ST. LOUIS -- Precedent said the matchup of Cole Hamels and Adam Wainwright would make each pitch and the few mistakes count. That held up Saturday in a battle of the aces.
The pitchers wavered back and forth, with each surrendering one lone run through seven innings, bending at times by putting runners on, but neither breaking when push came to shove.
That is, until the 120th pitch of Hamels' day stayed up as it moved across the plate and a leadoff walk caught up with him. The ball cruised into the left-center gap to give the Cardinals a lead, which they would add on to in the inning for a 4-1 win, snapping the Phillies' season-high five-game winning streak.
"Well, it was a pitchers' duel as advertised," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Both guys were outstanding. Cole had three leadoff walks and two of them ended up scoring, but he was outstanding. Wainwright the same way, he was tough."
In the end, Wainwright was just a few pitches tougher on this particular day.
Hamels entered the game having not allowed a run in 23 2/3 innings and extended it another inning with a scoreless first. The Cardinals got on the board in the second, though, after Hamels walked the leadoff hitter followed by a double to put them on second and third before a sacrifice fly to right brought a run home.
In the top half of the next inning, the Phillies used a similar sequence to even the score. Two leadoff singles, one by Hamels on a hit-and-run, put runners on the corners. Jimmy Rollins brought the Phillies lone run across with a sacrifice fly to center field.
A leadoff walk in the eighth, which matched a season-high five walks by Hamels, would come back to haunt. He retired the next hitter following a mound visit and worked a 2-2 count to Cardinals left field Matt Holliday.
The Phillies gave thought to removing Hamels prior to the eighth, but opted instead to give the left-hander 12-15 pitches to work with. His 11th pitch of the inning and the fifth pitch to Holliday would be the mistake that proved to be the difference.
"I think that pitch to Holliday, it was a little bit up," Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz said.
The 83-mph changeup stayed up across the plate and Holliday drove the pitch to the gap to plate the go-ahead run.
"I got into a [2-2] count which, with him, doesn't guarantee you anything," Holliday said. "Luckily he left it up a little bit and I was able to hit it in the gap. At that point in the game you're really looking at having a chance to win if you can just scratch one run."
Hamels, who declined to talk to the media following the loss, watched his night end there. In 7 1/3 innings he allowed five hits, five walks and three runs, as an inherited runner came around to score after his exit.
He struck out eight while lasting at least seven innings for the ninth straight outing.
"He rises to the occasion and obviously we were one hit away from a number up on the board on our side and we'd be talking differently," Sandberg said. "He knows how to rise to the occasion, he has that type of stuff."
Hamels and Wainwright had faced off in three other instances prior to Saturday, and this game followed suit.
In two showdowns between the aces in 2010, they each went eight innings allowing one run in the first start before they tossed scoreless second outings with Wainwright going six innings and Hamels eight.
Last season, both starters went seven innings, allowing three runs as Wainwright took the win, the only decision for either starter in the previous three matchups.
"You can feel when there's a good back-and-forth going. I knew coming in today it was going to be a tough game," said Wainwright, who stranded eight Phillies hitters in eight innings. "Cole Hamels has been pitching really, really well."
This time, Wainwright made one less mistake, and the big hit for the Phillies never came.
"Just as it turned out, we weren't able to come up with something on the offensive side," Sandberg said. "They did with the one swing of the bat and the double is basically what it came down to."
Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.