ST. LOUIS -- For the second time in as many games, the Cardinals fell victim to a big inning by the Blue Jays en route to their third loss in a row and a sweep at the hands of the boys from north of the border.
Toronto's four-run sixth proved to be the difference in Sunday's series finale as the Cards lost, 5-0. It's the first time this season the Cards have dropped three straight at Busch Stadium.
Starter Kyle McClellan was cruising along through five innings and then ran into trouble in the sixth. As was the case on Saturday night during a five-run third for the Jays, a Cardinals error proved costly.
Last night it was Daniel Descalso. This time, it was Lance Berkman. After fielding a soft grounder at first, his throw home sailed over the catcher's head to the backstop, allowing Adam Lind to score.
"He just didn't get a good grip on it and had to hurry it," Cards manager Tony La Russa said. "That's usually what happens when a ball gets away that high."
McClellan gave an intentional pass to J.P. Arencibia to load the bases and face the pitcher, but the move backfired. Toronto starter Ricky Romero singled to right, scoring two to help his cause. It was Romero's first hit and RBI in the big leagues.
"I'm not a good hitter so it definitely feels good to help myself out," Romero said.
After another RBI knock, McClellan's day was done.
"When it came down to it, I didn't make the pitches when I needed to," McClellan said.
Things could have gone differently for McClellan and the Cards had the ball bounced their way in the frame. Instead, a pair of weakly hit balls on the ground found their way into the outfield to start the rally.
"A few ground ball hits get through and the ground balls ended up costing us," McClellan said. "The first five innings I felt good and that sixth inning, I just didn't make pitches when I needed to."
Mitchell Boggs entered with two men on base and promptly fanned Aaron Hill and Jose Bautista -- who is tied for the Major League lead in homers -- to end the threat and stop the bleeding. It was the second time Boggs came on in relief to get the Cardinals out a jam in the series. He struck out two with the bases loaded on Friday in relief of Jake Westbrook to end another Jays rally.
"That's a big situation right there and he's been throwing the ball well, I have all the confidence in him," said catcher Tony Cruz.
But when all was said and done, though, the Jays had pushed across four runs in the sixth as they jumped out to a 5-0 lead.
McClellan had mostly avoided trouble before the fateful inning, save for a home run to Arencibia in the second. The right-hander gave up five runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking three and striking out four, but lost his third game in a row.
"He pitched better than the five runs on the board," La Russa said.
Romero stifled the Cardinals bats early and often, and retired the first 10 batters he saw. His shutout was his first of the season and the second in his career. Romero was devastatingly effective, and needed only 106 pitches to go the distance. The southpaw struck out five and ran his scoreless streak against the Cardinals to 17 innings.
"When you run into him on a good day he's got shut-down stuff," Descalso said.
The Cards looked like they had something brewing in the fifth after a leadoff double from Andrew Brown. Colby Rasmus put down a sac bunt to move Brown to third, but Tony Cruz grounded out and Romero struck out McClellan to escape unscathed.
Simply put, the Jays capitalized with big innings and the Cards didn't.
"The more big innings you allow the less of a chance you have," Descalso said.
In both of Toronto's wins this weekend, they had scored at least four runs in a single frame while the Cardinals never had more than one run in an inning.
"That's how the series went, quite a bit, especially on Saturday and Sunday," La Russa said. "They had a big inning and we didn't."
The Cardinals fell to 3-12 in their last 15 and 1-5 since Albert Pujols went on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured left wrist.