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Brewers can't catch Cards in finale loss

Brewers can't catch Cards in finale loss

MILWAUKEE -- Maybe Rickie Weeks took the Brewers offense with him when he left to undergo season-ending surgery.

The Brewers continued to sputter without Weeks on Wednesday, when they stranded a runner in scoring position in five different innings of a 3-2 loss to the Cardinals at Miller Park. St. Louis took the series, two games to one, and reclaimed first place in the National League Central.

The Cardinals also sent the Brewers to their second consecutive series loss after Milwaukee had won or split its previous 10 series.

"We're just not scoring many runs," said first baseman Prince Fielder, who went 1-for-4 Wednesday and went 2-for-10 in the series. "I don't know what it is."

Brewers newcomer Frank Catalanotto drove in two runs with a triple in the fourth inning, but that was the team's only hit in six at-bats with runners in scoring position. The Brewers were 0-for-8 in the clutch in an 8-1 loss to St. Louis on Tuesday.

Is Weeks' absence being felt? The second baseman and leadoff hitter underwent surgery on May 18, the same day his teammates scored eight runs in St. Louis to win the makeup of a game rained out three days earlier. Since then, the Brewers have scored four or fewer runs in nine straight games while hitting only three home runs. They are 3-6 in that span.

One more stat stood out as the Cardinals left town: After working 23 walks during their three-game sweep of the Cardinals last week in St. Louis, the Brewers drew only five free passes this week at Miller Park.

"We're definitely not putting up as many runs as we were earlier, but that's just the pitching," said shortstop J.J. Hardy, who went 3-for-5 after missing the previous four games with back spasms.

"I'm sure after our series in St. Louis that [Cards pitching coach] Dave Duncan sat down with their pitchers, because we had gotten all those walks ... and his point of emphasis was to get ahead and throw strikes," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "Their pitching staff is pretty much on a roll right now."

Hardy had a chance to at least tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, when he batted with runners at first and second base. He grounded out to end the game against closer Ryan Franklin, who picked up his 12th save.

"We all miss Rickie. He was hot and doing well and helping the team, and it's tough to lose him," Hardy said. "But I don't know if that's the reason why our offense has slowed down."

Defense hurt the Brewers on Wednesday, too. Starter Manny Parra (3-6) walked Bendan Ryan leading off the game before Chris Duncan pushed the runner to third with a single. Parra struck out Albert Pujols, then induced what should have been a double-play grounder from rookie right fielder Nick Stavinoha. Hardy fed to second baseman Craig Counsell for one out, but Counsell's throw skipped past Fielder at first base as the run scored. By rule, Counsell couldn't be charged with an error.

"I just bounced the throw," Counsell said.

Stavinoha notched his second RBI of the day with a sacrifice fly in the third inning, then doubled and scored the decisive run in the sixth on catcher Jason LaRue's one-out single. Parra was charged with three runs on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings.

"I felt like I threw the ball well. Today was better than it has been," said Parra, who lasted only 3 1/3 innings in his previous start and allowed eight earned runs. "They did a really good job of situational hitting."

All three Cardinals runs scored after the leadoff hitter reached base. Ryan walked in the first inning and doubled in the third, and Stavinoha doubled leading off the sixth.

"You just have to tip your hat to that," Parra said.

The Brewers still had their chances. In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Brewers got a break when Pujols let a Mat Gamel grounder slip through his legs for his sixth error. It gave Jason Kendall a chance to bat with runners at the corners and two outs, but Kendall flew out against reliever Chris Perez.

In the ninth, Gamel worked a walk against Franklin to open the inning. With the pitcher's spot due next, Macha called for pinch-hitter Jody Gerut but didn't call for Gerut to bunt, citing his "assessment of watching Jody out there in our pregame workout," a strong hint that Macha doesn't yet have a read on Gerut's ability to get down a bunt. Gerut popped the second pitch to shortstop.

Franklin erased Gamel on Mike Rivera's fielder's choice grounder, leaving a much slower runner on base for Counsell's single to center field. Hardy followed with the game-ending groundout.

Brewers pitchers, who have been picked up many times this year by Milwaukee's high-octane offense, were keeping the faith.

"We're going to hit, you're just not going to hit every day," said reliever Todd Coffey, who worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings. "Our offense is fine."

"Those one-run losses are tough," Macha said. "You can pick apart a whole bunch of stuff that happened in the game, where you could have saved a run or picked up a run. The basic thing is [the Cardinals] did some good executing offensively."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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