ST. LOUIS — One by one, the St. Louis Cardinals have honored their departed World Series players and then gotten beat by them.
Ronnie Belliard made his first start in a week and had four hits, including a two-run homer, in the Washington Nationals’ 7-2 victory on Sunday. Belliard’s bat helped the Nationals take two of three, their first series win since 1999 when the franchise was in Montreal, and followed the successes of pitchers Jeff Suppan of the Brewers and Jason Marquis of the Cubs.
“It has nothing to do with that,” Belliard said. “I’ve just got to do my job anywhere I play.”
Belliard was honored with a World Series ring ceremony by his former team on Saturday. The ring will have to be shipped because he was sized too late.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to take and I don’t really want to think about it,” Belliard said. “When they send it, I’m going to wear it.”
Leadoff hitter Felipe Lopez added three hits ahead of Belliard, who batted second and made his second start of the year at shortstop. Ryan Langerhans added his first career grand slam, also his first home run of the season, off Randy Flores to cap a five-run eighth that included two hits, three walks and a bases-loaded wild pitch.
The left-handed hitting Langerhans has 16 career home runs, only two off lefties. Manager Manny Acta let Langerhans bat instead of using Austin Kearns as a pinch hitter, preferring to give Kearns a full day off and reasoning the Nationals already led 3-1.
“It was a huge hit,” Acta said. “He came up big against that lefty, which is good for his confidence.”
Washington has won five of its last six and 12 of 17 despite a decimated rotation, and its record of 21-30 is not far behind the disappointing Cardinals’ 20-27.
“They’ve been like that from the beginning of the season,” Belliard said. “We were just like that, too, but we’ve got a good young group of guys that want to go hard, and right now we’re playing good.”
Albert Pujols had three hits for the Cardinals and is 22-for-45 (.477) during an 11-game hitting streak that has raised his average 63 points to .302. Scott Spiezio homered in the eighth for St. Louis, which completed a 4-2 homestand.
“We played better ball,” pitcher Adam Wainwright said. “We played good Cardinal baseball for the most part.”
But the Cardinals, who also got a sacrifice fly from Juan Encarnacion in the sixth, have scored three runs or fewer in 19 games. They have won only won of those games. They wasted a strong start from Wainwright (4-4), who allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings.
“We had another frustrating offensive day,” manager Tony La Russa said. “We missed a real good opportunity to get something special rolling.”
Belliard’s two-run shot in the fifth was the only damage against Wainwright, putting the Nationals ahead 2-0. The homer was only the fourth off Wainwright and the first in six starts, and came minutes before a rain delay of 1 hour and 1 minute.
Wainwright returned after the delay and retired the last seven hitters, needing only 81 pitches to get through seven innings. He struck out six with no walks.
Saul Rivera (1-1) allowed one run and two hits in relief of Matt Chico, who allowed three hits in four scoreless innings.
Spiezio singled to start the sixth and Pujols doubled when right fielder Robert Fick barely missed on a diving attempt. Spiezio just beat Fick’s throw to the plate on Encarnacion’s fly ball to right, cutting the gap to 2-1.
REYES SENT DOWN: Anthony Reyes, who won the World Series opener for the St. Louis Cardinals last fall but has lost 10 straight regular-season decisions, on Sunday was optioned to Triple-A Memphis.
“He’s got some stuff that he can work on but he needs to have some success so he can start getting a better feeling,” manager Tony La Russa said.
Reliever Todd Wellemeyer will take Reyes’ spot in the rotation Wednesday at Colorado. La Russa said he did not consider Ryan Franklin, who competed for a starting job in spring training, for the opening.
Reyes is 0-8 with a 6.08 ERA in nine starts and allowed five runs and eight hits in 52/3 innings in a loss to the Nationals on Friday. He was 5-8 with a 5.06 ERA as a rookie last year, but made a name for himself with eight dominating innings against the Tigers in the Series opener.