PHOENIX -- With two outs in the top of the ninth inning and down by one run Wednesday, the D-backs clung to the hope they would have a chance to tie or win the game in the bottom of the frame.
But just how the team's fortunes have been during its most recent skid, the game slipped away in the blink of an eye.
J.J. Putz allowed five straight two-out hits and the Cardinals scored four times in the ninth to sweep the series with a 7-2 win at Chase Field and send the D-backs to their fifth straight defeat and seventh in their last nine games.
After Wednesday's meltdown, Putz's ERA ballooned to 9.00.
"He's not locating," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "Not throwing the ball where he needed to throw it. He couldn't control it. He hadn't thrown in four days, wasn't very sharp."
In a 1-1 game in the top of the sixth, a pinch-hit, two-run double with two outs from Matt Carpenter gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game at 3-1.
Six of the Cardinals' seven runs came with two down.
"They just keep coming at you," Gibson said. "If you don't locate the ball, they pound it. We just got out-executed the whole series. They out-pitched us, they out-defended us, they swung the bats better than we did and we're happy to see them go."
D-backs starter Wade Miley went 5 2/3 innings, holding the Cardinals at bay for most of the night, but the last batter he faced was Carpenter, who drove in two of the three earned runs with which he was charged.
"I was trying to go down and away and he did a good job of going with the pitch and put a good swing on it," Miley said about the Carpenter double. "I had to battle a little bit and I didn't make pitches when I needed to."
Lyle Overbay and Ryan Roberts each knocked three hits Wednesday and were the bright spots for the D-backs.
"We didn't get a win and that's the most important, but it was nice to get some hits," Roberts said. "I really tried to figure out a good mindset and stay upbeat in a positive mind frame. That helps deal with adversity sometimes."
Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse's night came to an end early when Carpenter pinch-hit for him, in large part because he suffered a left hamstring strain running the bases in the fifth, but the righty (5-1) allowed just one earned run on seven hits over five innings.
"They may be struggling over there, but they've got some good hitters who can put together some good at-bats," Lohse said. "When you come into these parks, you know it's going to be a battle and you have to keep it down as much as you can. I was able to make enough good pitches with my slider and changeup to keep them off balance"
The D-backs took their first lead of the series in the bottom of the second when the club strung together three straight two-out hits, capped by Miley's RBI single up the middle, to jump on the scoreboard first, 1-0.
"I was just hoping to get a fastball and put a good swing on it," Miley said.
One inning later, the D-backs ran into an out at home plate. With two down, Roberts singled to center with Overbay on second, but Shane Robinson delivered the throw in time to nail Overbay.
Miley, who was on deck, failed to signal Overbay to slide, making the tag much easier for catcher Tony Cruz.
"I got back there a little late," Miley said. "I went more verbal, I was screaming, 'Get down.' But he couldn't hear that. It's my fault, I need to get down and let him know to slide with the motion."
The Cardinals tied the score at one in the fifth on a Roberts fielding error, but Miley induced a double play with the bases loaded to get out of the inning without further damage.
"He threw fine, he battled," Gibson said of Miley (3-1). "He didn't get as far as he wanted to. They're a tough team to pitch against. He actually located the ball very well."
Matt Holliday doubled and Allen Criag homered in the ninth off Putz to each drive in two more St. Louis runs.
The D-backs worked the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning but failed to score as the game ended with Willie Bloomquist grounding into a double play.
"The guys played hard tonight, they battled," Gibson said. "We came out with a good attitude today, we played hard. We just couldn't cover these guys. They're a very good team, they're playing well right now. We had no answer for them."