Slumping Cardinals lose 6-3 to Blue Jays

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman, left, pleads his case to first base umpire D.J. Reyburn after Reyburn ruled Toronto Blue Jays' J.P. Arencibia was safe at first during the third inning of an interleague baseball game Saturday, June 25, 2011, in St. Louis.

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman, left, pleads his case to first base umpire D.J. Reyburn after Reyburn ruled Toronto Blue Jays' J.P. Arencibia was safe at first during the third inning of an interleague baseball game Saturday, June 25, 2011, in St. Louis. Photo by The Associated Press.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Since Albert Pujols broke his left wrist, the St. Louis Cardinals are 1-4. Of course, they were struggling before the three-time NL MVP went down.

“It’s easy to point to that,” Lance Berkman said after a 6-3 loss Saturday night to the Toronto Blue Jays. “But we’ve got guys who are pretty capable.

“I don’t think you can lay it at the feet of any one thing.”

Starting pitching was a big reason Saturday. Carlos Villanueva worked six solid innings backed by Juan Rivera’s three-run homer, the only hit in a five-run third against Jaime Garcia (6-3).

Garcia kept his home ERA at a minuscule 0.88 because four of the runs in Toronto’s big inning were unearned due to third baseman Daniel Descalso’s two-out throwing error. But the left-hander gave up Rivera’s sixth homer the next at-bat and walked three in the inning, starting with the .078-hitting Villanueva.

“Definitely, that was a big key,” Garcia said. “No excuses for that, I didn’t get the job done right there. It was definitely what caused the whole big inning.”

Garcia had four strikeouts and four walks, one off his season high, in seven innings.

“I don’t think he’s real happy with his game,” manager Tony La Russa said. “Walk the first two guys, you pitch yourself into a position where something bad can happen.”

Edwin Encarnacion homered off Ryan Franklin’s first pitch in the ninth and Aaron Hill added two hits and a walk for Toronto, which clinched the series win right after getting swept at Atlanta. Reliever Frank Francisco’s two-out throwing error in the ninth gave the Cardinals an unearned run. St. Louis had the tying run at the plate before Ryan Theriot grounded out.

Theriot and Jon Jay had two hits apiece for the Cardinals, who have lost 11 of 14 overall and are two games back in the NL Central, their worst since being 21⁄2 out April 14.

“We’ve hit a little rough stretch and lost a few games but it’s a long season,” Theriot said. “Kind of like early on in the year, you don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill.

“A couple good weeks and it’s all forgotten.”

Matt Holliday was ejected for arguing a called third strike with two on and none out in the eighth and the next batter, Berkman, grounded into an inning-ending double play against Marc Rzepczynski.

Berkman said unfamilarity with the pitcher hurt him on the at-bat.

“That’s the problem with interleague, you don’t want to spot the guy a strike to look at one and try to figure out how is his ball moving, but you almost need to because you’ve never seen the guy,” Berkman said. “I had the right idea, but the pitch sank a lot more than I thought it was going to.”

Adam Lind had a sacrifice fly to tie it at 1 in the third the at-bat before Descalso made a diving stop on J.P. Arencibia’s smash down the line but made a throw that forced Berkman to leap high above first base to snare the throw. Berkman appeared to land on the bag about the same time as Arencibia’s foot.

“I thought I beat him to the bag,” Berkman said. “I can’t fall any quicker than that, it just wasn’t quick enough.”

Rivera had been in a 2-for-12 slump and had totaled five RBI this month before homering on a 1-0 pitch.

Notes: New Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith threw out the first pitch, well wide of the plate, then had the ball autographed by Cardinals pitcher Kyle McClellan. ... Blue Jays manager John Farrell used all of his bench players Friday night. Toronto went to 12 pitchers to add flexibility during the interleague schedule. “Given the way the eighth and ninth innings unfolded we took our shot every opportunity that arose to try to push across a run,” Farrell said. ... Garcia totaled five walks his previous four starts.

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