MLB Insiders - Last 70 games 35-35

In the strange world that is the National League, the Cardinals are only 35-35 since May 12. But, they also have increased their lead in the Central Division by 3 1/2 games.

On May 12, when they were 23-13, the Cardinals were tied for first place. Even after losing their sixth consecutive game Wednesday, 16-8 to Philadelphia, the Cardinals left the park 3 1/2 games ahead of Cincinnati.

All this was of little consolation to manager Tony La Russa, who held his shortest postgame press conference of the season.

"This won't take too long," La Russa said. "No part of our club was good enough tonight, including the manager."

The experiment of trying right-hander Jeff Weaver in the rotation hasn't been a howling success, although Weaver actually has had only two bad games out of four. But Weaver was really bad Wednesday night, failing to survive the fourth inning, giving up seven runs on eight hits.

In large part because of Weaver's inefficiency, the Cardinals were forced to use eight pitchers.

REPLAY: The Cardinals rallied from an 8-2 deficit with one run in the sixth and four in the seventh, an inning that featured a two-run homer by Aaron Miles, who had come off the bench.

But Braden Looper and Randy Flores combined to allow five runs in the eighth, and Josh Hancock, who had to leave the game after taking a smash off his left leg, gave up Jimmy Rollins' three-run homer in the ninth as the Phillies pulled away again to a 16-8 victory.

NOTES

--The Cardinals have allowed 13 or more runs six times since June 20.

--St. Louis' six-game slide still is two short of the team's longest of the season. The eight-gamer lasted from June 20-28.

--2B Ronnie Belliard was moved up to second in the order from seventh, swapping spots with LF Chris Duncan. Belliard came out of the game in a double switch after fanning and hitting into a double play. Duncan hit his seventh homer and also doubled.

--OF Larry Bigbie began yet another medical-rehabilitation assignment, joining the Double-A Springfield on Wednesday night. He homered and walked three times in five plate appearances. Bigbie, who had surgery to repair an umbilical hernia, was sidelined recently by abdominal discomfort.

--The bottom of the Cardinals' order did much of the damage Wednesday. Players hitting in the last three spots in the order

-- LF Chris Duncan, C Yadier Molina and reserve INF Aaron Miles -- combined for five hits, five runs and six RBIs.


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