Cardinals starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery throws during the first inning...

Cardinals starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery throws during the first inning of a game against the Yankees on Saturday in St. Louis. Credit: AP/Jeff Roberson

ST. LOUIS — On the eve of facing the only team he had known professionally, Jordan Montgomery used three words in rapid-fire succession.

“Weird. Strange. Awkward,” he said Friday while wearing the red and white of the Cardinals, the team to which the Yankees traded him last Tuesday.

Now he can add one more: satisfying.

Montgomery pitched five innings and combined with three relievers to allow only two hits and five baserunners in the Cardinals’ 1-0 victory over the Yankees in front of a sellout crowd of 48,581 at Busch Stadium on Saturday night.

The Yankees didn’t have a hit after the third inning and took their season-high fourth straight loss. It was their first 1-0 loss since August 2020.

“We’re not excited about it,’’ Aaron Judge said. “But we’ve still got a great ballclub. We can’t hang our heads and be moping around that we lost two series. It’s over with. The most important game’s the next one coming up. We have to stick to our approach, come out swinging like we do. That’s all we can do. We lost two series? So what. Time to move on.”

Montgomery left the game after five innings for “precautionary reasons” after experiencing cramps, the Cardinals said. He allowed two hits and a walk and struck out one.

Judge said of facing Montgomery: “It was a little funky. Brought me back to all the years I faced him in spring training at-bats, but seeing him in red was a little different. But excited for his opportunity over here. He’s going to have some great years with the Cardinals.”

Domingo German, who took over Montgomery’s rotation spot, rallied after a rough 31-pitch first inning, allowing one run and four hits in five innings. Nolan Arenado’s two-out single in the first drove in the game’s only run.

German said through his interpreter: “I think it was exciting because Monty’s a really good guy, a really good teammate, so I was enjoying the challenge of pitching against him. I really enjoyed that. I really enjoyed seeing him pitch well the way he did. To me, it was exciting to pitch against him.”

The Yankees remained a half-game ahead of the Astros in the battle for the best record in the American League. Though still comfortably ahead in the AL East at 70-38, they fell to 9-15 in their last 24 games and 21-22 in their last 43. They are 7-11 in one-run games beginning June 19. Before that, they were 14-4.

“We haven’t quite scored enough, haven’t pitched quite well enough and losing some close games that we were winning all the time,'' Aaron Boone said. "Nobody’s happy about it, but also, we’re not going to panic or worry about it. We’ve got too big of a game tomorrow. That’s where the focus is. I’m not worried about that with these guys. A little bit of a bump in the road here. Unfortunately, it’s probably inevitable that you’re going to hit the bump, but we’re equipped to deal with it, and we will.”

Jordan Hicks, Genesis Cabrera and former Yankee Giovanny Gallegos followed Montgomery to the mound, with the latter earning his 11th save. Judge flied to center to start the ninth, giving Gallegos a scare in the process, although the ball fell far short of the warning track. After getting ahead 3-and-0, Josh Donaldson struck out looking and Gleyber Torres struck out swinging to end it. Torres also grounded into a double play in the first inning to end the Yankees’ only real threat.

Judge said of the Yankees' recent offensive issues: “I think just our discipline, swinging at the pitches we know we can do damage on, not chasing. I think we got ourselves in some bad counts, and when you get yourself in bad counts against a good pitcher and good teams, you’re not going to have good results. We have to go back to sticking to our approach — get a pitch you can hammer and pass the baton.”

Cabrera walked Isiah Kiner-Falefa to start the eighth, and one out later, Kyle Higashioka sent a laser to right, where Lars Nootbar laid out to make a diving catch for the second out, short-circuiting what could have been a game-turning rally. In the fourth, Arenado stole an extra-base hit from Donaldson, making a diving backhand stop of his ground smash and throwing in one motion from his knees to nip him at first.

“Frustrating we can’t break through,''  Boone said. "They’ve done a good job of keeping us in the ballpark and flashing some leather against us. And tonight we just weren’t able to mount enough.”

In the first, Montgomery fell behind DJ LeMahieu 2-and-0 before throwing a strike, with the Yankees’ leadoff man flying to the track in right on a full-count 94-mph sinker.

Judge got ahead 2-and-1 before singling sharply to left, improving to 22 for his last 48 (.458). Donaldson, coming off a two-hit night Friday, walked on five pitches, earning Montgomery a visit from his new pitching coach, Mike Maddux. Torres then grounded into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.

The Cardinals gave Montgomery the lead in the bottom half. Paul Goldschmidt doubled with two outs and Arenado battled German for 10 pitches, finishing the at-bat by lining a changeup for an RBI single.

After German retired the first two hitters in the third, Nolan Gorman singled to center and Goldschmidt hit a towering double to center on an 0-and-2 fastball. Gorman was waved around third but centerfielder Tim Locastro made a perfect relay to second baseman Torres, who fired a strike to Higashioka, who tagged out Gorman a split-second before his hand could touch the plate to keep it 1-0.

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