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Closing mentality eluding reeling Cardinals

Club has lost leads in 7th inning or later in each game of their 4-game losing streak
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

CINCINNATI -- It read as the same script, only in a different setting Monday night as the Cardinals watched another lead wash away, this time during an abrupt onslaught by the Reds' lineup when it turned over a third time against starter Carlos Martinez.

Four seventh-inning runs led to a 4-2 loss for the Cardinals, who have dropped four straight and fallen back to three games below .500. All four of those games have played out similarly, with the Cardinals grabbing an early lead only to be overtaken late. In each of the last four games, their opponent has scored the decisive run in the seventh inning or later.

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CINCINNATI -- It read as the same script, only in a different setting Monday night as the Cardinals watched another lead wash away, this time during an abrupt onslaught by the Reds' lineup when it turned over a third time against starter Carlos Martinez.

Four seventh-inning runs led to a 4-2 loss for the Cardinals, who have dropped four straight and fallen back to three games below .500. All four of those games have played out similarly, with the Cardinals grabbing an early lead only to be overtaken late. In each of the last four games, their opponent has scored the decisive run in the seventh inning or later.

View Full Game Coverage

Going back even further to the start of the team's current 5-14 stretch, the Cardinals have lost nine games in which they were, at one point, ahead.

Mozeliak confident in collective improvement

"For the last two weeks, with every one of these, we've been in position to win almost every single game that we've been a part of here against some tough competition," manager Mike Matheny said. "And for one [reason] or another, it's gotten away. We have to figure out how to eliminate the big inning or capitalize when we have momentum going offensively. Just one piece after another seems to be the key that particular night to not allow us from doing what we need to do."

At times, they've gotten in their own way with defensive miscues or baserunning blunders. In other instances, an inability to pile on early has haunted them late.

On Monday, it was both.

Video: STL@CIN: Martinez brings home Pham with a bunt hit

The Cardinals broke through against Reds rookie Asher Wojciechowski in the fifth inning, which opened with hits from five of the first six hitters. The offensive burst put the Cardinals ahead, 2-0, but an opportunity to run up the score was thwarted when third-base coach Chris Maloney waved home Paul DeJong, who was running from second on Dexter Fowler's one-out single to left.

DeJong was out by several steps.

Instead of coming up with the bases loaded and one out, Matt Carpenter stepped in with two down. His deep flyout ended the inning.

"We've got to let our guys use their instincts if they see something," said Matheny. "You can't be afraid of this [second guessing]. You see something, you trust your instincts. There are times when we get things right, and there are times when we get things wrong."

An inning later, Stephen Piscotty was thrown out trying to advance first-to-third on a one-out single. It marked the 26th time this year the Cardinals have made an out on the bases, second-most in the Majors.

But blame is hardly one-sided. Inadequate late-game pitching has also contributed to this rut. A day after Michael Wacha lost his lead, Martinez did the same after allowing the first three batters to reach against him in the seventh.

It's been a precarious inning for the team all season, with the Cardinals having now been outscored, 37-17, in the seventh. They have allowed more runs (96) from the seventh to ninth innings than any team in baseball.

"It's been frustrating, especially not to be able to put our finger on exactly what's going on," Martinez said of this stretch. "I think that if we remain united as a team, we can get through this negative period and try to keep our mind positive."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

St. Louis Cardinals