ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals are scuffling, so it's a perfect time to face another contending team in the National League.
The Cardinals dropped four straight games against also-rans Chicago and Milwaukee for their first four-game losing streak at home since June 2009, leaving them three games behind NL Central-leading Cincinnati. And they swept the Reds a little over a week ago.
St. Louis is 10-5 against Cincinnati, and 15-18 against the Brewers, Cubs and Astros, mediocre teams in the top-heavy Central.
Even 17-game winner Adam Wainwright was dragged down during the home slide, pitching seven solid innings in a 3-2 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday that dropped the right-hander to 11-1 at Busch Stadium this season.
"I think baseball is such a unique and funny game," Wainwright said. "Some years you play great against good teams and bad against the bad teams.
"They call this the year of the pitcher and next year might be the year of the hitters. You can't really pinpoint why anything happens."
Now, the Giants, in the running for the wild card, come to town for a three-game series starting Friday night. And they need to turn it around too, entering with a three-game skid.
The Cardinals gave up a hitter (Ryan Ludwick) for pitching help (Jake Westbrook) at the trade deadline, and a sporadic offense is the culprit for the current slump.
Albert Pujols has eight homers in 15 games, but not many others are clicking.
Leadoff man Felipe Lopez is 4 for 41, and struggling at third base, too, making a key error in a loss to the Cubs earlier in the week. The Cardinals acquired Pedro Feliz from the Astros on Thursday in an effort to plug that hole.
Rookie Jon Jay has been a sensation, batting .350, but he struck out five straight times in the Brewers series. Cleanup man Matt Holliday is 2 for 15 and Yadier Molina, who has started 21 consecutive games at catcher, is 1 for 13. Rookie Allen Craig had been 0 for 14 with five strikeouts before getting a bloop single Wednesday.
"We're capable, and we've shown it," manager Tony La Russa said. "We just have to show it more often. Whatever the guy's doing to us, make the adjustment and make something happen."
The Cardinals were held to two runs in three of the losses. In the fourth, they were down 9-2 before mounting a five-run rally in the ninth against the Cubs on Monday.
Players insist there's no relaxing against teams they expect to beat.
"We've got a lot of ball ahead of us and by no means have we lost an edge," infielder Aaron Miles said. "Just because you have two bad series, it doesn't kill anything. We're ready to go."
The bats aren't showing it. That leaves the rotation with little margin for error, although Wainwright said he's already trying his very best.
"There's no buckling down," Wainwright said. "We're already buckled down. If you've got to buckle down more, you're not buckled down enough."
Wainwright had worked 25 1-3 consecutive scoreless innings before misplaying George Kottaras' RBI dribbler in front of the plate in the fifth Wednesday. Wainwright tried to glove the ball and flip it in one motion to the plate, a play the team practiced in spring training, but just got a piece of the ball and speedy Lorenzo Cain, who broke on contact, scored easily.
"I won a Gold Glove last year, I should be able to make that play," Wainwright said.
No doubt he's proud of his home-field run, but not satisfied.
"It's a good streak," Wainwright said. "I would never say I would take it because I never expect to lose."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)