With the Cardinals' starting pitching inconsistent and their offense erratic, right-handed reliever Jason Isringhausen has had only 30 save opportunities in his first 55 appearances. Used in a non-save situation again Friday, Isringhausen walked two hitters, one intentionally, in the ninth inning, to load the bases and induce Chicago manager Lou Piniella to remove ace right-handed pitcher Carlos Zambrano for a pinch hitter.
But that pinch hitter, Daryle Ward, had had five of his 16 previous runs batted in against the Cardinals. Make that eight of 19, as he cleared the bases with a double and the Cubs withstood ninth-inning home runs by center fielder Jim Edmonds and left fielder Ryan Ludwick and then three singles before finally closing out the game.
The Cardinals had their first decent start in a week as right-hander Adam Wainwright gave up two runs in seven innings. But the second run was a solo homer by right fielder Cliff Floyd, breaking a 1-1 tie in the seventh after Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols had evened the score with a home run in the sixth.
"Extremely disappointing," said Wainwright of that turn of events. "I gave them the run right back." At 69-76, the Cardinals are farther under .500 than they've been since Aug. 10, when they were also seven games under.
"Give the pinch hitter (Ward) credit," said manager Tony La Russa. "I certainly don't blame Izzy because we got beat."
CHICAGO 5, CARDINALS 3: The Cardinals out-homered the Chicago Cubs, 3-1, but all the Cardinals' homers were solo blasts -- by Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Ryan Ludwick. Through eight innings, the Cardinals had only four hits and one run off Chicago's Carlos Zambrano, who has won his last seven decisions against the Cardinals.
NOTES AND QUOTES
--INF-OF Scott Spiezio went right into the starting lineup after coming off the restricted list Friday night. Spiezio, who had been treated for substance abuse, went nothing for two with a walk.
"The biggest thing was me admitting I had a problem," Spiezio said.
--1B Albert Pujols' 31st homer in the sixth snapped a homerless streak at 20 games and 75 at-bats.
--The Cardinals' last loss when they hit three home runs had come on Aug. 18 at Chicago. That score, too, was 5-3.
--RHP Adam Wainwright had gone 25 2/3 innings without giving up a homer before Cubs RF Cliff Floyd homered in the seventh.
--The Cardinals' last eight-game losing streak lasted from July 27-Aug. 4 last year.
BY THE NUMBERS: 12 -- The number of games under .500 (33-45) the Cardinals are against non-division opponents with three games remaining against Philadelphia and one against New York.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've won with this cast of characters. We can win again." -- Manager Tony La Russa, after the Cardinals' losing streak had reached seven, longest of the season.