ST. LOUIS – Reinforcements may be on the way for the drooping St. Louis Cardinals.
After a 5-0 loss to Ricky Romero and the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, manager Tony La Russa said third baseman David Freese and utilityman Nick Punto could be back for the upcoming six-game trip. The Cardinals have a day off before opening a three-game series at Baltimore.
"I think we're looking hard at it right now, about activating them both for the road trip," La Russa said. "So far the reports are very good on both guys."
La Russa said it would be general manager John Mozeliak's call when to activate Freese, out with a broken left hand since May 2, and Punto, sidelined by a right forearm strain since May 18. No doubt, there's urgency considering the Cardinals got swept by the Blue Jays and have lost 12 of 15.
Freese in particular could provide a lift to the middle of the lineup, especially with Albert Pujols sidelined until August with a broken left wrist. Freese is batting .356 with two homers and 14 RBIs.
"We just got in a rut here," La Russa said. "We can use some help and I think some help's coming."
Romero threw a four-hitter for his second career shutout and helped break it open with his first career hit.
J.P. Arencibia homered and Yunel Escobar had two hits and an RBI for the Blue Jays, who had lost four in a row before arriving at Busch Stadium. All three starters worked at least six innings for Toronto, which climbed back to .500 and earned its first series sweep since May 13-15 at Minnesota.
The Cardinals wound up a 3-6 homestand. They're 1-5 minus Pujols, and have scored three or fewer runs in four of those games.
"It's not doomsday around here," first baseman Lance Berkman said. "This is a rough stretch, we're in a rut, but good teams figure out a way to stop the bleeding and get on track."
Kyle McClellan (6-4) gave up five runs in 5 1-3 innings. Romero got the big hit against him, a two-run single the other way, just inside the first-base line in a four-run sixth.
"That sixth inning, I just didn't make pitches when I needed to," McClellan said. "You try to get them to hit it on the ground and they do and it doesn't work in your favor, that's part of being a groundball pitcher.
"The other five innings I was able to get them to hit it at people for the most part."
Romero had been 0 for 14 with nine strikeouts for his career and 0 for 4 this year before the hit that made it 4-0.
Romero (7-7) threw his first since May 15, 2010, against Texas. He struck out five, walked two and kept going after taking a liner off his leg on Lance Berkman's infield hit with one out in the ninth.
The left-hander retired the first 10 in order before Skip Schumaker singled with one out in the fourth. The Cardinals' lone baserunner to make it into scoring position was Andrew Brown after getting a gift double in the fifth when both center fielder Corey Patterson and left fielder Juan Rivera pulled up on a catchable ball near the warning track.
Romero has thrown three of his five career complete games this season, ending up the loser in the other two. He worked at least seven innings for the ninth straight start, the longest active streak in the majors, going 5-3 with a 1.95 ERA during that stretch.
Toronto had three of its 10 hits in the sixth, plus Patterson's RBI grounder. Berkman threw wildly to the plate from the first base, allowing runners to take an extra base.
"I knew I was going to have to hurry and just never got a good grip on it," Berkman said. "It was a little cue ball, it was kind of spinning. I didn't have it and still tried to throw it and it didn't work out."
NOTES: Blue Jays manager John Farrell said Jose Bautista could move to 3B on Tuesday, a move designed to beef up the offense. Toronto has the day off Monday before starting a three-game series at home against the Pirates. ... Cardinals first-round pick Kolten Wong, a 20-year-old second baseman from Hawaii, took batting practice a day after signing. He's due to report to Class A Quad Cities on Monday. ... Cardinals C Yadier Molina, who has one RBI and no extra-base hits the last seven games, didn't start for the second time in the homestand. ... La Russa has used 68 lineups in 69 games. ... Toronto finished 5-4 on the road in interleague play, the franchise's first winning record since 2000.