DETROIT -- Credit the Cardinals in keeping the message consistent, as those in the clubhouse continue to contend that this is a team much better than its .500 record.
Playing as such, though, has been an entirely different matter.
The team's troubles in securing series wins continued on Thursday, when early missed opportunities hurt the Cardinals late. A bases-loaded single by Detroit's Quintin Berry in the 10th sank the Cards to a 2-1 loss in front of 40,776 at Comerica Park.
With it, the Cardinals' won-loss record is again even. However, their Interleague record -- now 5-7 -- is not. And without a sweep in their next series, St. Louis will finish the year with a losing record against American League teams.
"We're definitely better than our record shows," said Thursday's starter Kyle Lohse, who tossed seven strong innings. "But your record reflects where you are. We're frustrated, but we're not walking with our heads down. I think sooner or later somebody is going to have to pay for that."
The Cardinals need it to be on the sooner end of that spectrum, as the alternative could leave St. Louis in too sizable a deficit by the time it begins getting other key players off the disabled list.
The team sits four games behind the division-leading Reds, largely because the Cards have lost six of their last eight series.
"We control our destiny by the way we go out and play," manager Mike Matheny said. "To watch the standings right now, we could tell you right now that we're not playing the type of baseball that we need to play. The record usually indicates it.
"I do know where we are, and I know that we are a much better team than where we stand right now. I just don't see us as a .500 team."
A win on Thursday would have pushed the Cardinals two games over that .500 mark and would have earned the club its first series win in Detroit since 1999. The also-underachieving Tigers, on the other hand, snatched the victory away to make their own climb back to within a game of .500.
"It's a great win for us, another series that we won against a really, really good team," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "It's a real good team we beat."
Blame little of this loss on Lohse.
An ill-placed curveball -- one that, though intended to bounce, was left over the middle of the plate -- was Lohse's only obvious mistake of the afternoon. That pitch was thrown to first baseman Prince Fielder, who deposited it an estimated 425 feet away. Fielder's 11th home run of the season gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the fourth.
"It was one pitch you wish you could have back," Lohse said. "I was about four feet away from bouncing it."
Other than three other innocuous hits, that's all the Tigers got off Lohse, who has given up five earned runs in 27 2/3 June innings. The right-hander finished seven frames, matching the number of no-decisions he now has in 15 starts.
Blown saves have cost him several times. On this day, though, the run support was the nemesis.
"He threw a great game," Matheny said of Lohse. "We had plenty of other chances to put runs across the board and really take advantage of a great start like that."
The Cardinals, who stranded 10 runners, finished 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. That lowered the team's batting average in such spots to .202 over the last 12 games. No more glaring were the missed opportunities, though, than in the fifth, seventh and 10th.
Having already squandered run-scoring chances against Tigers starter Jacob Turner, a St. Louis-area native who was mentored by Matheny in high school, the Cardinals took a leadoff walk in the fifth.
Matheny called for a hit-and-run. Daniel Descalso, on cue, ran. Rafael Furcal never swung. Descalso was thrown out easily.
That lost baserunner loomed largely when a walk, double and sacrifice fly followed. While the Cardinals evened the game at 1, a chance to take the lead was lost. Turner closed that inning and his 94-pitch outing by getting Allen Craig to pop out with runners on the corners.
"That was exciting for me," Turner said. "It's the team I grew up rooting for, so it's cool to pitch against them."
Two innings later, Matheny's gamble not to attempt a sacrifice bunt backfired. Descalso started the inning with a double, and Matheny reasoned that instead of giving away an out for a base, he'd take his chances with a runner in scoring position and the lineup turning over against reliever Phil Coke.
Furcal flew out without advancing the runner. Descalso moved to third on a one-out groundout by Skip Schumaker. Matt Holliday struck out swinging after disagreeing with a called second strike.
And in the 10th, Craig was tied up again with two on. It was a forgettable few days for Craig, who ended an inning six times in this series and left 10 runners on base in those six at-bats. He was playing on Thursday with soreness in his left wrist, which he was icing heavily afterward.
Craig described it as "all right."
The Tigers, after leaving one aboard in the ninth, immediately caused problems against Victor Marte in the 10th. Marte allowed two one-out singles and then grazed Austin Jackson with a pitch to load the bases. That forced the Cardinals to bring their infield in, and Berry squirted a single through the middle for the first walk-off hit of his career.
"I was just trying to get something I could lift in the air, but that didn't happen," Berry said. "But it found a hole, so I'll take that."
The Cardinals left town now 3-12 all-time at Comerica Park.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.