MILWAUKEE (AP) — Struggling on offense was one thing for the St. Louis Cardinals. Committing three errors in an inning was another twist in a recent rough patch for the reigning champions, and just showing the effort to get back into the game isn’t enough for manager Mike Matheny.
Adam Wainwright got off to a shaky start and his defense didn’t help, leading to a four-run first inning and a 4-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday.
For the second game in a row, the Cardinals gave Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez trouble in the ninth, only to come up short.
“Bottom line is, we’re not content in here with just fighting back,” Matheny said. “We’re content to do our jobs, which is to win games.”
The Cardinals lost two of three to the Brewers and have lost five of their past six.
Wainwright (7-10) took the loss.
“I would say it’s a reason for a wake-up call,” Wainwright said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that we can play better ball than we are and that we have. We’ve proven that time and time again. We can’t live on last year.”
Rodriguez walked in a run in the ninth before getting Lance Berkman to fly out with the bases loaded, nailing down his second save since taking over as the team’s closer Tuesday night.
Cardinals players still believe they’re better than their recent performances would indicate.
“I’m not frustrated,” Berkman said. “I think we’re a good team and we’ll either get it done or we won’t.”
Norichika Aoki led off the game and reached on an error by Rafael Furcal, who charged a grounder but dropped it as he tried to get the ball out of his glove and make a throw. Nyjer Morgan then singled and Wainwright hit Aramis Ramirez on the left elbow with a 91-mph breaking ball. Ramirez stayed in the game, and Corey Hart hit a two-run single.
Wainwright then got two quick outs and appeared to be out of the inning when Carlos Gomez hit a grounder to Furcal — but Furcal’s throw to first was offline for his second error of the inning, allowing Ramirez to score. Berkman also was charged with an error on the play when he fell and lost the ball, allowing Hart to score and give the Brewers a 4-0 lead.
“We’ve been defending very well,” Matheny said. “(A) couple odd plays ended up hurting us.”
Wainwright recovered to go seven innings, giving up four runs — only one of which was earned — and four hits with nine strikeouts and no walks.
Brewers starter Tyler Thornburg went 4 2-3 innings, giving up two runs on a pair of solo homers. Thornburg was making his second career start after the Brewers decided to push Zack Greinke’s scheduled turn back to next week.
Thornburg had his big league debut against Toronto on June 19, a no-decision, and has made a relief appearance for the Brewers. Coming into Wednesday, he had given up five home runs in 7 1-3 innings. Home runs bit Thornburg again, as solo shots by David Freese in the second and Allen Craig in the third cut the lead to 4-2.
Thornburg was taken out of the game with two outs and a runner on first in the fifth, making way for Axford.
Axford lost the closer’s job to Rodriguez on Tuesday, in hopes that having Axford pitch in lower-pressure situations might help him sort out his struggles. Axford struck out Berkman to end the inning then gave up one hit in a scoreless sixth. Axford (3-6) got the win.
Wainwright still believes the Cardinals can be a dangerous team — but says they have to start showing it.
“We have to go out and play every inning like it’s the last inning we’re going to play,” Wainwright said. “Sooner or later, it will be.”
NOTES: Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal made his big league debut in the eighth, loading the bases but striking out Gomez to end the inning. “It was one of those moments I’ve always dreamed about,” Rosenthal said. “It was very special.” … Wainwright’s nine strikeouts tied a season high. … Ryan Braun was not in the starting lineup for the Brewers after aggravating a nagging groin injury Tuesday night. He is expected to return for a weekend series at Cincinnati after a day off Thursday.