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07/18/10 7:40 PM ET

Cards hand Dodgers fourth straight loss

ST. LOUIS -- Manager Joe Torre received numerous gifts for his 70th birthday on Sunday, but what he still needs is another relief pitcher.

He saw a four-run lead disappear in the final two innings, was forced to stick with All-Star closer Jonathan Broxton for an exhausting 44 pitches and then still had to explain a crushing 5-4 walk-off loss to the Cardinals and a four-game sweep.

"It's tough. Very tough," said Torre. "It looked like what should have been a good enough lead, we let get away, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves. We just asked too much out of Broxton. You don't want him to come in and face the same guy [Matt Holliday] twice. It's a tough one to let get away and much tougher under these circumstances. This takes a lot out of you. We had to go to him too early."

A year ago, he could have called on Ronald Belisario, but he's reportedly in treatment for substance abuse. Or he could have called on Ramon Troncoso, but he's back in the Minor Leagues working on his mechanics. George Sherrill, acquired a year ago for depth, has been ineffective all season.

So with Hong-Chih Kuo and Jeff Weaver unavailable on consecutive days, Torre followed six scoreless innings in the heat from Vicente Padilla with rookie Travis Schlichting and journeyman Justin Miller as the Cardinals mounted a three-run rally in the eighth that even Broxton struggled to put down after being brought in with one out. After the game, Jon Link was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque for the anticipated callup of James McDonald to start on Monday night.

"We used a lot yesterday and were a little limited today," Torre said of Saturday's 2-0 loss. "We need to have a full corps.

"I didn't want to go to [Broxton], but when they got the tying run to the plate, I felt it necessary to go to him. I don't want to go more than four outs and in this weather I didn't want to go four, but I had to go five. I'm not comfortable doing it. I just felt at that point in time, I had to. To me, Miller is more of a middle-of-the-game or length guy. Schlichting, his inexperience, I like his stuff, but today he had a couple walks and decided to change that.

"Certainly, we miss Belisario. I'm not saying we wouldn't be better served with him down there and Troncoso pitching the way he was last season. We've just got to get better up and down."

Broxton still led by a run and was looking for a save in the ninth, but allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina, a two-out walk to Jon Jay, a tying RBI single by Allen Craig (hitting .083 coming in and giving Albert Pujols a rest) and the game-winning line drive by Matt Holliday over the head of right fielder Andre Ethier to short-hop the fence.

The same crowd that gave Torre a standing ovation in the top of the sixth in response to a birthday announcement on the message board gave their Cards a standing ovation after Jay scored the winning run, leaving the Dodgers 3-15 in regular-season games at the new Busch Stadium since it opened in 2006.

"I didn't get it done," said Broxton. "I got myself in bad counts, walked [two] guys. They're all tough, any time they get away."

It was Broxton's third blown save of the year and first since his 48-pitch catastrophe against the Yankees on June 27. He's now had the two longest outings of his career in a span of three weeks. And it wasted another fine effort by Padilla, who allowed only one hit but got away with five walks, three in the sixth inning when the heat got him.

"He is throwing 50-mph curveballs. I don't think there is anyone else in the game doing that," Holliday said. "He hides his fastball well, and the delivery is the same for either one. However he has figured out how to do that, it is pretty impressive."

In the seventh, Torre batted for Padilla, who doubled in the Dodgers' first run. Ronnie Belliard, in an 0-for-22 tailspin, singled twice to start both rallies for a Dodgers starting lineup that was missing Manny Ramirez, Russell Martin, James Loney and Casey Blake.

After Belliard's seventh-inning single, third baseman Felipe Lopez missed A.J. Ellis' grounder for an error, pinch-hitter Garret Anderson doubled home Belliard, Ellis scored on a wild pitch and Matt Kemp walked with the bases loaded.

St. Louis scored three in the eighth, Schlichting walking Brendan Ryan and Jay, then Craig doubling them home off Miller and Randy Winn singling home Craig off Broxton. But Broxton finally put down the rally by getting a pinch-hitting Pujols to ground out to shortstop Rafael Furcal, who fought off a bad hop.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.