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Offensive struggles haunt Cards in loss

Offensive struggles haunt Cards in loss

ST. LOUIS -- Bring on the Marlins and their vaunted pitching and offense-stifling Land Shark Stadium. It can't be any worse for the Cardinals than facing the Rockies at Busch Stadium.

Colorado completed a four-game sweep of St. Louis on Monday, with former Cardinals pitcher Jason Marquis sticking it to his old team in a 5-2 Rockies victory. Marquis pitched 6 2/3 innings, during which he was barely threatened.

If you saw any of the first three games of the series, then you have a pretty good feel for how the fourth one went. Starter Brad Thompson was OK, but not great, on a day when his team needed great in order to win. The Cardinals bullpen allowed a couple of runs in the late innings, tamping down the chances of a comeback win. And most of all, the Cardinals offense was impotent once again.

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A month-long slump has left pretty much the entire club searching for answers, with none in sight.

"I guess I'm somewhat at a loss for words," said Ryan Ludwick, who was 0-for-4 on Monday. "It's the same thing. I know everyone's putting the effort in. It's just, I don't know, man. It's just, we're not stringing anything together. The hits are hard to come by right now."

A variety of pitchers stifled the Redbirds over the weekend, starting with winless but talented Jorge De La Rosa, continuing through 2008 All-Star sinkerballer Aaron Cook, hard-throwing youngster Ubaldo Jimenez and finally Marquis. In none of the games did St. Louis mount a significant offensive challenge.

On Monday, they scratched out six hits, two of them for extra bases, and drew one walk. They actually did a decent job of converting on chances, scoring in two of the three innings where they got a runner into scoring position. They just didn't get any chances -- which may be less frustrating to some fans, but is a far direr indicator of offensive woe.

"We're not getting many hits," manager Tony La Russa acknowledged. "There are basics that, if you don't abide by them, your at-bats are not as productive. We've done it well. And when we've done it well, we've been productive. We're in a rut now. It could be that they're pressing. There are all kinds of explanations and excuses. But nobody cares [about those]. We need to score more."

Since an 8-7 win over the Reds on May 10, the Cardinals have played 26 games and scored 79 runs -- an average of 3.04 per game. They're batting .228 as a team in that time, with a .293 on-base percentage and a .367 slugging percentage. They've struck out 158 times and drawn 57 unintentional walks.

There is practically nothing that is going well for St. Louis offensively.

"We've just got to grind it," said catcher Yadier Molina, one of the few bright spots with a single and a double on Monday. "We've got to be tough mentally, concentrating on the at-bats. I think that's one of the best ways to go, taking good at-bats. That's one of the best things to do."

The Cards gave Thompson no room for error, so when he got in a fifth-inning jam, La Russa lifted him. Dennys Reyes got out of the tight spot, but Colorado tacked on single runs against Jason Motte and Chris Perez to stretch its advantage.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals could make no hay against Marquis, fellow ex-teammate Randy Flores, Manny Corpas and Huston Street. They lost their fourth straight and 10th in 15 games, falling 2 1/2 games behind idle Milwaukee in the National League Central.

"It's just that part of the season," said Brendan Ryan. "You're going to go through a funk like this. I think if a lot of us put some Visine on the barrels, we're going to end up with some gappers. ... It's just that part of the year. Hopefully, with a change of scenery in Florida, we'll come out fired up and angry tomorrow and have a big first inning and turn things around."

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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