MLB Insiders - Cardinals Off Day

LHP Mark Mulder, still on the rehabilitation trail after suffering some shoulder problems, will pitch in another minor league game either Wednesday or Thursday, manager Tony La Russa said. Mulder, who will pitch for either Triple-A Memphis or Double-A Springfield, will be making his third rehab start.

As the Cardinals met the Pirates on Sunday, hoping to salvage some dignity from the weekend, they brought with them a major league-best 30-12 record in day games. Conversely, they were a woeful 17-27 in games started by left-handed pitchers and had lost seven of their last eight against left-handed starters.

But Pittsburgh lefty Paul Maholm trumped the Cardinals' day-game mark by beating them 7-0 as the Pirates swept the three-game series, holding the Cardinals to three runs.

If they were searching for new depths, the careening Cardinals found them, amassing 10 hits and six walks but no runs.

"There was no doubt about it," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "They outplayed us all three days."

The Cardinals stranded 13 runners Sunday and were 1-for-10 with men in scoring position. Catcher Gary Bennett, for instance, left five runners on. "We had plenty of chances. I was up two or three times with a chance to drive somebody in," he said.

"Offensively, we were terrible. We had our opportunities and we didn't take advantage of them. A little bit of that is they made decent pitches when they had to. But we still have should have taken advantage of some of those opportunities."

Scott Rolen had a double and a walk in his return to the lineup after being out three-plus games with back spasms, but he said, "I guess my double play to end the game was kind of fitting."

REPLAY: Jason Marquis (12-11) suffered his fourth consecutive loss despite giving up just three hits and two runs, solo homers by Pittsburgh's Jason Bay and Joe Randa in the second inning, and the Pirates dumped the Cardinals 7-0 Sunday.

The Cardinals had two batters reach base in the first inning, but both David Eckstein and Albert Pujols were thrown out trying to advance to second, and it went downhill from there. Every player in the starting lineup reached base at least once, but none scored.

NOTES

--Like it or not, the Cardinals (62-55) have propelled themselves into the middle of a pennant race. Their lead of 1 1/2 games over the Reds in the National League Central is their smallest since they had one-game lead on July 3. The Reds will be in St. Louis Tuesday through Thursday for the last series between the teams this season.

--The Cardinals' loss Sunday was their third in a row and 13th in 17 games since they were 58-42 after 100 games.

"We ran out of excuses, I guess," 3B Scott Rolen said. "We're finding ways to lose instead of finding ways to win. I guess, if you want to be positive about things, we still have the upper hand in the division and we're 1 1/2 games up ... but we didn't help ourselves here.

"I don't have the answers. I don't think anybody does."

--The loss was St. Louis' 16th by a half-dozen or more runs.

As the Cardinals' division record sank to 25-30, one more game than they lost in the division in 80 played last season, they also experienced their first losing record in a season at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. They finished 4-5 there this year after going 30-10 in the previous five seasons the park was open.

--After hitting 46 batters in their first 101 games, the Cardinals pitchers suddenly have lost their way and plunked 17 hitters in the last 16 games, including three Sunday, as the Cardinals reclaimed the major league lead from Washington.

"We're hitting half of them with breaking balls," manager Tony La Russa said. "Half of them are off-speed pitches that we're not commanding."

--Rookie RHP Adam Wainwright was cuffed by the Pirates for four runs in the seventh inning, an inning in which he got only one out. "Adam has been great for us," manager Tony La Russa said. "That was very atypical for him."

Wainwright, asked to assess his performance, said, "You could 'what-if?' yourself to death, but it's not going to get any better to do that. I knew what I was doing wrong, and I'm just going to fix it."


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