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07/31/09 1:12 AM ET

Cards drop finale in 10 innings to Dodgers

Wellemeyer allows decisive hit in new role as reliever

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' 5-3 loss to the Dodgers on Thursday night ultimately came down to one pitch. But Matt Kemp's game-winning two-run single was set up over the previous 10 innings, the previous night and even the previous four months.

With two on and two outs in the top of the 10th, Kemp lined a hanging slider from Todd Wellemeyer into left field, scoring Andre Ethier and Casey Blake. Ethier had walked and Blake had singled against Dennys Reyes, and each had advanced a base on a Reyes wild pitch. The Cardinals were down to Wellemeyer, a deposed starter, in large part because of a 15-inning win over Los Angeles one night earlier. The defeat dropped the Redbirds into second place in the National League Central, a half-game behind the Cubs.

"That slider was a little bit up and he hit it where we weren't," Wellemeyer said. "That's all there is to it."

Wellemeyer and manager Tony La Russa both dismissed the idea of walking Kemp, or at least pitching around him, in order to get to the much less dangerous Brad Ausmus.

"We were going right after him," Wellemeyer said. "You've got righty-on-righty. You know his weaknesses, you know his strengths. Pitch away from him. We were staying away, and a slider, I just left [it] up."

La Russa said he felt it would be unwise to bring in Wellemeyer and have him walk the first batter he faced. So Wellemeyer took his chances with Kemp and lost.

Wellemeyer was pitching in that situation because Reyes, half of what has been a very effective left-handed tandem in the St. Louis bullpen this year, could retire only one of the three batters he faced. Entering the game with one out and no one on, Reyes walked Ethier after getting ahead of him, 0-2. The right-handed-hitting Blake singled before Reyes struck James Loney out.

If Reyes had put Ethier away, it might never have come to Wellemeyer in such a tough spot. Of course, if Wellemeyer hadn't struggled mightily over the previous two months, he wouldn't have been pitching in relief at all. It was Wellemeyer's first relief appearance since he was removed from the St. Louis rotation and his second since 2007.

And then there's starter Kyle Lohse, who if he'd been more efficient in his last couple of innings, might have prevented a situation where the Cardinals were down to their final two relievers in the 10th. Lohse was often in trouble but consistently got out of it and finished the sixth inning with a run allowed on five hits, and only 92 pitches thrown.

"I felt like I was doing good," Lohse said. "I threw too many pitches there the last two innings and I think that probably caught up a little bit. But I still gathered myself and made some pitches when I had to."

In both the fifth and sixth, Lohse allowed two runners to reach base and found himself facing tough hitters in tough spots. He got Rafael Furcal to pop up with two on to end the fifth, and he induced a grounder from Loney with two on to escape the sixth. That labor meant that he was done, handing the ball to Kyle McClellan for the seventh.

"That last out was a huge one," La Russa said, "and I think he was definitely on fumes there."

Still, it was far from a lost week for the Cardinals. They took three out of four from the best team in the NL and had every opportunity to finish off the four-game sweep. They just couldn't muster much off of starter Hiroki Kuroda or the Dodgers' bullpen.

Perhaps, in fact, the loss on Thursday was set up by the Cards' wins in the first three games.

"Psychologically, this game was important," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "It was important to win yesterday's, so you can imagine what today's game was."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.