Bullpen, offense struggle in rainy finale
Wells effective through five, but Phillies pull away in eighth
ST. LOUIS -- Kip Wells kept the Cardinals in the game through two rain delays and five innings on Sunday, but neither his bullpen nor his offense could do enough to return the favor.
Wells' frustrating season continued with a fine performance in a losing effort, as the Cardinals lost to the Phillies, 5-1, at Busch Stadium. St. Louis missed out on a chance at its third straight series win and remained 8 1/2 games behind first-place Milwaukee in the National League Central.
Shane Victorino's two-out, three-run, pinch-double off Randy Flores provided the winning runs. Philadelphia had loaded the bases against Brad Thompson before the Cards summoned Flores to face the switch-hitting Victorino.
"It would have been a great game to pick up today," Thompson said. "Unfortunately it didn't happen. Kip did a great job, especially coming back after that big delay, and I feel bad that we couldn't do it for him."
Pitching on a one-start reprieve from seemingly imminent bullpen banishment, Wells turned in an excellent game despite the delays. The game was delayed 22 minutes at the outset, and another 96 in the middle of the fourth inning due to rain.
Wells was clearly less sharp when he returned after sitting out. He issued a leadoff walk and allowed a run that tied the game, and was removed after one post-rain inning.
"It's frustrating," Wells said. "It's one of those things where you're pitching a better game and you get a setback like that where you have a long delay, where on other days when you're struggling, it seems like it's 70 and beautiful out there."
Wells, whose 11 defeats remain the most in the Majors, took four shutout innings into the second layoff. Despite the delay, manager Tony La Russa saw an opportunity to get his right-hander a win, and brought him out for an additional frame.
Wells came back out for the fifth with a 1-0 lead, but rust was evident immediately. He issued a leadoff walk and threw a wild pitch, allowing Michael Bourn's single up the middle to tie the game. Wells survived the fifth with a tie intact, but lost a chance at his first win as a starter since May 23 and second since April 8.
Still, Wells had plenty to like. Above all else, he did a good job of minimizing damage. He worked around a walk and a hit batter in the second, a two-out triple in the third and a leadoff single in the fourth.
"There's always going to be times in games when you're on the ropes a little bit, whether or not it's noticeable to the guy in the stands," Wells said. "But for the most part, I was able to right the ship a little bit at times. Had the game not been delayed, who knows? I felt good. I was making pitches."
Wells even spurred the go-ahead run for the home team. He slapped a one-out single in the third inning, advanced on So Taguchi's double and scored on Albert Pujols' sacrifice fly. Wells kept another rally going when he singled with two men on in the fourth, but Ryan Ludwick was thrown out trying to score from second on the hit.
The score remained tied until the eighth, which was Thompson's second inning. Jimmy Rollins singled to start the winning rally, and stole second base with one out. After Thompson retired Chase Utley, the Cardinals walked Ryan Howard intentionally. Aaron Rowand picked up an infield single to load the bases.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel called on Victorino to pinch-hit for his pitcher, and La Russa countered with the left-hander Flores. Victorino drilled a line drive to left field that barely eluded Chris Duncan's glove, bringing home the deciding runs.
"I wish I had every bit of that pitch back," Flores said. "That's unfortunate. Our guys battled too long, too hard. [There was] a long rain delay, Thompson pitched his butt off that inning, and I battled to get back in the count there. And to not execute, it's a bit of a blow."
Phils starter Cole Hamels, meanwhile, didn't return after pitching three innings before the delay. But he handed off to Ryan Madson, a pitcher who has shut down the Cardinals before. Madson twirled two shutout innings, as did Brian Sanches, who was credited with the win. Clay Condrey pitched a clean eighth. The Cards loaded the bases against Antonio Alfonseca in the ninth, but couldn't score.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.