But manager Tony La Russa made the point that Cardinals outfielders messed up two balls that should have been caught and that a six-run Cincinnati third could have been much less damaging.
On the first one, a drive by Ken Griffey Jr., Ankiel said, "I lost it in the sky." When Ankiel looked to see if center fielder Jim Edmonds had drawn a bead on the ball, Edmonds had taken a backup position to Ankiel. Ankiel reached for the ball at the last second and whiffed on it.
Ankiel dropped Matt Belisle's drive for a two-base error later in the inning.
"Before you start beating on Mark, we've got to get both of those outs," La Russa said. "Jimmy didn't take charge on the first one, and Ank messed up one.
"In this ballpark, you can't give up extra outs. We gave them five outs in that one inning."
Mulder, who has made two starts after missing a year following shoulder surgery, has given up three home runs in eight innings and 13 runs, 11 of them earned.
"He isn't set up perfectly to pitch in September," La Russa said. "But you evaluate what you see."
Mulder, typically hard on himself, said, "I've got to make better pitches with guys on base."
REDS 7, CARDINALS 2: The Cardinals dropped their fifth straight to fall four games under .500 and four games out of first place, all with one loss Tuesday night. David Eckstein led off the game with his third homer, and Ryan Ludwick hit his 12th. But both were solo shots for the visitors, who did not have a hit with men in scoring position.
NOTES AND QUOTES
--LF Chris Duncan is all but certain to become the eighth Cardinals player out for the season. Duncan, who has a sports hernia (groin injury) was told to do nothing for the next 10 days after seeing a specialist on Monday in St. Louis. That would leave only about nine days, and the Cardinals aren't likely to force Duncan into action.
--3B Scott Rolen had surgery Tuesday in Cincinnati to clean up recurring problems in his left shoulder but is expected to be ready for the start of spring training next year.
--INF/OF Scott Spiezio, who has been in a rehabilitation facility for substance abuse, has begun to do baseball activities and might be able to play before the season is over. Spiezio has been out since Aug. 9.
--OF Rick Ankiel has gone hitless in his last 17 at-bats and is 1-for-18 since his name surfaced in a story about his allegedly obtaining shipments of human hormone three years ago. Asked if the furor surrounding that story had been any sort of distraction, Ankiel said, "I'm not sure. I'm not seeing the ball as well as I was."
--All five Cardinals runs in the last two games have come on four home runs.
--In the last seven games, Cardinals starting pitchers have totaled 24 1/3 innings, giving up 45 hits and 29 earned runs