MIAMI -- Trevor Richards once again befuddled batters with his tantalizing changeup. The rookie right-hander struck out seven on Wednesday night, with four coming on his most effective pitch.
But while Richards frequently relied on his changeup, he also was burned by one that Matt Carpenter belted for a momentum-changing home run in the sixth inning of the Marlins' 7-1 loss to the Cardinals at Marlins Park.
Carpenter connected on the game-winning blast for the second straight night, giving him five homers in his last six games. National League-leading home run No. 31 for Carpenter came on a 3-1 offering.
"He's seeing the ball well right now," Richards said. "I left a pitch up. I was down in the count. I threw him a changeup that was up in the zone. I wanted it for a strike, but not there. Obviously, he made me pay. I made a mistake. That's what good hitters do."
Richards threw 97 pitches, with 39 changeups -- 13 for swinging strikes.
"I got in a 3-1 count and was pretty sure he wasn't going to throw a fastball out over the plate in that particular instance," Carpenter said. "I had the changeup in the back of my mind. He left it up and I was able to hit it."
The Marlins lost two of three to the Cardinals after taking Monday's opener to drop their third straight series. Miami will welcome Thursday's off-day after losing for the eighth time in nine games.
"I feel like we need a day off right now, trying to regroup and come back Friday with a mentality of who we want to be the rest of the way," Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas said. "That's the bottom line right now. We know where we are in the standings, and we have a month and a half left to play baseball. I think we have to identify who we want to be from now on. I think we have to start playing better baseball and trying to finish this playing hard."
The Marlins didn't manage much offensively, tallying two hits and one run in six innings off John Gant. Miami finished with just three hits, and at one point, Cardinals pitchers retired 21 hitters in a row before Brian Anderson's one-out double in the ninth inning.
"We talked about it before the series, if you don't stick with your gameplan, [Yadier Molina] will cut you up, because he's calling that game," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "Those young pitchers aren't calling the game."
Richards endured a tough-luck loss, giving up three runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings.
In just his 17th big league start, Richards already is establishing himself as owning one of the Majors' best changeups.
After recording four more strikeouts via the changeup, Richards now has 51 strikeouts this year on the pitch. According to Statcast™, only the Reds' Luis Castillo (67) and the Cubs' Kyle Hendricks (66) have more.
The Cardinals struck quickly off Richards when Molina knocked a one-out home run in the first inning.
Miami tied it at 1 in the second on Rojas' RBI single.
Former Marlin Marcell Ozuna notched an RBI double in the sixth inning off Richards, and Paul DeJong recorded a two-run double off Kyle Barraclough in the eighth. Molina added a two-run double off Brett Graves in the ninth for the final margin.
Like rookie Pablo Lopez in Tuesday night's loss, Richards got into trouble in the later frames. Lopez allowed a two-run homer to DeJong in the seventh inning.
"You've got to keep pitching, and you've got to keep making pitches," Mattingly said. "As you get tired, it's hard to make pitches. Guys have seen you a couple of times. I think a lot like Pablo, it's good for him, what's going on. To see him pitch the way he's pitching, and Trevor is throwing the ball well, too. I think all these experiences are good for those guys."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The only times the Marlins had runners in scoring position were in the second and ninth innings. In the second, they collected back-to-back singles from Martin Prado and Rojas, accounting for the run that made it 1-1. Miami had first and second with one out in the inning, but rookie Magneuris Sierra lined out to first base. If that gets through, the Marlins likely take the lead and have two on with one out. The inning ended on Richards' groundout.
All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto is in an 0-for-21 slump, dropping his batting average to .290. Mattingly noted teams are throwing Realmuto more breaking pitches. Of the 13 pitches to Realmuto on Wednesday, six were sliders and three changeups. The veteran catcher saw 40 pitches in the series, with just 13 either four-seam or two-seam fastballs. He was thrown 11 sliders.
HE SAID IT
"This is going to be a task and a challenge for us going forward. If we want to go where we want to be, in the race for the playoffs, we've got to be ready to play meaningful games in September. That's one of the things I want to see how everybody reacts, when we play good teams who are in the hunt, especially on the road." -- Rojas
Following Thursday's off-day, the Marlins open a three-game series with the Mets at 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday. Jose Urena, who is 1-8 with a 4.29 ERA in 14 home starts, takes the mound for Miami. Since the All-Star break, he's 1-2 with a 6.60 ERA. Zack Wheeler gets the nod for the Mets.