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CIN@STL: Rolen's grounder puts the Reds on the board

ST. LOUIS -- Reds manager Dusty Baker loves making basketball analogies about his team trying to roll into the All-Star break strong by sinking a three-pointer, stealing the inbounds pass and getting a layup before the buzzer.

Here is a different one: During the Reds' 8-1 loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday, they were a team that looked flat on the court and in frequent need of a 20-second timeout to regroup.

"Nothing went right tonight. Bad night. Terrible, actually," Baker said.

The fourth-place Reds, who have scored just one run in back-to-back losses to St. Louis, have fallen to 43-44 and are four games behind the first-place Cardinals. Cincinnati had not been below .500 since it was 14-15 on May 3.

In losing four of the past five games, all of Cincinnati's defeats came while it scored two runs or less. Baker, general manager Walt Jocketty and the coaching staff met behind closed doors after the game -- which could be an indication of some roster changes.

"We're a good team but we're just playing terrible ball," second baseman Brandon Phillips said. "If you look at our team up and down the lineup, we have some of the best talent of any team. Right now, we're just not putting it all together.

"I know it's very frustrating for our fans. It really is. We just have to find a way to put it together because the ball that we're playing right now, it's unacceptable."

Albert Pujols was activated from the disabled list, but his home run bat was kept idle in the Cardinals' dugout. Reds starter Edinson Volquez gave up two first-inning home runs and three long balls overall. Over 5 1/3 innings, he allowed seven runs (six earned) on seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts. He's pitched less than six innings and allowed four or more runs in three of his past four starts.

In six starts since his return from a demotion to Triple-A Louisville, Volquez is 2-2 with a 5.29 ERA. He posted a 6.35 mark in the 10 starts before going down.

When asked if there was hope for Volquez, the usually positive Baker was essentially mum.

"I don't know," Baker said. "This game sort of frustrates you. I'm frustrated right now. The best thing to do is not talk too much."

It had been a while since Volquez had the Reds singing the first-inning blues. He came into the night with a 12.00 first-inning ERA, but one thing he hadn't done since returning from exile was cough up runs in the opening frame. Until Tuesday, that hadn't happened in his previous five starts.

But happen it did in a big way during the first frame, even after Volquez had already recorded two outs.

For the first of his two home runs, Matt Holliday slugged a 1-1 pitch into the left-field seats for a solo shot. On the very next pitch, a 96-mph Volquez fastball over the plate, Lance Berkman went very deep to right field for back-to-back homers. Berkman's shot, estimated at 452 feet, established a new Busch Stadium III record.

"You can't make a mistake with those guys," Volquez said.

In the Cardinals' fifth, Reds shortstop Paul Janish could not handle a Ryan Theriot ground ball, and it opened the door against Volquez. Jon Jay lined a single into left field before Holliday hit an 0-1 pitch to left-center field for a three-run homer and a 5-1 Cincinnati deficit.

"It was just missed location. That's kind of what was happening all night," Baker said. "If it was supposed to be outside, it'd be inside. Up here, you miss location and you get hurt."

Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia, who entered with a 0.88 ERA in seven home starts this season, wasn't his sharpest, but he didn't have to be.

Garcia kept the Reds hitless until a Phillips leadoff double in the fourth. In a sign of how much St. Louis thought of the Cincinnati offense with just a 2-0 lead, they kept the infield back with Scott Rolen up and Phillips on third base. The run scored when Rolen grounded out to shortstop.

Lifetime vs. the Reds, Garcia has a 5-0 record.

"I try not to worry about my numbers before against them, what I've done," Garcia said. "I'm trying to get better."

The Reds had a chance to inflict serious damage in the fifth, loading the bases with two outs following a Drew Stubbs walk. Phillips did not come through, however, grounding into a fielder's choice.

In the seventh against reliever Lance Lynn, after a Janish double put runners on second and third with one out, pinch-hitter Chris Heisey and Stubbs both struck out. The Reds struck out 10 times on the evening.

"One thing is, we have to make more contact," Baker said. "You're not going to hit if you're not making contact."

St. Louis added three more runs in the sixth against Volquez and reliever Sam LeCure, and that easily put away the game. In a sign of the Reds' plight, both Phillips and Joey Votto were lifted for pinch-hitters in the eighth to give them a small break.

"There's not a whole bunch to say when you get killed like that," Baker said.

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