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Wainwright struggles, slumping Cardinals lose 4-2 to Nats and fall farther back in NL Central

Adam Wainwright struggled for five innings and the St. Louis Cardinals lost again, falling to Washington 4-2 Sunday and dropping five games behind Cincinnati in the NL Central.

Wainwright (17-9) failed in his third bid to become the NL's first 18-game winner. The Nationals tagged him for four runs on six hits and three walks in five innings.

In his last three starts, Wainwright's ERA has increased from a league-leading 1.99 to 2.30.

John Lannan drove in two early runs, then pitched shutout ball into the seventh inning to leave the Cardinals at 2-5 — all against last-place teams — on their 10-game road trip.

Michael Morse hit a two-run homer as the Nationals posted consecutive wins for the first time since July 30-31. Morse had seven straight hits, one short of tying the franchise record, before a flyout his next time up.

Lannan (6-6) won for the fourth time in five starts. The left-hander allowed a run on eight hits in 7 2-3 innings, walked none and struck out four.

Drew Storen got the final four outs for his third save, despite allowing Pedro Feliz's ninth-inning solo homer.

Lannan staked himself to a 2-0 lead with a two-run double in the second. With runners on first and second and two down, Lannan lined a double to left for his first extra-base hit of the season.

Morse's two-run shot made it 4-0 in the third. With two down, Adam Dunn walked and Morse hit Wainwright's first pitch into the left-field stands for his 10th home run.

Morse nearly matched the team mark of eight straight hits set by Andre Dawson in 1983 and tied by Dmitri Young in 2007.

In the Cardinals seventh, Matt Holliday led off with a double and later scored on a Jon Jay's groundout.

NOTES: Both benches were warned after Storen threw the first pitch of the ninth inning behind Holliday. ... Holliday has an 11-game hitting streak. ... Less than 24 hours after he collided with Cardinals C Bryan Anderson in front of home plate while trying to score, Nationals OF Nyjer Morgan was held out of the lineup by manager Jim Riggleman so St. Louis wouldn't retaliate against him. "If Nyjer was playing today, he'd get hit. If an opposing player did that to my catcher and he came to the plate, he'd get hit," Riggleman said. Riggleman and many Nationals players apologized to Anderson and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa for what Riggleman called an "unprofessional" play, but Morgan did not. ... C Yadier Molina returned to the Cardinals lineup after missing two games with swelling in his right knee. ... St. Louis LHP Dennys Reyes, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left elbow, threw on flat ground Sunday, but his reactivation isn't imminent, La Russa said.