ST. LOUIS -- All the proper ingredients were in place for the Marlins to walk out of Busch Stadium with a sweep and tied with Philadelphia atop the wild-card leaderboard. The Phillies had lost by the time the Marlins took the field Thursday night, and Brett Tomko -- who had never won a game in his home park -- was on the mound for the St. Louis Cardinals.
So much for that.
Tomko, on his 17th try at Busch, finally won. And the Marlins headed off to Milwaukee with neither a sweep nor a share of the top wild-card position. The Cardinals won 3-0.
For Tomko, defeating the Marlins came with a sense of satisfaction because it came at the expense of manager Jack McKeon. Tomko played for McKeon in Cincinnati in 1999 but was traded to Seattle in the Ken Griffey Jr. deal.
''I know we didn't get along,'' Tomko said. ``He did some stuff I don't agree with. He was definitely a person in my life I did not like. I hated the man for a long time.''
But Tomko and McKeon talked the first two games of the series and settled their differences.
Tomko settled his own score Thursday, giving up four hits, striking out five and walking one in eight innings.
Florida's Josh Beckett, as is his custom whenever he drops a decision, offered a harsh self-appraisal of his outing even though two of the three runs he gave up were not entirely of his doing. A spoiled rundown play in the sixth resulted in two runs and Beckett's exit.
''I can't wait for my next start so I can stop another winning streak,'' an angry Beckett said facetiously.
The right-hander, despite giving up only two runs in his previous start, was the victim in a Aug. 1 loss to Houston that ended the Marlins' six-game winning streak. His record slipped to 5-6 on Thursday.
''It's frustrating,'' Beckett said. ``I pitched [poorly] today.''
With Tomko (8-7) blanking the Marlins, the Cardinals scored the only run they needed in the first when Albert Pujols extended his hitting streak to 21 games with a double that gave him 100 RBI this season.
But the complexion changed squarely to St. Louis' favor in the sixth when a potential inning-ending rundown went for naught.
With one out, Bo Hart tagged from second on Tino Martínez's fly ball to right. But shortstop Alex González alertly cut off Juan Encarnación's throw and chased Pujols, who was trying to advance to second, back to first.
González threw to Andy Fox, who was filling in at first for Derrek Lee, when Hart raced for home. But Fox's throw to Iván Rodríguez didn't arrive in time and Hart slid past the outstretched catcher to make it 2-0.
Scott Rolen followed with an RBI single, and Beckett was removed from the game.
''I got the flyout, and it manifested into something else,'' Beckett said.
Rodríguez said he was unable to block the plate to prevent Hart from scoring.
''It was an awesome slide,'' Rodríguez said.
Said McKeon: ``You couldn't say this play or that play was the difference in the ballgame when you don't score any runs.''
The Marlins never came close. In fact, they didn't make it as far as third base until Juan Pierre slid into the bag after tagging up on a short flyout in the ninth.
Tomko breezed through the first four innings without allowing a runner. Mike Lowell's leadoff single in the fifth was the first Marlins hit.
''I'm surprised [Tomko's] record is what it is because he's got good stuff,'' Beckett said.
Said Fox: ``We didn't get anything going off him.''
The Marlins had runners on first and second in the sixth, but Luis Castillo grounded into a double play to end the inning.
He is 3-1 since the break and if STL is going to go anywhere this year, He is going to have to keep it up ... he has the ability. C'mon Brett.