Cardinals-Rays Preview

Kyle Lohse’s success on the road remains a big reason why the

Albert Pujols-less St. Louis Cardinals are still battling for the

NL Central lead.

After a solid performance was cut short by rain in his last

start, Lohse will take the mound in search of his team-leading

ninth win as the Cardinals meet the struggling Jeremy Hellickson

and the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday to finish off interleague play for

2011.

St. Louis (45-39), currently tied with Milwaukee atop the

Central, is trying to finish 9-6 in interleague play for the third

straight year, and they have their road ace set to deliver.

Lohse is 6-1 with a 2.47 ERA in nine starts away from Busch

Stadium this year – only Pittsburgh’s Kevin Correia (8) and

Boston’s Jon Lester (7) have more road victories. Lohse is 2-2

lifetime against the Rays, but hasn’t pitched at Tropicana Field

since May 7, 2005, while with Minnesota.

Lohse (8-4, 2.78 ERA) was barely being tested in his last game.

He pitched five shutout innings Tuesday, giving up four hits and a

walk before the weather knocked him out of a 6-2 win over

Baltimore.

“I felt strong. I wish the rain didn’t come,” the right-hander

said after throwing just 69 pitches. “I felt I could have gone

quite a bit deeper than five. But you can’t do anything about the

weather.”

He will go up against Hellickson (7-7, 3.18), who is mired in a

lengthy losing streak after a solid start to the season.

Hellickson has been reached for a total of 14 runs while

dropping each of his last four starts. He had surrendered 22 in his

first 11 outings.

A severe offensive drought has contributed to Hellickson’s

downturn, as Tampa Bay has been outscored 20-1 during his skid.

Despite striking out nine over six innings, the right-hander

yielded four runs and eight hits in Monday’s 5-0 loss to

Cincinnati.

“Early on (this year) I was getting good run support, so it’s

not something I’m worried about,” said Hellickson, who has never

faced the Cardinals.

Tampa Bay (46-37) is looking to record at least 12 wins in

interleague play for the third time in four years after evening

this series with a 5-1 victory Saturday night. Casey Kotchman had a

two-out, three-run double and Justin Ruggiano added a two-run homer

in the seventh inning as the Rays avoided their fourth loss in five

games, all to NL opponents.

Tampa Bay designated hitter Johnny Damon went 4 for 4, moving

past Ted Williams into sole possession of 71st place on the

all-time list with 2,658 hits.

“Ted Williams, to many, is the greatest hitter of all time,”

Damon said. “…Having the Boston ties that I do have and knowing

the history of that franchise, and the history of Ted Williams,

it’s a special moment.”

Damon, who is 5 for 13 against Lohse, needs two hits to tie Lave

Cross and Harry Heilman for 69th.

Lance Berkman hit 21st homer for the Cardinals (45-39), who lost

for the first time in five games at Tropicana Field.

Berkman has hit 17 of his 21 home runs on the road. He will now

try to become the first Cardinal with 18 road homers heading into

the All-Star break since Mark McGwire had 18 in 1998, his

then-major league record 70-homer season.

St. Louis opens a seven-game homestand Monday against the

Reds.