Losers for the seventh consecutive time Tuesday while Houston was winning its seventh in a row, the Cardinals saw their Central Division lead trimmed to 1 1/2 games as ace Chris Carpenter for the second time in two starts failed to hold a three-run lead. The Padres rallied for four runs in the seventh inning, erasing a 5-2 Cardinals lead, and San Diego went on to take a 7-5 victory Tuesday night.
The Cardinals' magic number still is five over Houston and four over Cincinnati for clinching the division title, but they are just one loss or one San Diego win away from not having home-field advantage if those two teams would meet in the first round of the playoffs.
Manager Tony La Russa thought Carpenter was putting too much pressure on himself to right the ship Tuesday night, although Carpenter said that was not the case. Carpenter instead blamed himself for leaving an 0-2 cut fastball too far over the plate when San Diego's Mike Cameron slashed a two-run, go-ahead double to cap the seventh inning.
La Russa, who has seen his bullpen suffer six losses in the past nine days, let Carpenter go to 122 pitches Tuesday night. Over his last two starts, Carpenter, who surely is out of Cy Young Award consideration, has given up 12 runs and 21 hits in 15 innings. He was tagged for six runs and a season-high 12 hits Tuesday.
REPLAY: Ronnie Belliard, who has been in a two-month slump ever since the Cardinals acquired him from Cleveland, drove in three runs with two homers, and Jim Edmonds, making his first start since Aug. 25 after a bout with post-concussion syndrome, singled in the other two runs.
But when the Cardinals had a chance to blow the game open in the fifth inning -- they already led the Padres 5-2 -- Yadier Molina fouled out with the bases loaded and one out, and Chris Carpenter grounded out.
Two innings later, the Padres tagged Carpenter (15-8) for four hits and four runs in the seventh, and they held on for a 7-5 victory.
--CF Jim Edmonds, who had homered as a pinch hitter Monday, singled twice and drove in two runs Tuesday in his first start in exactly a month. Edmonds has been battling post-concussion syndrome.
--3B Scott Rolen ended an 0-for-12 dip with a single in the ninth inning Tuesday but was stranded.
--2B Ronnie Belliard homered twice in a game for the fourth time in his career, the first time since 2003 when he played for Colorado.
--1B Albert Pujols isn't hitting homers but he singled and doubled Tuesday, extending his hitting streak to six games (8-for-21).
BY THE NUMBERS: 11 -- Number of consecutive one-run losses the Cardinals have suffered on the road.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "At some point, enough's enough. He did everything he could. It was just not working out. You could see it in his face. You could see it in his stuff and his delivery. I'm glad it's come to a conclusion. Let's get it right. It's hard enough to play this game healthy, let alone with one hip." -- RHP Chris Carpenter, talking about RHP Jason Isringhausen's decision to have hip surgery that ended his season.