Cardinals drop finale, series vs. Cubs

Cardinals drop finale, series vs. Cubs

ST. LOUIS -- The runs haven't come easy lately for the Cardinals.

Neither have the wins.

Losing to the Cubs, 7-1, Sunday, the Cardinals dropped their holiday weekend series to Chicago and, if not for Rick Ankiel's late-inning heroics on Saturday, were nearly swept by their archrivals. Needless to say, the fireworks were only needed for one day this weekend.

"Well, we didn't score enough runs," said infielder Aaron Miles. "That's one way to put it."

Not only did the Cardinals fall 3 1/2 games behind the Cubs, but they are now tied for second with the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central standings. Heading out to Philadelphia on Tuesday -- a team that thrives on scoring runs -- the Cardinals will risk falling into third place for the first time since May 16 if they can't find new ways to score.

For Ryan Ludwick, the loss took a little bit of the luster off his nomination to the All-Star team.

"That's why it's tough doing this interview right now because, yeah, I'm excited, but that's our rival over there," Ludwick said. "They're ahead of us in the division standings. First and foremost, that's the most important thing."

Over the past four games, the Cardinals have scored one run three times. In each of the three games against Chicago, they were unable to mount any consistent offense against the Cubs' starters.

It's not necessarily the best time for the Cardinals to start slipping. With six games until the All-Star break, the Redbirds are on one of their down streaks. They just have to weather the storm.

"It's been kind of a common theme it seems like this year," Ludwick said. "We go through little spurts where we leave runners on or don't leave runners on. ... I think, over the long haul, we're going to get it done more often than not."

After getting a strong start from Kyle Lohse on Saturday, the Cardinals weren't able to overcome a shaky performance by Todd Wellemeyer on Sunday. Lasting only five innings, Wellemeyer gave up three runs and nine hits in five innings. The Cardinals have lost in Wellemeyer's last three starts, two of which he took the loss. After beginning the season with a remarkable run, Wellemeyer has looked average since rejoining the rotation following a bout with inflammation in his right elbow.

"The first [start back] was pitch count," Wellemeyer said. "Last time was ugly. Today was just, we needed some offense and I had to get out of there."

Aramis Ramirez opened the second inning with a double and later scored when Mark DeRosa singled him home. In the third, Reed Johnson led off with a single and scored on a Ramirez base hit. Two innings later, Johnson scored again after the Cubs pounded out three consecutive singles.

The Cubs just chipped the runs in all day.

After Wellemeyer departed, the Cardinals got a marginal boost when Ludwick hit his 17th home run of the year. But the Cubs came right back in the seventh inning after Derrek Lee doubled home Kosuke Fukudome.

By the time Geovany Soto hit his home run in the eighth, and another run scored on Cardinals reliever Russ Springer's throwing error, the Cardinals fans headed for the exits.

There were cheers in the ninth -- they just came from fans wearing blue.

Lee added another RBI single in the final frame off Brad Thompson to make the score 7-1. It was just another kick to the Cardinals when they were visibly down.

"Part of our improvement is to be able to adjust better than we've adjusted in this series," manager Tony La Russa said. "We're going to have to."

Lee Hurwitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.