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Tony La Russa responds to critics of his team

ST. LOUIS -- The law of averages only worked one way on Wednesday, and it was not the Cardinals' way.

An overdue Pirates team finally beat Chris Carpenter, while an overdue Cardinals offense continued to search for runs. The Cards' six-game season-opening homestand ended with a whimper in a 3-1 loss to Kevin Correia at the Pirates at Busch Stadium.

Carpenter suffered his first loss to the Pirates since 2004, ending a string of 13 consecutive Cardinals wins in his starts against Pittsburgh. The 2005 Cy Young Award winner turned in a solid start, but got no help from his offense as St. Louis lost its second series in as many opportunities.

Cardinals players and manager Tony La Russa downplayed the quiet week at the plate, noting correctly that the season still has 25 more weeks to go.

"It's the first week of the season," La Russa said. "Everybody wants to get off to a good start, whether it's the team or individually, but it's the first week of the season."

Carpenter was effective, but had to work hard to do it. He allowed at least one baserunner in every inning, and needed 106 pitches to get 18 outs. In each of his first four innings, he allowed a runner to reach base before there were two outs. He faced only seven batters with the bases empty all afternoon.

Yet he still did plenty enough to win on a typical day. He struck out six and didn't issue a walk, allowing eight hits, and was delighted with the action of the ball out of his hand.

"They took some tough at-bats," Carpenter said. "I felt like my stuff was good. I threw the ball pretty well. I did the best I could to give us a chance to win. [Neil] Walker hit a good pitch for the homer. I made my pitch, he hit it out."

Only one of the two runs against Carpenter, moreover, was earned -- thanks to a strange play in the fourth. Lyle Overbay led off the inning with a grounder to the right side. Albert Pujols tumbled to his right to make the play. Carpenter covered, and Pujols attempted to make a throw from the ground, but instead the ball sailed well out of Carpenter's reach and toward the dugout. Overbay reached second on what should have been no more than an infield single -- if that -- and scored when Ryan Doumit doubled to right-center.

Correia, meanwhile, simply became the latest hurler to stifle the Cards. He worked efficiently and effectively, holding St. Louis to five hits and two walks over seven innings. He struck out only three, instead benefiting from quick outs en route to his second victory.

"I was keeping the ball pretty much where I wanted to and moving it around nicely," Correia said.

St. Louis didn't often threaten, but when it did, Correia wriggled free. He worked around a two-out single and walk in the second when Daniel Descalso popped up, and got a key double-play grounder from Lance Berkman with a runner on and nobody out in the fourth.

"I think he pitched really well, and I think maybe there's some guys that went fishing," Berkman said. "I know I did one at-bat. But he forces you into that, because he's aggressive in the strike zone down with quality pitches. You can credit him with doing a good job. On another day maybe we could have gotten ... there may have been more out there. But I thought he pitched a great game."

Through six games, the Cardinals have scored 15 runs, an average of 2.5 per game. They have not scored more than three in any game. That led to plenty of questions about what should be a more potent lineup, and in his postgame news conference, La Russa showed his frustration with the line of questioning.

After about four minutes of questions, he took issue with a query about his lineup's performance. At the end of a lengthy and impassioned defense of his hitters, he said that of the questions, "that's not fair; that really isn't," and walked out of the room.

The Cardinals are 2-4 on the young season. Comments