MLB Insiders - Five for Five

The Cardinals' magic number, for the fifth consecutive day, is five for wrapping up the division title. "It's a really tough stretch," La Russa said. "We're so close to breaking through; we've just got to keep going."

Since they beat the Brewers 12-2 on Sept. 19 to raise their record to 80-69 and their lead to seven games over Cincinnati in the National League Central, the Cardinals have lost six games in a row and their lead has shrunk to 2 1/2, with second place now belonging to Houston.

The Cardinals' sixth consecutive loss, a 6-5 setback Monday night to San Diego, was yet another one-run defeat, dropping them to 21-27 in one-run games. It also was the sixth loss for the Cardinals bullpen in the last seven games and it canceled a dramatic return by Jim Edmonds.

The center fielder, who had been out since Aug. 26 with post-concussion syndrome, pinch-hit in the fourth inning and cracked a game-tying, three-run homer to right-center. But the Padres scored the winning run against right-hander Brad Thompson in the seventh.

"That was clutch," manager Tony La Russa said of Edmonds' 19th home run. "It got us back in the game. If this was a movie, we'd have won the game. But we didn't."

Right-hander Jeff Suppan, who entered with a major league-leading 2.04 ERA since the All-Star break, was pummeled for six hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings. "He's been so good," La Russa said, "but his ball just was drifting back over the plate."

REPLAY: The Cardinals, who have overcome several leads only to fall back during their six-game losing streak, erased a 5-1 San Diego advantage when pinch hitter Jim Edmonds smacked a dramatic three-run homer to tie the game at 5 in the fourth inning.

But San Diego catcher Mike Piazza bounced a single over drawn-in shortstop Aaron Miles to untie the game in the seventh inning as the Padres beat the Cardinals for the third time in four meetings, 6-5.

--The Cardinals are all but assured of opening the playoffs on the road -- if they get into the playoffs. They have three more losses than San Diego, which has the second-best record for a division leader in the National League.

--INF Aaron Miles snapped an 0-for-12 skid with a pinch hit Monday, then added another single. --LF Chris Duncan hit his 21st home run, giving him five homers in the last 10 games.

--SS David Eckstein sat out Monday with a strained left hamstring that might keep him out the rest of the series and possibly the week.

--The Cardinals fell to five games over .500 for the first time since May 4, when they were 17-12.

BY THE NUMBERS: 11 -- Number of consecutive one-run losses the Cardinals have suffered on the road.

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