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Cards lack finishing touch vs. Brewers

Cards lack finishing touch

ST. LOUIS -- For a while, it looked as if Kyle Lohse was going to entertain Busch Stadium to something special. Perfect through four innings and up 3-1 in the eighth inning, for a moment Tuesday night, it was bliss for the Cardinals.

But for the second straight night, a game that should have been theirs was lost, sending the Redbirds into third place after Bill Hall hit a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning to give the Brewers a 4-3 win.

Now 102 games into the season, the bullpen has accounted for 22 of the Cardinals' 45 losses, a number that can't be construed positively one week from August.

Yet in manager Tony La Russa's eyes, placing the full blame on the bullpen is not the solution.

"You think the bullpen lost this game? You think they lost it yesterday," said a visibly upset La Russa. "How many runs did we score yesterday? Three. Think about it. It ain't the bullpen. It's our team that got beat.

"The onus is on our club, and one way not to be in 38 one-run games is to go out and score six, seven or eight."

As much as a problem the bullpen has been this year, the Cardinals' offense did not give Lohse much room to breath. On a night against a divisional contender, Lohse had to be perfect.

His last two innings, he was anything but.

"We just didn't give him an opportunity to make a mistake or two to win the game," La Russa said. "It's really tough to be perfect."

Lohse began the night retiring 18 of the first 19 batters, allowing only a single to Prince Fielder in the fifth inning.

As much as he dominated the first six frames, to Lohse, it did not matter, because, "It's a nine-inning game."

Turns out he was right.

"You just feel like you're in control out there," Lohse said. "A couple of pitches that were out over the plate, they just got up a little bit. That's a good team."

J.J. Hardy doubled and scored in the seventh inning, but after Lohse recovered with an emphatic inning-ending strikeout of Hall, it appeared he would cruise to his 13th victory.

Slowly, however, the game began to unravel for the Cards. Rickie Weeks doubled home Jason Kendall in the eighth with two outs, and all of a sudden, things began to look grim. When Hardy singled home Weeks in the following at-bat, it was almost as if the life was sucked out of the Cardinals.

After Hall homered off Kyle McClellan in the 10th -- Hall's second straight game-winning home run -- it was all but over for the Cardinals.

"I think tonight's game was pretty much all of our offense's fault," said Ryan Ludwick, who hit his 23rd home run of the season in the first inning. "Kyle did a great job and shut them down to the point where we could have added on, and we didn't."

The Cardinals jumped out to an early 2-0 lead off Ludwick's bat and a double from Albert Pujols. Pujols scored on Rick Ankiel's single two at-bats later.

But from then on, former Cardinal Jeff Suppan made the adjustments and the Cardinals hitters didn't. All he allowed was a lone run in the third along with four hits in his final six innings.

Down 0-2 in their four-game series with the Brewers, the Cardinals suddenly find themselves in third place for the first time since May 16. With CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets on the mound for the remainder of the series, it won't get any easier.

"I think tonight's unpleasant," Ludwick said. "We're down 0-2 in the series, and we have Sabathia and Sheets. We've got to really focus in tomorrow, and we've got to battle."

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

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