Cardinals come up short vs. Phillies
Looper pitches well, but Redbirds' offense is stifled
ST. LOUIS -- Looking over Braden Looper's lines in his last three outings, you would be hard pressed to find any blemishes.
Though he has allowed two runs or fewer in his last three starts, Looper's record is now 1-2 in those games after he lost a tight battle to the Philadelphia Phillies, 2-1, on Saturday.
Playing in an expeditiously played game, Looper made two bad pitches in his seven innings and put together, they were enough to cost him the game. Greg Dobbs and Ryan Howard took Looper deep for solo home runs, accounting for two of Looper's three hits allowed.
"If you make mistakes to a lineup like that, they make you pay," Looper said. "Unfortunately, I made one too many. It's kind of a tough one to swallow, losing that game."
Just when it seemed the Cardinals were turning the page on their meltdown against the Milwaukee Brewers last week, Saturday's loss slides them back into third place in the National League Central -- one game behind the Brewers and five games behind the Chicago Cubs.
And even though the Cardinals had a warrior trying his best, he still was unable to achieve what was objective No. 1 on his agenda -- get Howard out. Howard got the best of Looper again, befuddling the pitcher even though the man at the plate dominates pitchers like it's nobody's business.
In five excruciating at-bats against Looper, Howard has four home runs, prompting Looper to sarcastically call him "the greatest hitter ever."
"I went into that game not wanting Ryan Howard to beat me and he ended up kind of beating me," Looper said.
Over his last eight games, Looper has allowed 12 of his 19 home runs on the year.
"For a guy that keeps the ball on the ground predominantly, I just seem to make one or two mistakes a game that are costing me right now," Looper said.
As well as Looper pitched, Joe Blanton pitched that much better for the Phillies. Acquired on July 17, Blanton outfoxed the Cardinals as most of the hitters saw him for the first time. Blanton confused just about everyone that came to the plate, allowing only four hits on the night over his seven innings.
"It's always a little tough seeing a guy for the first time," said Ryan Ludwick. "But we have plenty of tools at this level to try to get an edge. We just didn't score enough runs."
Ludwick added to the Cardinals' cause in the seventh when he hit his 26th home run of the year, one he will easily forget on a night like this -- a microcosm, a blip on the map -- because, as they say, all that matters is the 'W.'
The Cardinals had eight baserunners on the night and hit into two double plays. Only three times the Cardinals mounted anything close to a threat.
In the third inning, the Cardinals put runners on first and second before Joe Mather and Albert Pujols struck out consecutively to end the inning. After Aaron Miles led off the eighth inning with a single, manager Tony La Russa supplanted weak-hitting Cesar Izturis for Skip Schumaker to bunt Molina over to second base. Izturis bunted foul twice before he was called out on strikes.
"I thought [Izturis] would have a better chance at getting the bunt down," La Russa said. "You have a couple of different options with Izturis.
"That's execution that puts you in a different position. Then all of a sudden, they've got to get Mather, Albert and Ludwick out with [Chad] Durbin. That's a big miss."
Battling in the ninth against Brad Lidge, Troy Glaus drew a walk before he was lifted for pinch-runner Brendan Ryan. Ryan took second on a wild pitch, but Rick Ankiel struck out to end the game.
It was Ankiel's first at-bat since he was diagnosed with a lower abdominal strain. Though his swing looked rusty, La Russa said Ankiel looked fine at the plate.
"The 1-0 pitch was a good one to hit," La Russa said. "He took it and the other two were nasty."
Lee Hurwitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.