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STL@CHC: Pujols starts an inning-ending double play

CHICAGO -- Manager Tony La Russa described it as brutal.

He was referring to the Major League leading 136 double plays his team has grounded into -- 12 more than the entire 2010 season. The Cardinals added two more double plays to reach that total as they fell to the Cubs, 3-0, on Saturday at Wrigley Field.

"The stat that [the media] should be talking about, the one that's just driving me nuts, is the double plays," La Russa said before the start of Saturday's game. "I've never experienced anything like this as a manager. It's just brutal."

The double play first struck the Cardinals in the first inning. With one out and the bases loaded after back-to-back walks to Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman, David Freese hit a grounder to the shortstop to start the inning-ending double play.

"We've been talking about double plays all year," Freese said. "I mean, I'll give you the same answer: We've hit into a lot of double plays. It kills rallies. It's pretty simple."

That rally killer was a pivotal moment en route to the Cardinals' first shutout since June 26 against Toronto.

Still, La Russa credited Cubs starter Matt Garza for getting out of the bases-loaded jam unscathed and settling down after that, throwing seven scoreless innings of five-hit ball.

"I thought Garza was very good," La Russa said. "He made a lot of pitches to get out of that first inning. He was very good."

Cubs manager Mike Quade paid a visit to Garza on the mound after he walked Berkman -- whatever Quade said, it seemed to work.

"I just wanted to settle him down," Quade said. "I know he wanted to attack Pujols and he got behind him. He walked Berkman, and I just didn't want to let things get away from him that first inning."

The double play hurt St. Louis again in the fifth inning when the Cardinals got their leadoff man on. Ryan Theriot then grounded into another inning-ending double play -- his 12th of the season.

With runners on first and second and one out in the seventh, Yadier Molina grounded into what could have been another inning-ending double play, but Aramis Ramirez's throw was offline to first base and Molina was safe.

Lost in the defeat was Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson's strong outing. The recently-acquired right-hander tossed seven innings of three-run ball, allowing just five hits and one walk with six strikeouts.

Jackson's no-hit bid ended with a leadoff single to Starlin Castro in the fourth inning. One out later, Jackson saw his shutout disappear when Ramirez belted his 24th home run of the season -- a two-run shot to left field.

Carlos Pena followed with a triple, and Marlon Byrd's double made it 3-0.

"I felt like I was coming out being aggressive," Jackson said. "It's just that one inning. I paid for a couple balls in the middle of the plate. That pretty much sums up the day.

"You can feel like you have dominant stuff every day, it's just a matter of execution. It's a crazy game. You can come out for four innings of shutout ball, and then they can score runs that quick in one inning. It's just a matter of staying out of big innings."

Over his last three starts, Jackson is 1-1 with a 3.44 ERA, allowing seven earned runs in 18 1/3 innings.

"He's pitched well," Freese said. "He's done what we've asked him to do since we got him. We gotta put runs on the board to win. We're just not getting it done -- plain and simple." Comments