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Must C Crushed: Berkman deposits one at Citi Field

NEW YORK -- For Kyle Lohse on Tuesday night, it was not a matter of whether, but when the runs would come. Lohse knew he was dancing with danger all night, and so did his manager. Eventually he could sidestep it no longer.

The right-hander dodged trouble for four innings but paid for the baserunners he was allowing, taking the loss as the Cardinals fell to the Mets, 4-2, at Citi Field. Lohse was reached for 10 base hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out only one batter and garnering five swinging strikes out of 102 pitches.

"He was in the middle of the plate a lot," manager Tony La Russa said. "There were a lot of balls hit hard."

On the offensive side, another starting pitcher stifled the Cardinals, as has been the case consistently since the All-Star break. Rookie right-hander Dillon Gee allowed two runs on three hits over seven innings, holding St. Louis without a hit until the fifth. The Cardinals have managed eight runs against opponents' starters in four games since the break.

Lohse was in jeopardy frequently during his first outing of the second half. He permitted six hits in the first four innings, but five of them came with two outs, allowing him to skirt any serious damage. In the fifth, however, he couldn't hold off the Mets any longer.

Jose Reyes and Justin Turner opened the frame with back-to-back singles, bringing up Lohse's career-long nemesis, Carlos Beltran. The right-hander walked Beltran and got the first out on a liner to short, but Angel Pagan put the Mets ahead with a two-run double.

An inning later, it was two-out trouble that did in the Cards. Lohse got the first two batters, but Turner reached on a dribbling ground-ball single, and Lohse walked Beltran once again. La Russa called on lefty Raul Valdes, who permitted Daniel Murphy's two-run double that gave the Mets a 4-1 advantage.

"I wasn't as sharp tonight," Lohse said. "Coming off a long layoff, I wasn't sure exactly how things were going to go. But for the most part, I felt like I was dodging a lot of stuff. Didn't get away with it there in the fifth, and then I just couldn't get that third out in the sixth. I felt like I made enough good pitches when I had to, but actually not enough, really."

It's been a rough July for Lohse, who has allowed at least four runs in each of his three starts. Lohse has given up a total of 16 runs, 15 earned, in 17 2/3 innings in that span, with six strikeouts against five walks. His ERA has climbed from 2.78 to 3.45.

Keeping to their recent form, the Cards kept applying pressure late in the game, but on Tuesday, it wasn't enough. Lance Berkman crushed a solo homer in the seventh inning, and the Redbirds loaded the bases with one out in the eighth. However, Albert Pujols hit into a double play, his second of the night and Major League-leading 22nd of the year, to end the latter threat.

St. Louis batters have grounded into 103 double plays, 12 more than any other team in the Major Leagues.

"We get guys on base, and we've got guys that hit the ball hard," Berkman said. "I don't get out of the box [quickly]. Albert doesn't get out of the box. Matt [Holliday] doesn't get out of the box. We swing hard. We're not Ichiro, where we're four steps down the line when we make contact. If we hit a ball on the ground with a guy on first base, it's probably going to be a double play."

After the eighth-inning threat, the ninth was quiet. The most noteworthy thing was who finished off the game for the Mets. Jason Isringhausen, the Cards' career saves leader, pitched a perfect ninth for his 294th Major League save and his first since 2008, when he was with St. Louis.

"I knew it was going to happen this way," Isringhausen said. "As soon as they came into town, I knew I was going to have to pitch probably all three games. That's just the way it goes, baseball gods, that's the way they do it."

The Cardinals have lost three out of four since the All-Star break, scoring 13 runs in that span. They are 1 1/2 games behind the Pirates in the National League Central.

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