ST. LOUIS -- It was only after dissecting one of his less-than-flattering innings Friday that Greg Maddux stopped talking about a pitch he didn't like here, one he wanted back there and got down to the reality of his dilemma.

"There is nothing wrong with having a 1-2-3 inning," Maddux said in the hush of a quiet visiting clubhouse at Busch Stadium. "It's not against the rules."

It does go against a pattern the Padres have essentially been stuck in since the start of the season: Their inability to avoid the big inning as well as their inability to stop them once it starts.

It happened again Friday, and not just when Maddux was on the mound, as the Padres fell to the Cardinals, 11-7, before a sellout crowd of 44,398. San Diego once led by three runs, only to fall when St. Louis rallied late.

Tied at 7 entering the eighth inning, after the Padres surrendered leads of 6-3 and 7-6, the Cardinals sent 10 batters to the plate in a four-run inning where a majority of the damage was inflicted against the Padres' best reliever, Heath Bell.

No, there would be no 1-2-3 inning for the Padres (37-60) on Friday, though a defensive lapse extended the inning and helped pave the way for the Cardinals (55-43) to win for the second time in as many nights coming out of the All-Star break.

With one out in the eighth, Bell (6-4) allowed a single to Albert Pujols and then a walk to Troy Glaus. That brought up Rick Ankiel, who tied the game one inning earlier when he hit a home run after a 12-pitch at-bat against reliever Joe Thatcher.

Ankiel grounded a ball to the right side of the infield at second baseman Edgar Gonzalez. Gonzalez quickly looked to second base thinking that he might have time to turn a double play. By the time he decided he didn't, Gonzalez glanced at first -- where Bell was covering the base. But Gonzalez, thinking he didn't have enough time there either, decided to hold onto the ball.

Ankiel was credited with a single on the play, and the Cardinals had the bases loaded in a tie game.

"You would like to think you can get an out on that ball," Padres manager Bud Black said. "I'm not quite sure what happened."

What occurred next was certainly easy enough to discern, as Yadier Molina lined a ball to right field that scored Pujols and Glaus for a 9-7 lead. The Cardinals went on to score two more runs in the inning.

After the game, Gonzalez sat in front of his locker with a blank stare on his face, patiently describing the play in question.

"I should have gone to first right from the beginning," Gonzalez said. "I have to make a decision quicker. It was me trying to create more. It's a helpless feeling, but it's part of the game."

Bell, who came into the game with a 2.15 ERA, shouldered some of the blame himself, saying the ball that Ankiel hit shouldn't have mattered if he executed the pitches that he wanted to Pujols and Glaus earlier in the inning.

"We shouldn't have been in that position. ... I shouldn't have walked Glaus," Bell said. "It would have been nice to get Ankiel out, but I don't blame Edgar."

It wasn't just the eighth inning that gave the Padres problems Friday, as the Cardinals scored twice in the first inning against Maddux and then chased him after scoring three more runs in the fourth. All told, Maddux allowed six earned runs in four innings, his shortest start of the season.

"It looked as though some of the balls came back to the middle [of the plate]," Black said. "He wasn't commanding his movement like he normally does. I think there were too many balls in the middle of the plate for Greg."

On a night where the Padres' offense scored seven runs on 12 hits, four coming with runners in scoring position. Leadoff hitter Jody Gerut had three hits, including a two-run home run in the fourth inning.

Brian Giles had three hits as well, including an RBI single in the sixth inning that gave the Padres a 7-6 lead.

"We came out swinging, we kept swinging and put pressure on them," Black said. "They outhit us."

And the Cardinals did so when it mattered the most.