ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals let a four-run lead get away from them on Tuesday night, but missed offensive chances doomed them as much as pitching struggles in a 9-8 loss to the Dodgers at Busch Stadium.
Twice in the waning innings, St. Louis had the tying and go-ahead runs on base and one out, only to see the threats end in groundball double plays. Thus a rousing comeback was wasted and the National League Central leaders were handed a painful defeat.
Compounding the frustration in the home clubhouse at Busch was a sprained shoulder suffered by All-Star third baseman Scott Rolen. The six-time Gold Glove winner's status is uncertain, but he was still in pain following the game and is not expected to play Wednesday at least. Rolen collided with Hee-Seop Choi at first base in the sixth inning.
The Redbirds trailed, 3-0, after 3 1/2 frames, but back-to-back homers from Rolen and Reggie Sanders tied the game. An inning later, St. Louis hung four more runs on the visitors, thanks to an Albert Pujols RBI single and Sanders' second homer of the game. But Matt Morris and Kevin Jarvis combined to permit six runs in the top of the sixth as the Dodgers took the lead for good.
"I've got to go out and get a shutdown," said Morris. "I can't leave the sixth inning to the bullpen -- [then the] seventh, eighth and ninth. That's just too much. I'll take the blame for this one."
Yet Morris left with a three-run lead and only one runner on base. Jarvis (0-1) hit the first batter he saw but got two outs and had a chance to get out of the inning. He walked pinch-hitter Jason Grabowski to load the bases, and Cesar Izturis rapped a two-run single to pull L.A. within a run. Choi followed with a three-run homer to cap the rally.
"You don't think they're gonna score that many runs with two outs," Jarvis said, "but it happens. It's a shame. Any time a ballclub scores eight, you expect to win. You should win."
Even before the sixth, Morris was shakier than he'd been in previous outings this season. He needed 97 pitches to record 15 outs. Had his spot in the batting order come up in the bottom of the fifth, he would have been removed for a pinch-hitter, and perhaps the sixth would have gone differently.
Yet the Redbirds closed within a run in the bottom of the sixth, and they got at least the tying run on base in each of the final three innings. Einar Diaz grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the eighth after Abraham Nunez walked and Mark Grudzielanek singled.
Manager Tony La Russa bristled at the suggestion of bunting with Nunez, or even pinch-hitting for the catcher.
"Give them credit for making a pitch," he said. "I'm not gonna degrade Einar Diaz."
An inning later it was perennial MVP candidate Albert Pujols with a chance to knock in a game-changing run. Giovanni Carrara permitted a single to David Eckstein and threw a wild pitch to Larry Walker before issuing a free pass to Walker, but Pujols grounded into another 6-4-3 double play on the first pitch from the right-hander.
The Cardinals fell to 20-12 on the season, four games ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central. They are 2-4 on their current eight-game homestand and 4-8 against opponents from outside their own division.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.