TORONTO - The difference in a tightly contested pitcher's duel is often a single pitch, a hot hitter, or some good fortune.

A little bit of all three ended up costing the Toronto Blue Jays in a 1-0 interleague loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night, when the red-hot Matt Holliday scooped a down and away slider from Kevin Gregg into left field to bring home the winning run in the ninth.

The burly closer thought he twice made pitches to get out of the inning level only to watch both of them fall in and do damage.

The first was a fastball that broke Felipe Lopez's bat but ended up in centre with two outs leaving runners on the corners. The other one was to Holliday, who is now 13-for-22 during a five-game hit streak.

"I wouldn't take it back, I'd do that pitch again," said Gregg. "If I can make him that off-balance on a swing, I'll take my chances. You make your pitch, you're going to get them out more times than not. Today I made my pitch and I didn't get him out."

Gregg's misfortune came after Ricky Romero escaped a couple of early jams unscathed and proceeded to trade zeros with Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter for eight brisk and entertaining innings. Even that wasn't enough for the Blue Jays (38-34), who lost their third straight before a crowd of 14,079 at Rogers Centre.

Ryan Franklin closed things out in the ninth for his 14th save as the Cardinals (40-31) won their second in a row.

"It's no coincidence that we're running into a little wall offensively right now," said Blue Jays right-fielder Jose Bautista, who was 0-for-1 with three walks, "we're just facing good pitching. ...

"I saw two-seamers, I saw curveballs, I saw sliders, I even saw a couple of changeups that I thought he wasn't even using anymore. His breaking ball moves a lot and it's slow so it's a real change in speed from his fastball."

The dominant pitching went both ways in this one.

Romero allowed eight hits and a walk in his latest impressive outing and has now gone 14 straight frames without allowing an earned run. Carpenter (9-1), the former Toronto first-rounder facing the Blue Jays for the second time in his career, allowed three hits and four walks, striking out seven.

Carpenter also dominated the Blue Jays the last time he faced them, throwing a brilliant one-hitter on June 14, 2005. That game ended in a 7-0 rout and this one might have too if not for Romero's escape acts early on.

He got out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam unscathed in the first when Nick Stavinoha's grounder to first led to a force out at home. David Freese and Colby Rasmus then struck out to end the inning.

"Great job," said manager Cito Gaston. "That game could have been over in the first inning."

Romero also needed to work out of trouble in the second after the first two batters reached, and did so by inducing a double play ball out of Brendan Ryan and a grounder to second by Lopez.

"With facing Carp, I knew it was going to be a tough one," said Romero. "They had some chances to score and I kept them off balance. I had a good cutter going and I used it to my advantage."

It was smooth sailing until the eighth, when Albert Pujols led off with a broken bat double into the left-field corner. But a poor sacrifice bunt by Stavinoha gave away an out and Romero retired Freese and Rasmus to keep the game scoreless.

The Blue Jays managed to get only one runner past first base, on Jarrett Hoffpauir's one out double in the third. He was stranded, and Carpenter was never in any real danger.

"It was funny. Before the game we saw the stats from the one time he pitched here as the opposition," said Holliday. "Nine innings, 10 strikeouts, one hit. We were all kind of like 'Well, we'd take one of those tonight,' and he almost gave it to us."

Notes:Blue Jays 3B Edwin Encarnacion cleared waivers and was sent to triple-A Las Vegas. ...Dewayne Wise made his second start of the season for the Jays, playing LF in place of Fred Lewis, who was given the day off. ... Pitching prospects Trystan Magnuson of Vancouver (double-A New Hampshire) and Henderson Alvarez (single-A Dunedin) will represent the Blue Jays in the Futures Game on July 11. ... With his two homers Tuesday, Jose Bautista became the first player in the majors to reach 20 homers. Jesse Barfield in 1986 is the only other Blue Jays player to accomplish the feat. ... The single-A Dunedin Blue Jays won the first half West Division title in the Florida State League. Dunedin will make its first post-season appearance since 2008.

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