The Cardinals traded fan and clubhouse favorite Ryan Ludwick to the Padres to give the team a better chance to win when the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation come around.
Unfortunately, Jake Westbrook's first start with St. Louis was wasted when the bullpen blew up.
The Cardinals led 4-2 after seven innings on the strength of Albert Pujols' 392nd career home run. But it was a tragedy of errors after that as the Birds turned into the Keystone Cops and dropped the game 9-4.
Jason Motte walked the tying runs on base to start the eighth inning. Mike MacDougal came in and got a pop up to the catcher for one out. Then he coaxed a grounder to second base that should have been a double play -- Unfortunately the Cardinals were playing one of those ignorant defensive shifts, so the ball rolled into right field for a base hit instead
I'm still trying to figure out why the defense was playing a shift expecting the batter to pull, yet the pitcher was pitching on the outside corner, inviting the hitter to go to the opposite field.
A fly ball to right was next. Admittedly, it was a relatively tough chance . But I thought Randy Winn was supposed to be great with the leather. He wasn't. His uncertain route led to the ball getting over his head. Apparently his hands were coated with Vaseline, because he wasn't able to do much of a job picking the ball up, either.
Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols gets some skin from outfielder Matt Holliday Monday night after Pujols hit a fourth inning homer to tie the game. AP photo.
After that, it was all downhill. The pitching completely blew up and the Birds ended up losing the game and losing first place after fumbling yet another one they should have won.
If the Birds fall short this season, a major factor is going to be that they have dropped five of eight games so far this season to Houston, a team that is 15 games under .500.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Westbrook pitched six innings, allowing four hits and two runs. He struck out seven and walked one.
Cardinals Play of the Game: Westbrook struck out former Cardinals farmhand Brett Wallace with two on and two out in the sixth to pick up Felipe Lopez after the St. Louis third baseman made an error that should have ended the inning.
Lowlight: The bullpen gave up seven runs in the last two innings. Sure, the defense had a hand in things. But you can't fold like that and expect to be a contender. The Cardinals haven't impressed me at all this season with their mental toughness.