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Aug. 9: Brewers 5, Cardinals 3

It would be easy to blame the Cardinals' extra innings loss on the worst umpire in baseball's missed call at home plate.

After all, Skip Schumaker's run would have been enough to give the Birds the victory in regulation play. But all of Angel Hernandez's incompetence -- or spite for the Cardinals, depending on your perspective -- doesn't change the fact that the Redbirds are the team that just refuses to seize the opportunities with which it is presented.

Now they're four games out and taking on water. The Cardinals really need to win the next two against Milwaukee.

The real reason the Cardinals lost to the Brewers Tuesday is this:

Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman were a combined 3-for-15 at the plate with no runs batted in and nine runners stranded on base. Pujols was responsible for six of the stranded runners including the two he left on base in the bottom of the ninth when a single would have won the game. But he popped up to right field.

As usual, the shoddy defense reared it's ugly head, too. In the sixth inning the Brewers had two outs when former Cardinals slacker Felipe Lopez drew a walk. He shouldn't have been on base in the first place. But the ironically positioned Gerald Laird -- the guy's title is "catcher" yet on Tuesday he seemed not to have the slightest clue of how to actually receive a ball without it rolling to the backstop -- allowed a weak passed ball that put Lopez in scoring position. A two-out single knocked in another run for the Brewers, and -- once again -- cost the Cardinals the game in regulation.

The final nail in the coffin was the suddenly ineffective Octavio Dotel who looked like a potential closer when he joined the Cardinals. But, since that first week, he's looked more like a revolving door. He allowed three hits and two runs in 1 1/3 innings to get tagged with the loss.

Cardinal Star of the Game: N/A

Cardinals Play of the Game: In what looked like it would be a defining series of plays more than just on play, the Birds managed to get out of a bases loaded and no outs jam when they trailed 3-1. Two line outs and a passed ball that ended with Milwaukee starter Shawn Marcum getting into a rundown between third and the plate ended the threat.

Lowlight: Tony Cruz is likely to be shipped out today because Allen Craig is ready to come off the DL. But it's a shame because Laird has been terrible behind the plate. I guess you can't ship off a veteran back-up backstop in case something would happen to Yadi Molina who becomes unsuspended today. But Cruz deserves to stay more than Laird.

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