MLB Insiders - Gambled and Lost

The Cardinals elected to pitch right-hander Jason Marquis on three days' rest for the first time this season, and the gamble, such as it was, failed.

Marquis got only three outs while throwing 52 pitches Wednesday. He allowed four runs in the first inning of what became a 5-1 Cardinals loss to Houston.

Marquis, who was 9-4 at one point this season, lost for the fourth time in his last five decisions to fall to 14-15. After his previous two starts, both low-run efforts in losses, it appeared the Cardinals could be comfortable going into the playoffs with Marquis as their third starter, but questions will resurface now. Ironically, pitching coach Dave Duncan, after coming in from the bullpen before the start of the game, reported to the rest of the coaching staff that Marquis had enjoyed an excellent warm-up.

Though the Cardinals lost, they basically accomplished what they set out to do -- win a series from one of their challengers. The Cardinals took the first two games of the three-game series and kept the Astros six games behind them and in third place in the National League Central.

The Cardinals spoiled Roy Oswalt's shutout bid in the ninth inning when Scott Rolen, Juan Encarnacion and Ronnie Belliard had consecutive one-out singles. Belliard's RBI was his fifth of the series.

REPLAY: Houston's Aubrey Huff narrowly missed a grand slam in the first inning when his drive off Cardinals right-hander Jason Marquis sailed just foul. But the Houston got their four runs in the inning anyway on a bases-loaded walk by Luke Scott, a two-run single by Chris Burke and a run-scoring single by Eric Bruntlett.

Marquis, starting on three days' rest, was gone after allowing a leadoff single in the second, and Houston's Roy Oswalt had more than enough runs to post a 5-1 victory.

--RHP Jason Marquis is 1-3 with a 4.18 ERA in his career when working on three days' rest, although he was unsuccessful in that role Wednesday.

--At 14-15, Marquis is the first Cardinals pitch to have 15 or more losses and 14 or more wins since 1972, when both RHP Rick Wise (16-16) and Reggie Cleveland (14-15) did so.

--Opponents have batted .424 in the first inning of Marquis' losses and .196 in the first inning of his wins.

--3B Scott Rolen's ninth-inning single Wednesday ended an 0-for-16 skid.

--The Cardinals' loss was their fifth in 25 day games at home.

BY THE NUMBERS: 84.7 -- Career percentage of saves converted by RHP Jason Isringhausen, even though he has blown 10 of 43 this season.

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