Yet again, the Cardinals on Saturday came on the losing end of a one-run game as the Cincinnati Reds’ Ryan Ludwick hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the tenth inning off Victor Marte, extending his team’s lead in the N.L. Central to 3.5 games.

While the bullpen had been solid for the previous 3 1/3 innings, giving up no runs following a solid start (at least statistically) from Kyle Lohse, manager Mike Matheny opted to relieve Marc Rzepczynski and give Marte a shot, but after getting ahead 0-2, Ludwick worked the count to 3-2 and eventually hit a ball that landed in the left-field bleachers.

There’s no question that the Cards have some fight in them. Down 2-0 in the seventh, Yadier Molina hit his fourteenth home run of the season, cutting the lead to just one run. And after back-to-back hits by David Freese and Skip Schumaker, it seemed as if they were about to not only take the lead, but possibly break the game open.

Unfortunately, in Lance Berkman‘s first at-bat since May, he struck out in a key pinch-hitting opportunity against Reds reliever Sean Marshall. “It’s tough to pinch-hit when you haven’t seen a live pitcher in two months,” Berkman said. “The good news is I actually felt pretty good. I know I struck out, and I know the result wasn’t what everybody wanted to see, but I judged it based on how I felt in the batter’s box.”

In the eighth, the Cardinals again spoiled an opportunity to score by leaving the bases loaded after drawing three walks from reliever Logan Ondrusek. “We had the opportunities and had some guys who come through in those situations often,” Matheny said. “We just couldn’t get that big hit.”

What’s Next: The Cardinals try to salvage the last game of this weekend series against the Reds, with Jake Westbrook (7-7, 3.75) taking on Homer Bailey (7-6, 4.14) at 7:00 CST on ESPN