Unable to find a single solution, Wells was hung with another defeat as the Cardinals fell to the Astros, 8-3, at Minute Maid Park. He became the Major Leagues' first 10-game loser, and his 57 runs allowed are tied for most in the bigs. Wells has been charged with 50 earned runs, more than any other pitcher this year.
St. Louis saw a three-game winning streak come to an end and fell to 3-3 with one game left on a seven-game road trip.
"I made several mistakes location-wise that resulted in hits, and obviously that's generally the case when you give up hits," Wells said. "It's poor execution. I feel totally responsible for the results. There's nothing else to pass the buck on. You make pitches, you get people out and, for the most part, you get the result you're trying to achieve."
Wells' offense gave him leads of 2-1 and 3-2, but he could not make them stick. A three-run fifth inning, keyed by an error on Wells himself, gave Houston the lead for good. Wells issued three walks and gave up homers to slumping Luke Scott and light-hitting Adam Everett.
In five-plus innings, Wells was charged with six runs, five of them earned. It was the seventh time in his past nine starts that Wells allowed at least five runs. He has one win and one quality start since April 14.
"I lost, and I didn't accomplish what I set out to do," Wells said. "That's the ultimate goal, is to go out there and win. Not doing that, in one shape or another, is ultimately what you go home with. So it's just tough."
Wells is the first Cardinal with double-digit losses before the All-Star break since Joe Magrane was 4-10 at the break in 1990. No Redbird has racked up more than 10 pre-All-Star defeats since Joaquin Andujar went 4-11 in the first half in 1983.
The Cardinals offense made noise against Chris Sampson in the early innings, but never struck the decisive blow. Once Sampson was finally given a lead, at 5-3 in the fifth, he gained steam. Sampson allowed one baserunner over his last four innings.
Wells averted disaster in the first inning, holding the Astros to a single run after the first two Houston hitters singled. Jim Edmonds' home run and an Aaron Miles sac fly put him ahead, 2-1, but in the bottom of the second, Everett went deep to tie the score.
The Cardinals again scratched out a lead in the fourth. Juan Encarnacion stroked a leadoff double, giving him four straight games with an extra-base hit, and he scored on Gary Bennett's sacrifice fly. Bennett has driven in at least one run in each of the past three games.
The inning might have been bigger, though, had Ryan Ludwick not been thrown out at second base. He singled Encarnacion to third, but was gunned down trying to stretch the hit.
"When I saw the ball was over [Carlos Lee's] head, I took a chance with the hop," Ludwick said. "The chance didn't work out."
The lead only stood for a brief time. In the fifth, Wells again got in trouble -- and this time he couldn't get out. Two singles brought up the pitcher's spot, and Sampson put down a sacrifice bunt attempt. Wells got a hand on it, but the ball squirted away from him, leaving the bases loaded with no outs.
"I thought there was going to be a play at the plate," he said. "So as I ran over there to get it, out of the corner of my eye I was looking home with it. When there wasn't a play there, I just missed picking it up."
Craig Biggio grounded into a force at home for the first out before Hunter Pence fought off an inside pitch and fisted it for a two-run double to right. The pitch was a tough one to hit, but it was nowhere near where Wells wanted it -- he was trying to go down and away, and instead it was up and in.
Lance Berkman's RBI groundout made it 5-3, and Scott hit his first homer since April 19 for the sixth run against Wells. Lee added a two-run blast off Kelvin Jimenez.
Meanwhile, Sampson was breezing, getting seven straight ground-ball outs at one point. Seventeen of the final 18 Cardinals batters made outs.
"We've been swinging the bat well, and today we didn't do enough to win the game," said Albert Pujols.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.