Cardinals’ defense takes a rare day off

The Cardinals’ defense, at the top of the charts statistically for much of the season in the National League, sprang a few leaks on Thursday. And a still laboring right-hander Adam Wainwright was unable to stem the tide as the Cardinals lost a 7-5 verdict to San Francisco.

Rookie Matt Carpenter, probably unfairly exposed to a giant right field in AT&T Park, missed connections with a carom off the wall in the first inning, allowing an extra base to San Francisco shortstop Brandon Crawford.

Then Carpenter failed on a diving attempt as Giants’ catcher Buster Posey blooped a run-scoring single later in the first.

In fairness, Carpenter did make a leaping grab on a leadoff liner by right fielder Gregor Blanco.

First baseman Lance Berkman threw past Wainwright covering the bag on third baseman Emmanuel Burris’ leadoff grounder in the second. That led to two unearned runs.

And then third baseman David Freese one-hopped a throw which Berkman was unable to corral in the sixth, as the Giants scored another two runs. The Cardinals had made only 19 errors in their first 37 games but had three on Thursday.

“That’s not the kind of defense we’re accustomed to seeing, and it’s not the kind of defense we’ll see the rest of the season,” manager Mike Matheny said.

But Wainwright (2-5), who has suffered only one fewer loss than the other four pitchers in the rotation combined, still hasn’t found the form by which he won 20 games in 2010 before suffering a season-ending elbow injury last spring.

The right-hander has walked nine in his last 10 innings over two games, including four in 5 2/3 innings on Thursday.

“My fastball command was almost good,” Wainwright said. “Almost good is not good enough.”

NOTES, QUOTES

— RHP Kyle McClellan, who has had two major elbow surgeries in his career, both while he was in the minors, had to leave the game in the seventh inning when he felt pain. “There’s a fine line between regular soreness and pain,” said McClellan, who added that his elbow hasn’t felt right for 10 days to two weeks. “I didn’t think it was anything too serious. It had never got to the point where I didn’t think I wouldn’t be able to pitch.” But it got to that point Thursday, when McClellan retired only one of five hitters he faced in the seventh. He will return to St. Louis on Friday to be examined and surely will be placed on the disabled list.

— OF Allen Craig was unavailable on Thursday because of a left hamstring ailment he suffered in Wednesday’s game. “I don’t think it’s something that has to be a big deal,” Craig said after being examined by a doctor. The second-year player had driven in 19 runs in his first 13 starts after his right knee, operated on in mid-November, had healed.

— RF Carlos Beltran said he hoped to be able to play Friday in Los Angeles. He said he would test his knee in some pre-game sprints and he said: “If everything goes well, I plan to be in the lineup.”

— Although he had some defensive misadventures in the outfield, RF Matt Carpenter had another strong game offensively, singling his first three times up. Carpenter has shown to be among the best bench players in the league as a rookie.

— Having a little fun on their first West Coast excursion, a number of players arrived at the park wearing tuxedos. Last year, they sported turtlenecks on the last day of a West Coast swing. 1B Lance Berkman sported a pink tux.

— Cardinals pitchers walked nine hitters in eight innings on Thursday. Only two of them scored but RHP Adam Wainwright, also beset by a couple of errors in the field, had to throw extra pitches in the process.

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 — With LF Matt Holliday’s two-run homer in the third, three Cardinals have at least eight home runs, with 3B David Freese at eight and RF Carlos Beltran at 13. The Cardinals have a league-best 51 home runs.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “He’s close, but not there. I know there’s another gear.” — Manager Mike Matheny on RHP Adam Wainwright, struggling after missing season.