ST. LOUIS -- Now that the Dodgers have a legit slugger, they need to do a better job with those of the opponent.

Manny Ramirez's home run and two RBIs went to waste Wednesday night because he couldn't keep pace with Albert Pujols (grand slam) and Ryan Ludwick, the pair homering for the second consecutive night as the Cardinals defeated the Dodgers, 9-6.

The game was protested in the eighth inning by Dodgers manager Joe Torre over a bungled pinch-hitting substitution, but even Torre considered his appeal chances slim. The Dodgers have now lost four of their last six.

With better starting pitching, none of the late controversy would have occurred. But Derek Lowe checked in with his worst start of the year, pounded for eight runs on 13 hits (tying a career high) in only 3 1/3 innings.

"It was ugly," said Torre. "Not much I can tell you. Derek didn't get the ball where he wanted."

Lowe squandered a 3-1 lead, created a deficit that could not be overcome and forced Torre to burn through an already weary bullpen that allowed one run over the final 4 2/3 innings.

"Nothing worked all night long," said Lowe, who is 8-10 on the year and 1-6 lifetime against the Cardinals. "What are you going to say? Who knows? You can't throw them flat, sailing over the plate, and expect to get guys out. I paid the price and dug my team a huge hole.

"I've always said the hitters tell you how good your stuff is. Clearly, they told me where my stuff was today. The bottom line, when you stink, you stink."

That sums up the way the Dodgers have played against the Cardinals. They are 1-4 against the Redbirds this year, 6-19 since 2005, have lost 10 of their last 11 in St. Louis and are 1-8 at new Busch Stadium.

Los Angeles had 11 hits (three from Casey Blake) and has scored 10 runs in the first two games of this series without a win. Coming into this series, the Dodgers were 45-13 when scoring at least four runs.

"Losing is frustrating no matter how you lose," said Russell Martin, who is 5-for-22 batting ahead of Ramirez and will get Thursday's day game off. "Our pitchers have kept us together the whole year. They'll have a game like this every now and then."

Less than a week after the stunning acquisition of Ramirez comes the sobering reality. In five games as a Dodger, Ramirez is hitting .600 with three homers, seven RBIs and six runs scored. But the team is 2-3 in those games and actually has lost one-half game to the first-place Diamondbacks since he came aboard.

The Dodgers also are in a tough stretch of the schedule. After Thursday's series finale with the Cardinals, they travel to San Francisco for three, then come home for series against Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Colorado, then back on the road to Philadelphia, Washington and Arizona. From Aug. 5 through Sept. 3, they will have only one day off.

Lowe's inconsistency is puzzling. In his free-agent year, he was coming off two solid starts, a one-hitter for eight innings against Washington and a tough loss to the Diamondbacks in which he allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings. He hasn't won more than two consecutive decisions this year, and his ERA has swelled to 4.10.

"He hasn't had the sink the last couple of outings and doesn't get the ground balls," said Martin. "He made a mistake in a situation where he had to be aggressive and gave up hits to pretty good hitters."

The game was tied at 3 in the fourth when singles by opposing starter Joel Pineiro, former Dodger Cesar Izturis and Adam Kennedy brought up Pujols. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt went to the mound to strategize with Lowe to induce a double-play grounder out of Pujols, who instead launched the first pitch 417 feet.

"Too high," said Lowe, as he left the clubhouse. "Too high."