Freefalling Cardinals drop their seventh in a row

Associated PressJuly 31, 2013 

— Adam Wainwright isn't worried. The St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse is filled with too many players sporting World Series rings for their ace to get too worked up over a late-July swoon.

That doesn't mean he's enjoying it.

Wainwright tried his best to spin it forward moments after the last of a series of leads unraveled into a 5-4 loss to the Pirates that extended the Cardinals' losing skid to seven.

"You play 162 games, you always at some point during the season, every year, no matter what, you go through a rough patch," Wainwright said. "The good teams find a way to get out of that rough patch and find a way to get back to playing good quality baseball, and that's what we're going to do."

The Cardinals will try do it with the guys already in town. St. Louis opted to stand pat at the non-waiver trade deadline, convinced the parts are in place for the club to make a run at a second world championship in three years.

"We're just going to go out there and keep grinding," Wainwright said. "Eventually things are going to go your way if you keep the same mindset."

The Cardinals came in hitting just .155 (30-194) during the losing streak but put together 13 hits. Matt Holliday went 3 for 5 with two RBI, yet St. Louis left 13 runners on base.

Pittsburgh extended its lead in the NL Central to 2 1/2 games.

Wainwright was staked to leads of 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 but couldn't keep Pittsburgh at bay. He gave up four runs in seven innings, striking out six and walking one, but failed to earn his 14th victory.

"They gave me the lead three times and I blew the save three times," Wainwright said. "I can be better than that, I will be better than that."

The NL leader in wins was gone by the time Pittsburgh's Russell Martin laced a singled off Trevor Rosenthal (1-2) with two outs in the eighth. The ball rolled into left field, giving Neil Walker enough time to score from second.

"We can win just about every way possible," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.

Tony Watson (3-1) worked two shutout innings in relief. Mark Melancon pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save.

The teams with the two best records in the National League were mostly spectators before Wednesday's non-waiver trade deadline, though the Pirates acquired minor leaguer Robert Andino from Seattle.

Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington stressed he aggressively sought help for one of the National League's weaker offenses but didn't want to do it while gutting a replenished farm system.

"We talk a lot about, we don't want to do something stupid," Huntington said before the game. "We were willing to do something stupid, we just didn't want to do anything insane."

At the moment, the definition might include breaking up the chemistry the Pirates have spent four months carefully cultivating.

They put together their 25th comeback win of the season on a night when All-Star Jeff Locke struggled. The 25-year-old pitcher's rapid ascension from fifth starter to rotation fixture has fueled Pittsburgh's relentless pursuit of the Cardinals.

St. Louis spent four innings pecking away at the left-hander's usually deft mix of breaking balls.

The hits came in various ways, from a hard-hit double by Beltran in the fourth to a swinging bunt by David Descalso that traveled 20 feet. Locke tied a season high by giving up four runs. He struck out six and walked one, and his ERA rose from 2.15 to 2.36.

"He was fighting uphill all night," Hurdle said of Locke.

Perhaps, but now the Cardinals find themselves looking up in the standings at Pittsburgh. There are still 10 games between the teams over the next nine weeks, plenty of time for one of baseball's most talented rosters to get it together.

"We press every day," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "These guys, there's a sense of urgency every day we play. Today is just like the other days in that we want to make sure everybody's preparing the right way and getting their work in and making sure we are not letting any of these slip by. And we're not.

"To go out there and try to make up something special doesn't make any sense right now."

Notes

Tony Cruz went 0 for 4 in his first start at catcher since All-Star Yadier Molina went on the 15-day disabled list with a right knee sprain. ... Pittsburgh is 7-2 against St. Louis. ... The Pirates placed reserve C Mike McKenry on the 15-day disabled after he underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Rookie Tony Sanchez, Pittsburgh's top pick in the 2009 draft, will serve as the primary backup to Martin for the rest of the season. ... The series concludes Thursday with Pittsburgh's Charlie Morton (3-2, 3.59 ERA) facing Joe Kelly (1-3 3.44). The Pirates are 5-1 in Morton's last six starts.

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