MLB Insiders - Cardinals Lead Shrinking

RHP Chris Carpenter, the St. Louis Cardinals Staff Ace and National League Cy Young Award winner, had sixes across the board -- hits allowed, runs allowed and strikeouts -- over seven innings.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who rarely uses Jason Isringhausen for more than an inning, gambled and lost Wednesday night. La Russa asked his closer to get five outs against the Reds as he tried to protect a one-run lead.

Isringhausen got only three outs. He escaped an eighth-inning jam by getting Brandon Phillips to ground out with two on, but in the ninth, he walked Rich Aurilia on four pitches, and David Ross launched a long home run to give the Reds an 8-7 victory and cut the Cardinals' lead in the National League Central Division to 2 1/2 games. Chris Carpenter was to blame, too, though.

Carpenter was staked to a 4-0 lead in the first inning on a grand slam by Jim Edmonds and, then, after allowing three solo homers, had a three-run lead handed to him when Scott Spiezio cracked a two-run homer in the fifth.

But, Carpenter gave up three runs in the Cincinnati sixth, the final two scoring on a double by Phillips.

The Cardinals, who lost just 29 of 80 games in the Central Division a year ago, are 24-27 in the division this year and 3-8 against the Reds, whom they meet in the finale of the four-game series today.

REPLAY: A grand slam by Jim Edmonds and a two-run homer by Scott Spiezio accounted for the first six Cardinals runs Wednesday against the Reds, and David Eckstein blooped a single over a drawn-in infield in the eighth inning to break a 6-6 tie.

But Cincinnati's David Ross smashed his 14th homer, a two-run shot, in the bottom of the ninth, as Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen blew his eighth save of the season in an 8-7 defeat.

--3B Scott Rolen, after two feeble at-bats Wednesday, left in the third inning with upper back spasms. He is doubtful for Thursday afternoon's game.

--With the Cardinals bullpen having been chewed up by RHP Jason Marquis' poor start the night before and because of some back spasms suffered by RHP Braden Looper, the club recalled RHP Brad Thompson from Triple-A Memphis. OF John Rodriguez, despite hitting .304, was sent to Memphis.

--SS David Eckstein, who had been in a 6-for-38 slump, had three singles, scored a run and drove in a run Wednesday.

--Although CF Jim Edmonds hit a grand slam in the first inning Wednesday, he also left the bases loaded in the eighth, as did 1B Albert Pujols in the sixth.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- Number of walks SS David Eckstein, the club's leadoff man, had between July 17 and Aug. 2.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It doesn't look like we've got a whole lot going right now." -- 3B Scott Rolen, as the Cardinals' recent losing streak headed for eight games.

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