WASHINGTON (AP) - Not much is going right for the St. Louis Cardinals these days.
Not even for Albert Pujols.
Pujols made two errors at third base that led to a pair of unearned runs and the Cardinals lost their season-worst fifth in a row, falling 10-0 to Livan Hernandez and the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night.
Pujols has started four games at third this year - all in the past month - for the first time since 2002. That rustiness at the hot corner was noticeable Wednesday. Not that he's going to ask to stop playing there.
``There is no excuse,' said Pujols, normally the team's first baseman. ``You think because I had a tough night tonight I don't want to play third? C'mon.'
St. Louis has been outscored 17-0 over the last 13 innings, including the last four innings of Tuesday's 8-6 loss to Washington. Hernandez (4-8) pitched a three-hitter for the Nationals, striking out six and walking none in the ninth shutout of his 16-season career. Jon Jay was the only St. Louis hitter to reach second base, doubling in the fifth off Hernandez.
``We scored 10 runs and hit four home runs today - that was great,' Hernandez said. ``Everybody is working hard every day to win some games and now we've got five in a row. Let's see what happens.'
The Nationals' Michael Morse hit a solo homer in the second for a 1-0 lead.
In the third, Jayson Werth hit a routine grounder to Pujols and his soft throw across the diamond handcuffed Lance Berkman. After Roger Bernadina singled, Zimmerman singled home a run.
Morse and Danny Espinosa doubled to begin a three-run fourth. Ivan Rodriguez added an RBI single, Hernandez sacrificed and Ian Desmond hit a hard grounder to Pujols, who couldn't make the backhanded stop, allowing another unearned run to score. Bernadina made it 5-0 with a bloop double down the left-field line.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa defended Pujols, saying that Berkman should have caught the errant throw.
``If we had the seventh game of the World Series ... I would play him at third base and be hoping they hit 27 balls to him,' La Russa said. ``That's how good a third baseman he is.'
In his return from the disabled list, Cardinals starter Kyle McClellan (6-3) gave up five runs and seven hits in five innings.
McClellan said that his hip felt fine and his curveball was the best it has been all season, but that he threw three ``pretty not good' pitches to Morse and Espinosa.
The St. Louis bullpen allowed five runs and eight hits over the final three innings. Jay had two hits and Ryan Theriot was the only other baserunner against Hernandez.
``We're in a little bit of a rut right now,' La Russa said. ``We've just got to change it tomorrow.'
Notes: Cardinals OF Matt Holliday will come off the disabled list Thursday after missing 13 games with a left quadriceps injury. ``He had a workout today and he's good. He makes our lineup better and deeper,' La Russa said. ... Outfielder Andrew Brown earned another start for St. Louis after impressing La Russa in his first MLB start Tuesday. ``He had some good at_bats,' La Russa said. Brown went 0 for 3 Wednesday. ... Rodriguez threw out Theriot attempting to steal second in the fourth, increasing the Nationals' MLB-best percentage (19 of 41) against would-be base stealers.
The Associated Press News Service
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