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MIL@STL: Betancourt singles to left to plate Aoki

ST. LOUIS -- Ryan Braun could not remember a more disheartening Brewers road trip.

"It feels like we've been on the road for about a month," Braun said. "It wasn't very much fun, it wasn't productive, and we didn't do very many things well."

On Sunday, the team's frustration was there for everyone to see in the form of a former Cardinal, Kyle Lohse, who was visibly irked during and after the four-run fourth inning that sealed Milwaukee's 4-2 loss at Busch Stadium. A pitcher who had three losses in 33 Cardinals starts last season already has three losses against the Cardinals this year.

Braun & Co. shared equal parts blame for a defeat that capped an ugly 2-8 trip through Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, where the Brewers dropped all three series and slipped into last place in the National League Central. At 17-25, the Brewers are already 10 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cardinals.

Those birds have been particularly troublesome. The Brewers have lost 23 of their last 32 matchups with the Cardinals, including eight of 10 this season.

The differences between the 2011 NL Championship Series combatants were stark on Sunday. The Cardinals beat Lohse by stringing together six hits, five of them singles, in their four-run fourth. The Brewers stranded six men on base over the final four innings, including three in the seventh, when they loaded the bases with nobody out and failed to score. Jean Segura, who entered the day as the NL's leading hitter, popped out to first base before Braun, the team's RBI leader, grounded into a double play.

The "missed opportunities" storyline is growing old for Brewers manager Ron Roenicke.

"Same thing -- [the Cardinals] come through with big hits and we didn't," Roenicke said. "It's the same thing. They understand how to drive in runs. Some of it is experience, but it's a type of hitter. It's understanding what to do when you have people out there in scoring position, and what a pitcher is trying to do to you. And it's talent, too. The biggest thing is talent."

Lohse was cruising along against his former team, with only a harmless two-out single through three scoreless innings, but found major trouble in his second turn through the Cardinals' batting order. Carlos Beltran's single leading off the fourth inning was the first of six hits in the inning, five of them singles and four of them producing a run.

The softest hit of all was just as effective as the rest. With runners at the corners, one out and the Cardinals already up 3-0, eight-hole hitter Pete Kozma executed a squeeze bunt on a 2-and-1 changeup. Lohse charged the baseball as it rolled along the third base side but whiffed, and Kozma had a base hit and an RBI.

Then things got testy. Cardinals left-hander John Gast batted next, and with runners at first and second with one out, the percentages called for a sacrifice bunt. So Lohse buzzed the opposing pitcher with three consecutive inside pitches, the second of which Gast pulled back the bat as if to swing away. Another rookie Cardinals pitcher, Shelby Miller, tried the same play several times during Lohse's first two starts against the Cardinals.

Lohse declined to say whether it was Gast's attempted "slash" that set him off, but he had sharp words with Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo, and later, when Lohse batted in the next half-inning, with catcher Yadier Molina.

"They know what I had to say," Lohse said. "It had nothing to do with the squeeze or anything like that. It was something that happened after that. … I'll leave it at that. They know."

Lohse was just as hot about the rest of the Cardinals' rally, considering they hit a series of quality pitches. When Molina swung at a low and away slider, for example, Roenicke thought the Brewers had a double play. Instead, the baseball bounced into center field and the Cardinals had their first run.

"Baseball is weird, man," Lohse said. "You make some good pitches and they get some good hits. You try to keep the damage to the minimum. It's just, I know that team from being over there. Once they get it going, you have to try to slow it down."

Said Roenicke: "Kyle threw the ball well today, really well. … They hit the ball hard and they find holes. There's not much you can do. It's the same story. It's frustrating."

Again, Brewers batters provided meager sun support. In the seven games Lohse has started and the team has lost, the Brewers have scored eight total runs.

Three of his five recorded losses have come against his former team.

"To beat a guy three times in a row, especially a guy with command like that, it's tough," Cardinals third baseman David Freese said. "He's a good buddy of ours, but when he's on that mound, he's on another team. It's tough to beat a guy three times when a guy has that good of control."

Gast allowed no runs and only two hits through the first five innings before the Brewers struck for two runs in the sixth, both scoring on two-out singles against another Cardinals rookie, Seth Maness, after Gast had left the game. Slumping Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks had a chance for more, but he struck out swinging, leaving him 0-for-19 with nine strikeouts this season when batting with two outs and a man in scoring position.

The seventh inning was even worse for the Brewers, who opened the inning with a trio of singles against Maness, including Norichika Aoki's third hit of the afternoon, to load the bases for the Brewers' best three hitters -- Segura, Braun and Carlos Gomez. The Brewers never got to Gomez.

"We had plenty of opportunities," Braun said.

Now the Brewers will try to regroup at home, where they will draw the Dodgers' top three starters in a series that begins Monday with Yovani Gallardo on the mound opposite Clayton Kershaw.

"There were a few storylines from the trip," Braun said. "Not many of them were good."

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