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D-backs erase Cards' early lead

D-backs erase Cards' early lead

PHOENIX -- You could fill a book with all the things that happened in the Cardinals game on Saturday night.

• The Cardinals fell behind by three, went up by four, then went down by two.

• Albert Pujols was just a homer short of the cycle.

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• Third baseman Brendan Ryan made three circus catches in foul ground.

• David Eckstein was hit by pitches twice.

• The Cards hit one three-run homer, and the D-backs hit two.

And that was just the first four innings of the game.

So how would the story end? Unfortunately, the last chapter would be the Cardinals going scoreless over the last four innings as they dropped a 9-8 decision to the D-backs at Chase Field in front of 45,391.

"It was a very gutty, tough loss," said manager Tony La Russa.

The pivotal play was an umpire's ruling in the bottom of the fourth. Stephen Drew had already hit a three-run homer for Arizona to tie the game at 7. Todd Wellemeyer relieved starter Braden Looper but issued back-to-back walks with one out.

That brought Conor Jackson to the plate, and he hit a grounder to third. Ryan threw to Aaron Miles covering second. Miles swiped his foot across the bag for the out and then threw to first to try and complete an inning-ending double play.

At least that's what he thought.

Second-base umpire Gary Darling ruled that Miles didn't touch the bag, and when the relay was not in time to first, everyone was safe with the bases loaded. A sac fly and an RBI single later and the D-backs had a lead they would not relinquish.

The first thing Miles did when he entered the clubhouse after the game was check the replay, and it appeared he may have indeed gotten a piece of the bag.

"I thought I got it," said Miles. "It was tough call that didn't go our way. I barely got it, but I wasn't sure until I came in and looked at the tape."

La Russa, who hadn't seen the tape yet, thought the umpire may have called it right simply because Miles "wasn't making a big argument."

"I was more shocked than anything," said Miles. "I'm the kind of guy that's not going to try to make anyone look bad. The game's happening real fast out there."

"I was confused, I thought maybe it was an interference call [on the runner]," said Wellemeyer (3-2). "That didn't even cross my mind. It's unfortunate that a call decided the entire game."

The call made a winner out of Arizona's Dana Eveland (1-0), who threw just one-third of an inning of relief, and unfortunately put a damper on a good night for Miles, as he had two hits including a three-run homer that gave the Cardinals the lead in the third.

While the call at second was certainly a key, the hot D-backs bullpen allowing just one run over the final six frames was the final difference.

Over their last four games, the Arizona relievers have allowed just one run over 15 1/3 innings, striking out 12.

"We didn't score in the last four innings, and we took six called strikes in the ninth," said La Russa. "That's not our style."

Jose Valverde completed the run of zeros with his Major League-leading 44th save.

Looper entered the game having not allowed a run in his last two starts and just two runs in his last three. He was given a 3-0 first-inning lead, but he gave up seven runs (six earned) in 3 1/3 innings.

"I was just out of whack, and I couldn't make the adjustment," said Looper. "I've got to get deeper in the game and give us a chance to win. That's my job, and I just didn't get it done. Nothing is worse for a starting pitcher to do then what I did today."

As if the team didn't have enough injury woes, there were yet more health concerns in this game.

Catcher Yadier Molina was a late scratch due to a headache after taking a foul ball off his facemask in Friday night's game, and left fielder Chris Duncan left the game in the fifth after appearing to pull a groin muscle on the basepaths. La Russa indicated both were doubtful to play on Sunday.

In addition, the team dodged bullets with Eckstein getting "blasted" twice, according to La Russa, and Looper stumbling off the mound trying to field a second-inning bunt, all incidents that sent the trainer out.

With Milwaukee and Chicago both winning, the loss dropped the Cardinals to two games back in the National League Central.

Jason Grey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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