SAN DIEGO, CA -- A wave of good feeling came to at least a temporary halt for the Cardinals on Friday night. After several weeks of nearly every break and bounce going their way, the Cards were on the wrong end of just about everything in a 4-0 loss to the Padres at PETCO Park.
Kyle Lohse endured another somewhat rocky outing, followed by another injury. When the Cardinals hit the ball hard, the Padres outfield made circus catches or plays at the wall. And a baserunning gaffe took the Redbirds out of their greatest chance to make some noise offensively.
The only good news came a few minutes after the game, when the Cubs lost to the Dodgers up the road in Los Angeles. As a result, St. Louis remains seven games in front of Chicago in the National League Central with six-plus weeks remaining in the 2009 season.
Other than that, there wasn't much to like.
"They did everything," said manager Tony La Russa. "They made the pitches they had to, made defensive plays, got the big swing. We just got outplayed."
Lohse allowed three runs on four hits over four innings before pulling up with a strained left groin when he singled in the top of the fifth. Three of the four hits against Lohse went for extra bases, with one especially standing out. Nick Hundley crushed a three-run homer on a 3-2 pitch in the second, providing all the runs against Lohse and all the runs that young lefty Clayton Richard would need.
"I felt good," said Lohse. "I hung one slider, and a changeup to [Will] Venable. Other than that, I felt like the ball was coming out nice, probably as good as it has all year. That was a positive if you can take anything out of it."
La Russa said that Lohse is likely headed to the disabled list. It would be the right-hander's second time on the shelf this year after never going on the DL in his Major League career before 2009.
Richard kept the Cardinals quiet for seven innings, a notable turnaround from his 3 2/3-inning, six-walk showing in St. Louis five days earlier. The Redbirds had a baserunner in all but one of his innings, but struggled to convert those runners into runs. He also benefited from his defense and his ballpark, as one ball after another was caught or died at the warning track of spacious PETCO Park.
"The last outing, I didn't get strike one," Richard said. "I had a really good side [session] early this week. I made a couple small adjustments that helped. I was fortunate how well our defense played."
Never was it more evident than in the sixth inning. Brendan Ryan hit a liner into right field to lead off the inning, and Venable made a highlight-reel sliding catch. Albert Pujols smoked a ball that Venable corralled at the wall, and after Matt Holliday walked, Ryan Ludwick hit a deep liner that Tony Gwynn reeled in at the wall.
"We got good pitches to hit and we didn't take advantage," Pujols said. "We made [Richard] feel too comfortable. We didn't take advantage. He kept the ball down and that's it."
The bigger miss came in the fourth, though. With two on and no outs, the Cardinals squandered their best opportunity of the night when both Ryan and Pujols wound up standing on second base.
Ryan, who had been on second, began to break to third on a full-count pitch to Matt Holliday, while Pujols ran hard for second. When the pitch was called a strike, Ryan made his way back to second but Pujols did not turn back. Holliday and Pujols were both out, and when Ludwick followed with a strikeout, the inning was over.
"I started and stopped," Ryan said. "I started and the ball was halfway to home, and I shut it down. You can't do that, because as soon as Albert sees me take off, he's going to take off, too."
Pujols didn't mince words.
"That's it," he said. "[Ryan] should have gone. There's nothing else to talk about. I did my part and he didn't do his part."
The Cardinals lost for the third time in 14 games and fell to 3-2 on their West Coast road trip.