The St. Louis Cardinals have been in possession of a wild-card spot for the last three weeks.
It seems unlikely they'll still be in that position when the season concludes if they don't break out of their funk.
The scuffling Cardinals try to avoid being swept by the red-hot Padres for the first time in 17 years Wednesday at Petco Park.
St. Louis (75-67) has lost five of six and is 4-10 since Aug. 28, but still owns a one-game lead over Los Angeles for the NL's second-wild card spot. The Cardinals, who are averaging 2.0 runs while batting .203 in their last 10 defeats, continue their road trip Thursday with a crucial four-game series against the Dodgers, who've also lost five of six.
While St. Louis' struggles haven't caused it to lose that grip on a playoff spot - something it's occupied since Aug. 22 - they have allowed surging Milwaukee and Philadelphia to pull within four games."It's where we are at right now, and it's tough," Skip Schumaker said. "We are letting other teams in and it's going to make these next couple of weeks interesting."
The Padres (68-75) are probably too far back to make a serious run, sitting 7 1/2 games behind St. Louis, but they've been one of baseball's most dangerous teams lately, compiling an NL-best 16-5 record since Aug. 19.
The Padres have won 10 of 12 in San Diego, and things appear unlikely to get any easier for the Cardinals on Wednesday. They'll face new dad Clayton Richard (12-12, 3.78 ERA), who has won his last four starts at Petco and has a 0.38 ERA in his last three there.
The left-hander also didn't seem to have too much trouble in St. Louis on May 21, allowing two runs in 7 1-3 innings.
At Dodger Stadium last Wednesday, Richard was shaky, giving up three runs and 10 hits - all singles - in 4 2-3 innings of a 4-3 win. Two days later, Richard and his wife, Ashley, welcomed their first child, a son.
Opposing starter Kyle Lohse (14-2, 2.81) has actually had the best success of any St. Louis player against Richard, going 2 for 4.
Matt Holliday is 2 for 10, Yadier Molina 1 for 8 and Carlos Beltran hitless in three at-bats. Those three are a combined 4 for 24 (.167) with three walks in the first two games of the series for St. Louis, which hasn't been swept by the Padres since August 1995, in San Diego.
Logan Forsythe has carried the Padres' offense in the first two, going 4 for 10 with two doubles and three RBIs. He is also batting .400 with 10 RBIs and 10 runs in his last 13 games, raising his average 28 points to .288."We're playing good ball right now," he said. "Big hits in big situations. We're having fun."
Much of his success this season, however, has come against lefties, as he's batting .374 against southpaws compared to .239 against righties. This will be his first appearance against the righty Lohse, who has an eight-game winning streak over his last 15 starts.
Following a rain delay of 2 hours, 20 minutes against Milwaukee on Friday, Lohse gave up two runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-4, 13-inning loss. He bounced back after being shelled for eight runs against Washington on Sept. 1 to allow two runs or fewer for the sixth time in seven starts.
He hasn't faced the Padres since yielding a run and five hits in eight innings of a 3-1 win at Petco on May 23, 2011.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|September 09, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Swollen left ankle|
|September 09, 2012||Matt Carpenter||Day-to-Day||Cut hand|
|September 09, 2012||Jake Westbrook||Day-to-Day||Strained right oblique|
|August 31, 2012||Rafael Furcal||15-Day DL||Torn UCL, right elbow - out for season|
|August 30, 2012||Rafael Furcal||Day-to-Day||Left game - right elbow strain|
|August 28, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained upper back|
|San Diego Padres|
|September 11, 2012||Carlos Quentin||Day-to-Day||Sore right knee|
|August 23, 2012||Jason Marquis||15-Day DL||Fractured left wrist|
|August 17, 2012||Nick Hundley||Day-to-Day||Bruised right knee|
|August 16, 2012||Nick Hundley||60-Day DL||Bruised right knee|
|August 11, 2012||Huston Street||15-Day DL||Strained left calf|
|July 31, 2012||Yasmani Grandal||15-Day DL||Strained oblique|
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Another day, another loss, and more frustration for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Unlike last year when a tremendous stretch run lifted St. Louis to the NL wild-card berth and, ultimately, the World Series title, the Cardinals are sinking fast.
