ST. LOUIS -- Even another historic night from Albert Pujols couldn't help the Cardinals overcome Chris Carpenter's worst start of the year. The St. Louis slugger belted two home runs -- becoming just the seventh player in baseball history to have at least 30 home runs by the end of June -- but Carpenter gave up six runs in five innings as the Cardinals lost, 6-3, on Tuesday night to the San Francisco Giants at Busch Stadium. Carpenter allowed a season-high 11 hits in his shortest outing since May 20. After starting the season with 24 scoreless innings, the former Cy Young Award winner has now given up at least three runs in four of his last five starts.
"He could have been a little sharper, but he certainly didn't give up the contact for six runs," said manager Tony La Russa. "They hit a couple balls hard, but they hit some that were well placed. He pitched better than those runs. It's a frustrating outing for him." The Cardinals righty had faced the opposing team's ace in three of his past four starts and things weren't any easier with Randy Johnson on the hill for the Giants. Carpenter put his team in a hole from the start, giving up two runs in the first on four hits. Carpenter allowed more runs in the fifth inning, four, than he had allowed in any of his 10 previous starts. The Giants strung five hits together in the inning, more than he had allowed in any start except one. But still, La Russa didn't think Carpenter's outing was as bad as the results indicated. "I'm not saying he pitched a shutout; I'm saying he didn't pitch six [runs] worth," La Russa said. "The first and third baseman blooped in two balls, a couple of balls hit down off the end of the bat that found holes. They hit a couple hard. Early on, he missed his location and they got two runs and then they got four. He pitched better than six runs." It was statistically the worst start of Carpenter's season as he lost back-to-back starts for just the third time as a member of the Cardinals. "I'm not going to make excuses," Carpenter said. "I felt like there were a few balls hit hard but not many other ones. A lot of broken bats and balls hit off the end [of the bat]. When you're facing a club that likes to swing the bat, those balls fall in. But also, there were a few times where I felt I could have made pitches to save a few extra runs, but I wasn't able to do that. "That's baseball. Anytime you lose, you're frustrated. But I'll be ready to go in five days. I felt like my stuff was pretty good, but they hit some balls that fell in. But they also hit some balls hard that if I could have executed a little better, I could have given us a chance." Johnson cruised into the fourth before Pujols belted his 29th home run of the season, a 445-foot solo shot to left that cut the Giants lead to 2-1. After the Giants touched Carpenter for four runs in the fifth, Pujols struck again. This time, the two-time MVP launched a two-run shot to left that cut the Giants lead to 6-3. The homer gave him 30 for the season and also marked the 30th multihomer game of his career. His 14 home runs in June also tied his personal record, which he also accomplished in April 2006. The Cardinals loaded the bases after Pujols' second home run in the sixth against reliever Jeremy Affeldt, but rookie Tyler Greene grounded into a double play to end the threat. Despite the outstanding month by Pujols, the Cardinals fell to only three games over .500 for the first time since June 9, when they were 31-28, and they finished June with a dismal 12-17 record. "You have to keep playing," Carpenter said. "Get ready to pitch, get ready to hit, get ready to defend -- play as hard as we can. I feel like these guys will do that and keep putting our best efforts [on the field] every night. Hopefully we can get on a roll and start winning some ballgames."
B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.