Wells better, but Cards fall to Padres

Wells better, but Cards fall to Padres

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres turned the clock back to 1972 on Friday night, donning bright yellow uniforms and playing groovy music over the PA all evening. Meanwhile, the Cardinals endured another offensively challenged night, at times looking like they had set the wayback machine another 60 years or so further back -- all the way to the Dead Ball Era.

Or maybe it was just all Jake Peavy, setting the timer to roughly the mid-90s and channeling an at-his-best John Smoltz. Whatever the year on the calendar was, the unfortunate fact is that the number on the scoreboard for the Cards was a too-familiar one: zero.

A St. Louis team starved for any kind of spark couldn't build on its offensive breakout from two days earlier, going quietly in a 7-0 loss to San Diego at PETCO Park. Peavy carved up the Cards just like he's done to quite a few teams lately, while Kip Wells (1-7) lost his sixth straight start.

"The guy was filthy out there," said Albert Pujols, who went 0-for-4 on the night, striking out twice against Peavy. "He was throwing some good pitches. He didn't give you any chance."

Russell Branyan hit a pair of home runs for the home team, one that gave the Padres a 2-0 lead and one that turned the game into a 7-0 rout. St. Louis lost by five or more runs for the 10th time in 2007. The Cardinals have been shut out five times this season and have been held to two or fewer runs 17 times in 33 games.

In fairness to the Cardinals, when Peavy is going well, it's nearly impossible for even a hot offense to get anything going. But St. Louis has been slowed by stars and lesser lights alike this year. The Cards are tied for last in the National League in runs scored with 105, alone in last with a .330 team slugging percentage and 15th with a .307 on-base percentage.

As for Wells, it certainly wasn't pretty -- but compared to his recent struggles, Friday night did offer a couple of glimmers of hope. He struck out eight in six innings, his highest total as a Cardinal. And after three straight games of seven earned runs, four tallies in six innings counts as improvement. But Wells again seemed to splice innings where he was in complete control with innings where the game handled him instead.

"He showed you what he's capable of doing, but he's got to improve his consistency," said manager Tony La Russa. "[Pitching coach Dave Duncan] is going to work on it, that's for sure. He's just got to improve. Not good enough now."

All 10 San Diego baserunners against Wells came in a three-inning span. In the first, fifth and sixth innings, Wells retired the side in order with a combined four Ks and five ground-ball outs. In the second, third and fourth, he was touched for seven hits, three for extra bases, and three walks.

"My pitches are not straight," Wells said. "And so for me, I can't be too fine with throwing pitches that are on the corner. But on the same token, you don't want to make middle-of-the-plate pitches."

Wells hasn't pitched with a lead since April 19 in San Francisco, a game the Cards went on to lose. That certainly hasn't helped him pitch well.

"Ultimately, I've got plenty of starts to make where I can even the record and even the score," he said. "I need to avoid having this 'poor-me' attitude where it seems nothing goes my way, because those things tend to come to fruition. When you feel it's going to go wrong, it will go wrong. So you can't go out there with an attitude of 'When is it going to happen? How am I going to lose this game?'"

After he breezed through the first with a pair of strikeouts, Wells allowed a leadoff single to Adrian Gonzalez in the second. After a strikeout, he allowed Branyan's first home run, a shot to left field on a hanging breaking ball. He walked three batters before the inning was out, but escaped without further damage. A solo homer in the third made it 3-0, and Mike Cameron's RBI double stretched the lead to four.

"Once they got that four runs, I'm not sure," La Russa said. "Then you're kind of caught in a box where you've got to work the pitcher and not make too quick an out, instead of just be aggressive and make something happen. And that's a tough way to play against a guy as tough as Peavy."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.