Cardinals escape with series split

? Bronson Arroyo got braids in his hair, hoping to end a long slump and a big series in style.

The new hairdo didn’t do a thing.

Scott Spiezio hit the last of the Cardinals’ three homers off Arroyo on Thursday, and St. Louis gained a soothing series split with a 6-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds that left the NL Central rivals right where they started.

The Cardinals held their ground while in town, leaving 31â2 games ahead of second-place Cincinnati.

“It’s not the end of the world,” Arroyo said.

Rather, it was a snapshot of how things have gone for two teams that seem to be racing in reverse. Both have losing records over the last two weeks, unable to take advantage of the other’s struggles.

After blowing a ninth-inning lead on Wednesday night, the Cardinals were encouraged to leave with a four-game split.

“To come back after we got beat like that last night, that was impressive,” manager Tony La Russa said.

Jim Edmonds and Chris Duncan also homered off Arroyo (9-8), so frustrated by a seven-week slump that he got his shoulder-length hair braided into cornrows two days earlier to try to change his luck.

Instead, the All-Star pitcher matched his career high for homers allowed and remained winless since June 19. He’s 0-5 in his last 10 starts with a 5.29 ERA, a stretch of futility that includes three blown saves by his bullpen.

Dodgers 4, Rockies 3

Los Angeles – Kenny Lofton singled home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning, and Los Angeles moved into first place in the NL West. The Dodgers, whose 11-game winning streak ended with a 3-1 loss Wednesday night, are a half-game ahead of San Diego and Arizona.

Astros 5, Pirates 2

Houston – Roger Clemens gained his 345th win, allowing one run in six innings to lead Houston over Pittsburgh and complete a three-game sweep for the Astros. Clemens (4-4) struck out five and allowed four hits, yielding two runs or fewer for the eighth time in 10 starts. His 2.32 earned-run average since June 22 leads NL starters.

Marlins 9, Nationals 6

Washington – Josh Willingham’s four hits included a homer, fellow rookie Dan Uggla added a two-run shot, and Florida beat Washington. Another rookie, shortstop Hanley Ramirez, made a leaping grab of pinch-hitter Alex Escobar’s liner up the middle with two runners on for the final out.

Mets 7, Padres 3

New York – David Wright broke a seventh-inning tie with an RBI double, and New York completed a three-game sweep to open a season-high 14-game lead in the NL East.

Brewers 8, Cubs 6

Milwaukee – Doug Davis (8-6), backed by an 8-1 lead, struck out eight in seven innings, allowing four runs, eight hits and three walks. Mark Prior (1-6) gave up six runs – five earned.