Clayton Richard pitched seven strong innings and rookie Yasmani Grandal singled home the go-ahead run as the San Diego Padres handed slumping St. Louis its 11th loss in 15 games, 3-2 on Wednesday.
The Cardinals remained a game ahead of the Dodgers for the second NL wild card after Los Angeles lost 3-2 at Arizona later Wednesday. The Dodgers host St. Louis in a crucial four-game series starting Thursday night.
"We can't depend on the other teams to keep losing," Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse said. "We have to take care of our own business. We have a big series coming up."
But the Cardinals need to find answers in a hurry. They have lost eight of their last nine road games and are in the midst of playing 13 of 16 away from home.
"We're going through a rough stretch, but at the same time, we're still in the hunt," said right fielder Matt Carpenter , who homered but hurt his club with a key error.
Carpenter's misplay on Cameron Maybin 's double in the fifth allowed an unearned run to score.
"I was trying to be aggressive and trying to get around where I could keep him from getting a double," Carpenter said. "The ball just got past me and I turned one bad play into another one by missing the cutoff."
"It's unacceptable," he added. "Those are the kind of things that cost you games. It just wasn't a good play."
Carpenter came back and hit a two-run homer off Clayton Richard (13-12) in the sixth to tie the game at 2.
St. Louis put a runner on third with one out in the ninth but was unable to score. World Series MVP David Freese and pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker both grounded out.
Last season, St. Louis went 23-9 down the stretch to capture the wild-card slot. But this team has played the complete opposite in the final weeks.
"Overall, it doesn't matter (how hard the team plays) because it all comes down to whether you win," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "They are still aware of the sense of urgency."
Logan Forsythe hit a solo home run for the Padres, who completed a three-game sweep of St. Louis for the first time since August 1995.
"I take it personally as a compliment to our players that we're able to do that," manager Bud Black said.
San Diego has an NL-best 17-5 record since Aug. 19 and has taken 21 of its last 27 games at home.
"It's exciting when we are winning and playing good baseball like we are," Richard said.
Richard (13-12) outpitched Lohse and gave up only three hits. The left-hander struck out five, walked one and hit a batter with a pitch.
Luke Gregerson pitched the ninth for his seventh save, working around a leadoff double by Allen Craig . After pinch-runner Adron Chambers was sacrificed to third, Gregerson got Freese on a grounder to third before walking pinch-hitter Carlos Beltran . Gregerson then retired Schumaker on an easy grounder to first base to end the game.
Lohse (14-3) had his eight-game winning streak snapped as he allowed three runs - two earned - on five hits over six innings. He struck out eight.
"He was sharp right from the beginning," Matheny said. "These are the ones we have to take advantage of."
Lohse's streak spanned 13 starts back to June 26.
Forsythe connected with two outs in the second to give San Diego a 1-0 lead. In his last 13 games, Forsythe has 11 RBIs and 11 runs while raising his batting average 29 points to .289.
Yonder Alonso singled in the fifth and went to third on Maybin's one-out double into the right-field corner. But when Carpenter overran the ball, Alonso scored.
Carpenter homered immediately after Jon Jay 's leadoff single in the sixth, but San Diego went ahead in the bottom half on Chase Headley 's two-out double and Grandal's run-scoring single.
NOTES: Beltran is in a 3-for-26 slump with one extra-base hit in his last 61 at-bats. ... Padres LF Carlos Quentin , who left Monday night's game with a sore right knee, was held out of the lineup for the second straight game. ... Matheny said LHP Jaime Garcia is still set to pitch Saturday night at Dodger Stadium despite a 2-6 record with an ERA of 6.19 in nine road starts. ... St. Louis opens a four-game series at Los Angeles on Thursday night with RHP Lance Lynn (14-7, 4.04 ERA) facing Dodgers RHP Josh Beckett (1-2, 3.86). ... San Diego is off Thursday before hosting Colorado for three games, starting Friday night with Rockies RHP Tyler Chatwood (4-4, 5.32) opposing Padres RHP Andrew Cashner (3-3, 3.46).