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Missing pieces apparent in loss to Crew

Missing pieces apparent in loss to Crew

ST. LOUIS -- On Sunday morning, the Cardinals announced that Chris Carpenter's return to the starting rotation is imminent. A few hours later, they got another taste of why Carpenter has been missed so much. Now if they can only work on getting Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel back.

Another rocky game from Todd Wellemeyer combined with another quiet offensive day against a left-handed pitcher sent the Cardinals to a listless 8-2 loss to the Brewers at Busch Stadium. St. Louis has lost six out of eight games and now trails first-place Milwaukee by two games in the National League Central.

"It's a rough time," said manager Tony La Russa. "Just got to play your way through it."

The Cardinals are 5-9 in May after an excellent April. Their starting pitchers, who drove much of that April success, are 2-9 on the month with a 5.82 ERA. Early in the month, Wellemeyer was the exception to those struggles. However, in his past two starts, he's fallen back into the malaise that plagued him for nearly all of April.

On Sunday it was a matter of command. Wellemeyer simply didn't have much. He issued seven walks, including five in the first two innings, and hit two batters in 5 2/3 innings. He didn't allow another run after the Brewers jumped him for four in the first, but it scarcely mattered.

Wellemeyer saw his ERA climb to 5.87 on the season. He needed 106 pitches to get 17 outs, and barely half of those offerings (55) went for strikes. The right-hander has allowed four or more runs in five of his eight starts.

"[Either] they were perfect pitches that I got double plays with and got them to do what I wanted, or they were not even close," Wellemeyer said. "It was either one way or the other. I hit the pitcher in his foot on a 1-2 changeup. That shouldn't happen."

Wellemeyer and La Russa both said without hesitation that the right-hander is healthy despite the prolonged slump. La Russa also was quick to confirm that Wellemeyer's spot in the St. Louis starting rotation remains secure.

"He's shown enough to where we've got to stay with him," La Russa said. "The whole deal is you pick the five best guys. If there's somebody better than any one of them, they'll be here pitching. If you pick somebody better than any one of our five, whether it's Todd or anybody, they're here. The five best guys are here, and in his case, he shows what he can do. He's got this rough patch of several games and he's working through it."

Meanwhile, the St. Louis offense struggled to get anything going against Manny Parra -- as has often been the case against left-handed pitching in 2009. The Milwaukee southpaw cruised through five innings before fading in the sixth. He held the Cardinals to two runs on five hits over six innings and at one point retired nine consecutive batters. The Cardinals are batting .227 and slugging .341 against left-handed pitching this season.

Those problems are exacerbated by the absence of Ankiel and especially Ludwick, both of whom are on the disabled list. Ludwick sustained a right hamstring strain on Tuesday. In the five games since, including Tuesday night (when Ludwick was removed in the second inning), the Cardinals have scored 10 runs.

Even so, St. Louis actually threatened to make it a game in the sixth. The Cardinals pushed across two runs on Nick Stavinoha's single and Colby Rasmus' RBI grounder, cutting the Brewers' lead to two runs. But in the next half-inning, Blaine Boyer served up a three-run homer to Prince Fielder, and the contest was not close again.

"I had him 1-2 and I just left the ball right over the middle," Boyer said. "I was trying to go away. I was really trying to get him to chase away. I went back and watched it, and it was right over the middle. Right over the heart of the plate. I did him a favor. That was that."

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

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