MLB Insiders - St. Louis Cardinals

The Pirates open a two-game series in St. Louis on Wednesday night. Lefty Zach Duke will pitch for the Bucs. The Cards will toss right-hander Mitchell Boggs.

The St. Louis Cardinals are mired in their first extended losing streak of the season. Facing the reeling Pittsburgh Pirates might be what they need to end the skid.

With each club trying to avoid a fourth consecutive loss, the Cardinals and Pirates begin a two-game series Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.

The Pirates hope to change their luck with Zach Duke on the mound Wednesday.

After entering the season with four road wins since 2005, Duke (3-2, 2.21 ERA) will try for his third victory in as many starts away from home.

The left-hander, who allowed a run and six hits in seven innings of a 4-0 defeat to Cincinnati on Friday, is 3-4 with a 3.97 ERA in 10 starts versus St. Louis. He gave up three runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 7-4 win at Busch on April 8.

Inserted into the rotation in place of the injured Chris Carpenter, Mitchell Boggs (1-0, 3.29) will make his third straight start for St. Louis.

The right-hander allowed four runs and six hits while striking out nine in six innings of a 9-4 loss at Washington on Thursday.

This will be Boggs' first appearance versus Pittsburgh.

Right-hander Adam Wainwright's control was much better Tuesday, but not his command.

Wainwright, who had walked 18 batters in 29 1/3 innings this season, issued just two free passes to the Phillies in six innings. On the other hand, he had allowed just one homer in his first five starts, but he surrendered two Tuesday, including a damaging three-run blast by Jayson Werth in the fifth inning. The Phillies wound up scoring seven runs off Wainwright.

The loss was the first in four decisions for Wainwright, who hasn't pitched as well as his record shows.

"They beat him up," manager Tony La Russa said. "They squared a lot of balls on him."

Wainwright said he had good stuff but was not high on his overall performance, especially in the fifth, after the Cardinals had cut a 4-1 deficit to 4-3.

"The game came down to the Werth at-bat. If I get an out there, we probably win the game," said Wainwright, whose personal winning streak over two seasons was snapped at nine.

But looking at the proverbial drinking glass, relative to Wainwright, La Russa said, "I like half-full, not half-empty. He's not as sharp, and that's a good sign. The guy's not totally himself and he's given us a chance to win."

La Russa said he was not worried about Wainwright.

"I worry about guys who haven't won a game and their ERA is 5 or 6. Those are the guys I worry about," the manager said.

Phillies 10, Cardinals 7: Cardinals starting pitchers, who had given up only six homers in their first 25 games, have offered up four in their last two games. The two given up by Adam Wainwright accounted for four runs, offsetting solo blasts by Ryan Ludwick, Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols.

The Cardinals lost both games of the two-game series with the World Series champions and have lost three in a row for the first time this season.

Notes, Quotes

• CF Rick Ankiel was released from the hospital Tuesday after his frightening run-in with the outfield wall Monday. Though he said he generally was sore all over, especially in his right shoulder, no structural damage was found, and GM John Mozeliak said the club probably would play short-handed for a couple of days rather than disable Ankiel. "I'm lucky to be walking today," Ankiel said.

• Before Tuesday, 1B Albert Pujols hadn't homered off RHP Brad Lidge in the regular season, although his playoff home run off Lidge in 2005 was the stuff of legend. Pujols hit a 447-foot solo shot off Lidge in the ninth inning Tuesady. That was his only hit of the night, and his career average of .272 against Philadelphia is his lowest against National League teams. Pujols, however, reached base for the 26th straight game.

• The Cardinals lost 31 games out of the bullpen and also blew 31 saves last season. Through 25 games this year, they had blown five saves and suffered five bullpen losses, but they also had recorded nine saves, and veteran RHP Ryan Franklin was 7-for-7 in save opportunities. "It's something I know I can do," said Franklin. "It's just a matter of if they thought I was the best fit for the role."

By The Numbers: 1—Number of extra-base hits (a double by SS Brendan Ryan out of the 20 hits the Cardinals had in Atlanta, where they won two of three games.

Quote To Note: "He was always the guy. These guys we're developing as closers… they weren't there yet."—Manager Tony La Russa on his preference for veteran RHP Ryan Franklin as his closer rather emerging young RHPs Jason Motte and Chris Perez.

Roster Report

A 14-3 beginning by their starting pitchers helped propel the Cardinals to a sizeable lead in the National League Central Division after the first month of play. RHP Ryan Franklin's perfect performance in save opportunities helped, and LF Chris Duncan(notes) continued a significant comeback from a herniated disk, which hampered him virtually all last season. The announced goal for OF-turned-2B Skip Schumaker was for him to be "average" at second base. Schumaker seems to achieved at least that.

Player News:

• SS Khalil Greene, who hasn't started since April 28 because of a strained right forearm, has been cleared to start Wednesday. Greene played three innings in the field and had two at-bats Tuesday. "I've had a couple of pinch-hit at-bats, so it's not like I'm too rusty on that end of it," said Greene.

• The Cardinals' three-game losing streak is their longest since they dropped seven straight from Sept. 10-17 last year. Their loss on Cinco de Mayo was their eighth straight on that date, and LHP Denny Reyes, their lone Mexican player, was touched for two runs in one-third of an inning.

• SS Tyler Greene, a rookie, had the first two-hit game of his big-league career and also moved to second base for the first time in the majors.

Medical Watch:

CF Rick Ankiel (head, sore right shoulder) spent the night in a hospital after crashing into the wall making a catch May 4. He didn't play May 5, and he might miss a few more games.

SS Khalil Greene (sore right forearm) didn't start April 29-May 5. He is expected to return to the lineup May 6.

INF Brendan Ryan (left hamstring strain) went on the 15-day disabled list April 30.

RHP Chris Carpenter (torn left oblique muscle) went on the 15-day disabled list April 15. He is likely out six to eight weeks.

3B Troy Glaus (right shoulder surgery in January 2009) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 27. He didn't heal as quickly as was hoped, and he may not play before July.

LHP Jaime Garcia (Tommy John elbow surgery in September 2008) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 27. He likely will miss all or nearly all of the 2009 season.

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