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Punchless Phillies lose fourth in a row

Roy Oswalt was happy with his first start off the disabled list. Like the rest of the Philadelphia Phillies' rotation lately, he could have used a little offense.

Oswalt allowed a run on seven hits in five innings, but left trailing by a run in the Phillies' 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night. He threw 76 pitches in his first appearance since being sidelined by lower back inflammation on April 26.

"I actually felt pretty decent coming out of the bullpen," he said. "I was able to throw two or three different pitches for strikes. It helps out a lot."

The 33-year-old Oswalt expects to hit 100 pitches by his third start.

"I like the way he threw the ball," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I thought his fastball was fine. I thought for the time he'd been off, he was very good."

Lance Berkman lined a bases-loaded single over a drawn-in outfield with one out in the ninth inning to give the Cardinals a two-game sweep of the run-starved Phillies, who have scored only seven runs on 17 hits with makeshift lineups during a four-game losing streak. Oswalt faced his former Astros teammate for the first time, and Berkman had a single that ricocheted off the second base bag and walk in two at-bats.

"That wasn't that great of a hit. Roy's got good stuff, I was impressed," Berkman said. "He told me yesterday he wasn't feeling great and if that's what he looks like when he's not feeling great I don't want to face him when he is."

Berkman said he hadn't batted against Oswalt since the Instructional League in 1997.

The Phillies became the last team in the majors to lose three in a row Monday and the four-game skid is their first since last Aug. 23-26. Ryan Howard was 0 for 4 and struck out his last three at-bats against Garcia, failing to reach base safely for the first time in 23 career games in his hometown.

"We're in a rut right now," Ben Francisco said. "Nobody is hitting. The pitching is doing the job. It's frustrating."

Jaime Garcia allowed five hits and an unearned run in eight innings for the Cardinals, but gave up a 1-0 lead in the eighth — enabled when second baseman Tyler Greene dropped Jimmy Rollins' routine pop fly with one out. Rollins eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Placido Polanco.

Garcia is 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA, tying for the National League lead, and has permitted only one earned run on 15 hits in 31 innings at home. Fernando Salas (2-0) had a strikeout in a perfect ninth.

Berkman walked with one out in the fourth and scored on a close play at the plate on Yadier Molina's single. Third base coach Jose Oquendo was aggressive and sent him home on Molina's single to shallow left, and Berkman's hook slide barely eluded catcher Dane Sardinha's tag after an off-line throw from John Mayberry Jr.

Ryan Theriot, Jon Jay and Albert Pujols opened the ninth with three straight singles off Danys Baez (1-2) — Jay on a broken bat and Pujols on a flare that plopped into right field barely out of the reach of second baseman Pete Orr. Matt Holliday, in an 0-for-13 slump, grounded into a forceout at the plate with the infield in before Berkman lined J.C. Romero's first pitch over the head of center fielder Mike Martinez.

Phillies rookie reliever Michael Stutes threw three pitches to open the sixth before leaving with a strained muscle in his right side. Stutes fell behind 3-0 to Berkman before looking to the dugout for help and pointing at his right shoulder.

Notes: Garcia has 26 strikeouts and six walks at home. ... Cardinals CF Colby Rasmus was not in the lineup for the third straight game with a minor abdominal injury, but said he was ready to play and got a favorable report from the team's medical staff Monday night. Rasmus said he originally was injured lifting weights more than a week ago. ... The Phillies were the last team in the majors to lose three in a row. ... Phillies C Carlos Ruiz, in a 1-for-32 slump, got a day off. ... CF Shane Victorino (right hamstring) missed his second straight start. ... Cardinals 2B Skip Schumaker (triceps) begins a rehab assignment at extended spring training in Jupiter, Fla., on Wednesday. ... Mayberry is 2 for 2 on steals against Cardinals C Molina, with one in each game. ... Oswalt had thrown at least six innings in his 26 previous starts against St. Louis.