It took 137 games for Dusty Baker's patience to run out.
But the Cubs manager finally had seen enough Monday after watching his players miss several signs that helped pave the way to a 6-4 loss to St. Louis at Busch Stadium.
Albert Pujols' three-run home run off Roberto Novoa snapped a 2-2 tie in the Cardinals' four-run eighth, ending the Cubs' three-game winning streak. Afterward, Baker criticized mental lapses by Jerry Hairston, Ronny Cedeno and Todd Walker, who all missed signs.
"We keep going over them and over them and over them," Baker fumed. "It seems like the same guys are missing signs. You keep going over them, but you ought to have the signs by Sept. 5."
Hairston responded: "Obviously, you don't want to [miss signs]. But make no mistake about it. That's not why we lost."
The problems began in the fifth when Walker was caught stealing on the first pitch after a leadoff walk, apparently believing a hit-and-run was on with Henry Blanco at the plate. Walker blamed himself for the mistake.
"He put the sign on," Walker said, referring to third base coach Chris Speier. "I'm not making stuff up. He just took it off as the sequence went on, and I didn't see it. I'm not sure if that impacted whether we won or lost, but ..."
It happened again with game tied 2-2 in the top of the eighth. A hit-and-run was put on after Hairston was hit by a pitch leading off the inning. But Hairston didn't go, and Cedeno surprisingly laid down a bunt, allowing Cardinals manager Tony La Russa to have Derrek Lee intentionally walked with first base open.
"I wasn't bunting," Baker said. "[Cedeno] is young, and he thought he saw a [bunt] sign. That wasn't the sign that was given. I didn't want to take the bat out of Lee's hands. No way.
"That's why it's important to get the signs. Hairston didn't run, and Cedeno didn't swing."
Left-hander Ray King came in to retire Jeromy Burnitz on a grounder to first, advancing the runners, before King pitched around Nomar Garciaparra for a walk that loaded the bases. Walker lined out to center on the first pitch, ending the threat.
Hairston appeared bewildered afterward, insisting he wasn't aware he'd missed a sign.
"I didn't see anything," he said. "Maybe he put it on when I put on my [elbow] guard or something, so I really can't comment on it. Nobody really talked to me about it. I guess it will be discussed [Tuesday] if I did or not."
Cedeno said he and Hairston "got confused" on the signs, so he bunted when he saw Hairston not running.
Baker brought on Novoa in the eighth after Michael Wuertz had pitched a perfect seventh, but Novoa walked David Eckstein leading off. Abraham Nunez reached on an infield hit before Pujols smacked a 419-foot home run on a 2-2 pitch, giving the Cardinals a 5-2 lead.
Jim Edmonds followed with a solo homer off Will Ohman to make it 6-2.
The Cubs rallied with two runs in the ninth, but Lee grounded into a game-ending double play when second baseman Mark Grudzielanek was positioned perfectly a few feet from bag.
"I don't know why Grud was playing him up the middle," Baker said. "But he was. When he hit it, I thought it was a base hit. That was a huge play."