Cardinals' quality-start streak ends in loss

Cardinals' quality-start streak ends in loss

PHILADELPHIA -- The Cardinals players noticed the ball carrying in right field during batting practice. The flags in center field were blowing steadily to the east all day.

But Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse was still stunned when his low and outside fastball to Jayson Werth landed in the fourth row of the right-field stands in the first inning Thursday. Lohse and St. Louis never seemed to recover from the three-run shot that jump-started a 14-hit afternoon for the Phillies, en route to a 7-2 victory in front of 44,831 at Citizens Bank Park.

Down 5-1 in the second inning, the Cardinals were left battling uphill against Phillies ace Roy Halladay. It was an awkward position for a team that had 14 consecutive quality starts from its rotation, and a come-from-behind mentality was not one St. Louis has had to conjure up in recent weeks.

"I think Kyle pitched a good game, he just didn't get the third out twice, and we didn't defend well behind him a couple of times," Cards manager Tony La Russa said. "We competed, just we got beat."

The last time a St. Louis starter did not go at least six innings with three or fewer earned runs allowed was April 20 against Arizona, the club's longest such run since 1973.

Lohse started that game, too, and though he battled through some tough spots early on, he eventually dropped to 0-2 on the year. He allowed five runs (three earned) on nine hits in four innings, and threw 105 pitches.

"I threw a lot of pitches in the first and had to battle through a lot of innings," Lohse said. "If you let guys put the ball in the air, they're going to find holes. That's kind of what I did today. And I had to throw too many pitches. If you throw 100 pitches in four innings, it's going to be a short outing."

The Cardinals didn't help out Lohse defensively either. Entering the game second in the National League in fielding percentage, they allowed two unearned runs to score in the second inning on an error by shortstop Tyler Greene. A ground ball past third baseman David Freese was ruled a hit in the fourth, and Greene recorded another error in the sixth.

The team had committed a total of 13 errors in 28 games prior to Thursday.

"I thought [Lohse] deserved better than he pitched," La Russa said.

Werth's home run was a crucial first blow, and Lohse said he was surprised to see it happen. An outside 91-mph fastball that may have been off the plate, Werth extended for it and the wind did the rest.

"It wasn't one of the pitches that you expect someone to hit out," Lohse said.

It ended up giving Philadelphia enough early momentum to put behind its ace, Halladay, who was not as sharp as he had been in previous starts, but did enough to stifle St. Louis for seven innings and two runs.

The Cardinals had an opportunity to tie the game in the fifth with the bases loaded and two outs and Matt Holliday at the plate. Holliday worked the count full, the sold-out crowd stood, the runners took off and the pitch was delivered -- a 79-mph curveball that Holliday flailed at and missed to end the inning.

Holliday met Halladay in a big spot again, in the seventh, after St. Louis scored its second run and looked poised to add to it. With two outs and the bases loaded again, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel walked to the mound. Halladay's pitch count had cleared 110, and it looked like he would be taken out. But, to the crowd's pleasure, Halladay stayed in, induced a groundout on the 117th and final pitch of his outing.

"From my end, everything he threw to me was spotted up well, everything was moving in and out," Cards outfielder Colby Rasmus said of Halladay. "Definitely some tough at-bats."

A day after La Russa brought his team together for a meeting after Wednesday's 4-0 loss, the Cardinals couldn't put together an inspiring performance, and they now slip out of Philadelphia with a frustrating three-game slide.

Halladay's performance culminated a string of strong outings by the Phillies' starting pitchers, and the Cardinals scored only three runs in the three losses.

And for the Cardinals' pitching, which had been so superb in recent weeks, it was a setback in a hitters' ballpark that was bound to eventually happen.

"We'll see them later in our place," Lohse said. "We'll go from there. It's too early to really gauge anything. We know they're a good team. I'm sure they know that we battle."

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