The Redbird Report 08/06

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, center, argues with first base umpire Mark Wegner, right, after Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman was called safe at first on a single during the fourth inning of a Sunday's game, in Washington. The Cardinals would go on to lose their fifth straight game and fall eight games back in the standings. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Manager Tony La Russa bluntly had outlined his team's position before Sunday's trip finale in Washington. "It's already been a bad trip," said La Russa, who said a fifth consecutive loss would make it a "horrible" trip.

Tiring right-hander Ryan Franklin allowed three runs in the eighth inning, snapping a 3-3 tie, and the Cardinals fell 6-3 as the Nationals completed a three-game sweep. At 1-5, the Cardinals, indeed, did have a horrible trip, and they have dropped out of sight in the National League Central at eight games under .500.

La Russa officially didn't see the end of the game, having been ejected in the fifth inning for protesting a checked-swing strikeout on Ryan Ludwick.

Why did the Cardinals lose all but one game on the trip? They went only 6-for-44 with runners in scoring position, including 1-for-6 Sunday.

That one hit was by Jim Edmonds, whose double tied the game in the fifth inning after La Russa's ejection, although Juan Encarnacion, the potential go-ahead run, was thrown out at home on the play.

Edmonds, sidelined for more than month with a pinched nerve in his lower back, gradually is returning to form. He had two hits in each game of the Washington series, going 6-for-12 overall, and he also made an outstanding defensive play at the center field wall in the seventh.

But the Cardinals are 50-58.

"They did everything better than we did for three days," said La Russa, who added that "the umpires were not a factor in this game.

"We didn't come here to lose, but you give credit to the other team."

Franklin, who also lost Friday's game, allowed a go-ahead single on an 0-2 pitch to Ryan Zimmerman and then immediately served up a two-run double to Dmitri Young.

But Franklin said, "I can't hang my head and say I made a mistake or anything. We'll see how long they keep hitting broken-bat hits and balls in the hole.

"(The Nationals) are on a roll that we need to be on. I thought we matched up well against these guys. They outplayed us."

NATIONALS 6, CARDINALS 3: As Washington was extending its winning streak to six games, St. Louis' losing streak reached five Sunday. The Cardinals bullpen, a staple nearly all season long, suffered its third loss in the last five games, dropping the bullpen to 21-8 for the season. Adam Wainwright pitched seven strong innings and also hit a home run.

NOTES AND QUOTES

--1B Albert Pujols missed his first game of the season Saturday after playing in each of the Cardinals' first 106 games. He returned to collect two hits Sunday.

--Manager Tony La Russa batted RHP Joel Pineiro eighth in Saturday's lineup, the first time he had batted the pitcher eighth since the last 76 games of the 1998 season. The Cardinals went 43-33 in those 76 games. RHP Adam Wainwright batted eighth Sunday and hit his first homer of the season.

--LHP Tyler Johnson (biceps tendinitis) probably will be activated from the 15-day disabled list Monday. Struggling LHP Mike Maroth is a candidate to be removed from the roster.

--LF Ryan Ludwick, a part-time player with just 167 at-bats, hit his eighth homer of the season Sunday, which ranks third on the team behind 1B Albert Pujols (24) and LF Chris Duncan (20).

--2B Aaron Miles, who pitched a perfect inning Saturday in his first big-league mound performance, extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a seventh-inning single Sunday.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- Number of 10-game winners (RHP Adam Wainwright) on the Cardinals' staff, through Aug. 3. They had two 10-game losers, RHPs Kip Wells and Anthony Reyes.


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