right now."

They were surprising words from a pitcher who said his ailments had nothing to do with physical health.

"I'm low 90's [in velocity], which is where I've been the last few years," he said. "I've got good bite on my breaking ball ... but when you're behind everybody ... my curveball is an out pitch, it's not a throw-for-a-strike pitch. I don't feel bad physically, so I know it's a mental thing."

Albert Pujols crushed a 450-foot home run in the first inning against Brewers starter Manny Parra, and St. Louis had a 3-0 lead after two, but the Cardinals never added on despite a golden opportunity for more in the second.

Pitcher Todd Wellemeyer helped his cause with a bases-loaded, no-out single, and Cesar Izturis walked to make it 3-0 before Milwaukee recorded an out in the second inning.

Skip Schumaker lined to first baseman Prince Fielder, who stepped on first to notch the double play, and Aaron Miles lined out softly to dampen the threat.

Wellemeyer allowed two unearned runs in the fourth, but then worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the sixth to depart with the lead.

"I put us in position to win, and unfortunately it didn't work out," Wellemeyer said. "I feel pretty bad for [Isringhausen]. It's been a rough couple last weeks, but he'll get through it. He's the best in the game."

Understandably, La Russa would not commit to a closer change after the game.

"What do you want me to do, make him feel worse than he already does?" La Russa said. "That's not our team's way of going about it. He feels worse than the fans do."

But is it something to talk about?

"Yeah," La Russa said. "He's not feeling great right now. He's very disappointed.

"We actually played an outstanding game," La Russa added "They scored two goofy runs ... and [Wellemeyer] was outstanding. That's probably why [Isringhausen] feels terrible. [Kyle] McClellan comes in and does his job, [Ryan] Franklin does his job. That's the life of a closer. Very difficult."

Isringhausen said the situation was not similar to 2006, when injuries played a role in his 10 blown saves.

"Now, I don't have an explanation. I'm pitching like a second-grader," he said.

"I'm sure we'll sleep on it tonight and I'll come in tomorrow and I'm sure we'll have a meeting. You lead the league in saves and blown saves ... it's not a whole lot of fun, especially when you're letting 25 guys down day in and day out."

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