MLB Insiders - Marquis Suffers Tough Loss

The Cardinals' loss was just their third in their last 10 games. They increased their lead in the National League Central by six games in that span.

The Cardinals nearly were involved in something that hadn't happened to a Tony La Russa-managed team in St. Louis. They were no-hit for eight innings Monday by Washington right-hander Ramon Ortiz before Cardinals shortstop Aaron Miles opened the ninth with a sharp single to center.

After a line-drive double play hit by Chris Duncan, Albert Pujols powered his 43rd homer into the upper deck at Washington, but that was the only Cardinals run in a 4-1 loss.

The Cardinals have not been no-hit in La Russa's 11 seasons as manager and haven't been no-hit at all since the Dodgers' Fernando Valenzuela did it in 1990.

Right-hander Jason Marquis continued the trend of excellent starting pitching by the Cardinals. Marquis (14-13) matched Ortiz zero for zero until he walked Nick Johnson in the seventh and allowed a two-run homer to Austin Kearns.

Over their last five games -- one by each of the rotation members -- Cardinals starter have given up only five runs in 36 1/2 innings for a 1.24 ERA.

If the pitching continues in that form, the Cardinals would feel better about their postseason chances because many inside and outside the organization worried about any starter other the staff ace, Chris Carpenter.

REPLAY: Jason Marquis was working on a three-hit shutout until the seventh -- the Cardinals were being no-hit at the time -- before he surrendered a two-run homer Washington's Austin Kearns.

The Nationals went on to a 4-1 win, scoring two runs in the eighth off Jorge Sosa, including Washington right-hander Ramon Ortiz's first career homer, a leadoff drive to left.

The Cardinals had only two runners in scoring position.

NOTES --OF Juan Encarnacion, who had played a team-high 131 games, probably will sit out the Washington series with a sore left hip flexor muscle. "We decided we were going to back him off," manager Tony La Russa said.

--OF Preston Wilson, who used to play for the Nationals, made his first start in center field for the Cardinals. He went 0-for-3.

--RHP Josh Kinney is likely to be recalled from Triple-A Memphis among several others who will join the Cardinals on the trip to Washington and Arizona.

--1B Albert Pujols' 43rd homer was his fourth in the last two days, mirroring the four hit by Philadelphia 1B Ryan Howard, who has 53 this season.

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