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07/03/10 12:35 AM ET

Narveson, Brewers take step backward

Lefty struggles in bid to keep rotation spot as offense fizzles

ST. LOUIS -- Given a chance to demand a permanent spot in the rotation, Brewers pitcher Chris Narveson came up well short.

Given a chance to prove they belong in the National League Central race, the rest of the Brewers followed Narveson's lead.

A subpar offense and a mediocre pitching performance when outstanding was required doomed Milwaukee against the rival Cardinals in a 5-0 loss on Friday night.

After looking so strong Thursday night in a 4-1 win, the Brewers took a leap backward as St. Louis evened the series at 1. Milwaukee managed just five hits, two by Corey Hart, who extended his hit streak to 17 games.

"How do I classify that outing?" Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "Ehh, so-so, that is probably how we played tonight."

"So-so is just not good enough."

With Doug Davis set to rejoin the rotation in the coming days, Narveson had a chance to lock up his spot with consecutive strong outings. In his previous game, Narveson stepped up to the challenge, tossing eight innings of shutout ball with seven strikeouts. Although Macha never confirmed consecutive quality starts would reserve Narveson a place in the rotation, the southpaw would have been hard to deny while on a hot streak.

Instead, Narveson stumbled out of the gates, giving up four hits and two runs in the first inning to put his club immediately behind the 8 ball. It is a familiar theme for Narveson. The left-hander has allowed 17 runs in opening frames in just 13 starts. He has allowed 32 baserunners in that span.

"We are trying to figure that out," Macha said of Narveson's spot in the rotation. "I have looked at it 100 times. I don't know where that puts him. But good outings, that helps people out."

Narveson managed to avoid giving up any more crooked numbers on the scoreboard, but he did allow a leadoff double to score in the third and gave up a solo home run to Tyler Greene in the fifth.

Narveson threw 73 pitches in five innings and was stung for seven hits and four earned runs.

"I think you try and take positives from it," Narveson said. "I was ahead of the batters, just unable put some away. But they did a good job hitting some good pitches, and that is what good [teams] do, so I have to figure out a way to get them out and I wasn't able to do that today."

Against starter Jaime Garcia, the Brewers were never able to get anything going.

The rookie came into the game with a 2.27 ERA and tossed seven shutout innings. He struck out seven against just two walks and retired the last 12 in order.

The Brewers' best chance to score came in the third. Carlos Gomez led off with a double -- his first since May 23 -- and Narveson and Hart followed up with walks to load the bases with two outs, bringing up Prince Fielder.

Any tension Cardinals fans were feeling was relieved pretty quickly, however, when Fielder grounded out softly to fellow first baseman Albert Pujols on the first pitch.

The slugger's numbers with runners in scoring position continue to plummet. Fielder is hitting .165 with a .228 slugging percentage with men on second or third base, and he has just 16 RBIs in 79 at-bats in those circumstances.

"Well if that is your pitch, I have no problem swinging at the first pitch," Macha said.

Whether the Brewers' morale deflated after that at-bat or Garcia's curveball left them flummoxed, it was the last threat Milwaukee would mount against the Cardinals starter.

Garcia retired the next 12 without issue, punching out four and keeping the ball in the infield for the next four innings.

"We didn't have many good at-bats after the third inning," Macha said.

Michael Bleach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.