Few bright spots in Cardinals' lackluster Philly finale

By the end of the third, the score was 5-0 and the Cardinals threatened only once only over the final five innings.

Justin Masterson walked the first batter he faced Sunday and his fifth start with the Cardinals did not get any better from there. 

Eric Hartline / USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals haven't exactly been road warriors since the All-Star break.

A 7-1 loss at Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, in which they never were quite in the game, clinched the Cardinals their fourth straight losing series outside of Busch Stadium. Just as disappointing, only one of those series came against a winning team, the Orioles, who embarrassed the Cardinals with a nine-homer barrage in the first two games.

Facing journeyman right-hander Jerome Williams, a pitcher against whom they've had plenty of success, the Cardinals' bats were as flat as starter Justin Masterson's command was off.

By the end of the third, the score was 5-0 and the Cardinals threatened only once over the final five innings. That was in the sixth when, with two on, Oscar Taveras smoked a line drive right at second baseman Chase Utley for an inning-ending double play.

Manager Mike Matheny said Saturday night's 12-inning win that took nearly five hours was not a reason the Cardinals did not play well.

"They had a long one, too," Matheny said. "Guys came in here, had a lot of life on the bench. It didn't feel like we were dragging."

The loss ended a 10-game run during which the Cardinals scored at least five runs. Not surprisingly, they won eight of those 10. Next up are three games at Pittsburgh, a place they have not won very often lately. The Cardinals are 8-14 at PNC Park since Matheny took over as manager.

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-- Nick Greenwood. Thanks to the rookie left-hander, the Cardinals' bullpen enters the Pittsburgh series in good shape. When Masterson went only three innings, it looked like the bullpen would be busy. But Greenwood worked three perfect innings before he tired in the seventh and gave up a two-run, one-out homer to Jimmy Rollins. It was the second time since he was called up that he saved the bullpen after a failed start by Masterson.

-- Oscar Taveras. He extended his hitting streak to six games by pulling a hard grounder to right for an RBI single in the fourth and he doubled in the ninth. Since Taveras sat out two starts following a disappointing effort in Miami, he is hitting .387 (12 for 31). But an even better sign that he is adjusting to the big leagues was seen in the dugout Saturday night. Taveras was smiling big and had some nice pats on the batting helmet for Matt Carpenter after Carpenter drove in the go-ahead run in the 12th. Taveras looked like he was having fun, which isn't how he has always looked since arriving in St. Louis.

-- Jhonny Peralta. He went 2 for 3, scored the team's only run and had their only extra-base hit with a fourth-inning double. Peralta has lifted his batting average to .266, which equals his season high and is one point off his career .267.


-- Masterson. He walked the first batter he faced and his fifth start with the Cardinals did not get any better from there. Masterson lasted only three innings and gave up at least a run in each, five in all. Masterson has made only one strong start in his short time with the Cardinals but is likely to get at least one more try. With a doubleheader Saturday, the Cardinals don't have the luxury of using Thursday's off day to bypass a starter.

-- Timely hitting. After one of their best weeks of hitting with runners in scoring position, the Cardinals endured one of their worst weekends in that department. Including a 1-for-8 showing against Philadelphia's Williams, the Cardinals finished the weekend 4 for 30 with RISP. Most of that miserable showing occurred in a game they won, though. The Cardinals went 2 for 18 with RISP in their 12-inning win Saturday night. Still, it was no coincidence that the Cardinals averaged 5.4 runs on the homestand when they hit .292 with RISP.

-- Record vs. NL East. A year after the Cardinals dominated the NL East with a 23-10 record, they went 17-16 against the division this year. The Cardinals finished with a winning record against only one team from the East, the first-place Nationals (5-2). They finished 3-4 against the last-place Phillies.  

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter @StanMcNeal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.

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