The spectre of Philly’s 1964 collapse (5 1/2 up with 13 games remaining) was raised yesterday in relation to St. Louis’ modern tailspin (7 games dropped in a row, and counting). No telling if Tony La Russa will attempt to have Chris Carpenter (above) close the day after a start, or perhaps try to put Albert Pujols in the batting order two or three times, but clearly things are getting desperate. From Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

Carpenter isn’t scheduled to pitch again for the Cardinals until the season finale on Sunday. Right-hander Jeff Suppan, Saturday’s starter, has a 2.59 ERA in four starts this season against the Brewers. But the Cardinals’ bullpen, without injured closer Jason Isringhausen, is a disjointed mess.

As of now, rookie right-hander Anthony Reyes would start Monday’s game against the Giants, if necessary, and right-hander Jason Marquis would start Tuesday’s potential playoff against the Astros.

That’s right, Jason Marquis, whose 5.80 ERA is the highest in the National League among pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.

Are we having fun yet?

While Astros manager Phil Garner probably has saved his job by leading another second-half rally ” this one is occurring rather late even by the Astros’ usual heart-stopping standards ” La Russa is threatening to become a latter-day Mauch.

It’s understandable that La Russa stuck with Carpenter for a season-high 122 pitches Tuesday night, given the state of the Cardinals’ bullpen. But Carpenter blew a 5-2 lead in the Padres’ four-run seventh, and another defeat Wednesday night will give the Cardinals their third eight-game losing streak of the season.

While recent injuries to Isringhausen, left-hander Mark Mulder, shortstop David Eckstein and center fielder Jim Edmonds clearly have had a major effect, La Russa’s intense, demanding style surely would come under scrutiny if the Cardinals failed to win the division.

Of course, there would be plenty of blame to go around.

General manager Walt Jocketty, whose contract recently was extended, failed to make an impact move before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, adding only right-hander Jeff Weaver and second baseman Ron Belliard.

And ownership reduced the Opening Day payroll from $92.1 million last season to $88.9 million this season, in part due to the debt it incurred by financing much of the new Busch Stadium.