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STL@MIL: Wainwright strikes out nine in solid outing

MILWAUKEE -- With the Cardinals' offense scuffling the way it has since the All-Star break, the margin for error has been small for the defending World Series champions.

Unfortunately for St. Louis, errors were a large part of Wednesday's game against the Brewers at Miller Park. And while the offense still didn't break out of its slump, the defense committed three costly miscues -- tied for a season high -- behind starter Adam Wainwright on the way to a 4-3 loss.

"There's been some weird stuff happening," Wainwright said. "But as a pitcher, all you can do is go out there and try to make the next pitch. Can't really control what goes on behind you or anything else, you just make the pitch and trust your defense."

The Cardinals' defense failed Wainwright in the top of the first, when Milwaukee scored all four of its runs and St. Louis not-so-coincidentally committed all three of its errors.

Leadoff hitter Norichika Aoki reached safely on shortstop Rafael Furcal's throwing error, and three batters later, the bases were loaded. Corey Hart capitalized for the Brewers, hitting a single to bring in the first two runs.

Wainwright then recorded the first two outs of the inning before inducing a groundball by Carlos Gomez that likely should have ended the threat. However, after Furcal fielded the ball cleanly, his throw drew first baseman Lance Berkman off the bag, allowing Gomez to reach and Aramis Ramirez to score. Trying to tag Gomez, Berkman fell to the ground and lost the ball, registering the play's second error and permitting the fourth run of the inning to cross the plate.

"It's like a receiver hitting the ground," Berkman said. "When I hit the ground, the ball came open a little bit and my momentum kind of threw it."

St. Louis immediately got two runs back in the next two innings, as David Freese led off the second with a home run and Allen Craig added a solo shot of his own in the third.

Meanwhile, Wainwright recovered completely after a tough opening stanza, following it up with six shutout innings. Wainwright, who was only charged with one earned run, surrendered just four hits on the day while striking out nine.

"I'm real impressed with how Adam kept his composure and just got better as he went," manager Mike Matheny said. "I thought that was one of his best outings if you knock out that first inning, and he could have been out of that a couple times."

Wainwright confirmed that Wednesday was his best performance of the season, saying he "felt in command of the game most of the time." Matheny specifically cited the third inning, when Wainwright surrendered a leadoff double to Ramirez before Ramirez advanced to third on a wild pitch.

"He comes out and just gets nastier," Matheny said of Wainwright, who struck out the next three batters. "That's Adam. That's why he's got so much respect in here -- for a number of reasons -- but certainly as a pitcher, he makes pitches when he has to."

Wainwright's effort kept his team alive on Wednesday, and as they did in the first two games of the series, the Cardinals made it interesting until the very end.

St. Louis loaded the bases with two outs against new Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez in the top of the ninth. The Cardinals then cut the deficit to one on a walk by Freese. In the next at-bat, Berkman, who returned to the team last weekend after missing almost two months with a knee injury, hit a long fly ball that looked like it had a chance before left fielder Nyjer Morgan made the catch.

Berkman, making just his second start since May 19, said almost everything about his swing feels great.

"I just don't have my bat speed right now," Berkman said. "That ball I hit in the ninth, that's a grand slam. That ball's hit well enough on the bat that I feel like if I have my normal bat speed, it goes out of the park. But I don't, and it died at the warning track."

Tuesday's game also saw St. Louis nearly mount a rally on Rodriguez in the ninth, but he escaped that one as well. The veteran reliever said all it takes to get out of those spots is doing what Matheny and his players have been preaching.

"Not give up," said Rodriguez, who has 294 career saves. "Keep fighting, keep fighting. I'm not going to give in."

Neither are the Cardinals, who despite losing five of six since the All-Star break -- including three one-run losses -- did not appear ready to worry about what the recent struggles could mean for their season.

"From a players' perspective, the way we look at it, you come and try to play hard every day," Berkman said. "And nobody wants to make errors, nobody wants to not pitch well, nobody wants to not hit well with runners in scoring position. You go out there, you play as hard as you can, you give the effort and you just hope that it happens. There's no magic formula. ... If we're good enough, we're good enough. And if we're not, we're not."

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