Carlos Beltran would prefer to hit in one spot every day. No matter where he lands on the lineup card, there’s no arguing the results.
Primarily the St. Louis Cardinals’ cleanup man, Beltran provided some pop batting second in a 2-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night. Beltran hit his National League-leading 17th home run in support of Kyle Lohse, who allowed three hits in 7 2-3 innings to outduel Justin Masterson.
”I felt in control, I felt like I was getting pretty quick outs,” Lohse said. ”If I’m doing those things, keeping the ball on the ground, that’s my plan.”
Beltran has batted cleanup 31 times, third three times and second 18 times. Manager Mike Matheny resisted the temptation to shift Beltran back to cleanup after Matt Holliday was scratched just before the first pitch with mid-back spasms.
Beltran, who has homered nine times batting second, also leads the Cardinals with 45 RBIs.
”For me, honestly this year has been more difficult than any year,” Beltran said. ”As a player I like to come to the ballpark and just know I’m going to hit in one spot and just be there.”
Michael Brantley had two singles to extend his hitting streak to 17 games for Cleveland. But the Indians had only three runners in scoring position against Lohse (6-1), who ended a string of five starts with no decisions and a 5.16 ERA, and two relievers.
Beltran homered with two outs in the third and had three of the seven hits for St. Louis, which has won three of four. Shane Robinson doubled to start the eighth and scored on Rafael Furcal’s one-out sacrifice fly against Jeremy Accardo.
The game took just 2 hours, 14 minutes, the fastest of the season for both teams. It was the first time the Indians were shut out, leaving only the Tigers who have yet to be blanked.
Manager Manny Acta put his thumbs up in celebration.
”Step in the right direction, that’s great,” Acta said. ”It took over two something months for us to get shut out. They’ve been battling. It had to happen.”
Masterson (2-6) struck out six with no walks in seven innings, while giving up five hits, but fell to 1-4 in his last seven starts. He retired the side in order three of his last four innings and walked none.
Indians pitchers totaled one walk, an intentional pass from Accardo to Yadier Molina in the eighth that also represented the lone three-ball count against a St. Louis hitter.
”We were right there,” Masterson said. ”A little slider that was just hanging up to Beltran. Besides that I was happy with the way things went.”
Lohse moved a game above .500 at 108-107 with his first win over the Indians since 2004, when he worked an inning of relief in a 12-inning game. The outing was his longest of the season, one out longer than on opening day when he won at Miami, and he threw 105 pitches for his first time in triple digits this season.
In his last two starts, Lohse has allowed one run on five hits in 13 2-3 innings.
”It’s about as sharp we’ve seen him,” manager Mike Matheny said. ”He was locating everything. It was a great display of pitching.”
Molina threw out Asdrubal Cabrera attempting to steal, ending the eighth on reliever Marc Rzepczynski’s only pitch, and Jason Motte finished for his 11th save in 14 chances.
Brantley is 24 for 65 (.369) during the longest current streak in the majors.
Molina reached a pair of firsts for St. Louis, batting third the first time in his career and getting caught stealing for the first time in six attempts on a nice throw by catcher Carlos Santana to end the sixth. The slow-footed Molina usually catches foes napping.
Matheny said Holliday told him he couldn’t go ”about two minutes before we exchanged lineup cards.” He didn’t think Holliday, who underwent treatment throughout the game, would be out long.
”There was some mad rushing going on to get everybody in place, I think he did a smart thing and pulled up,” Matheny said. ”He probably could have pushed through it.”
NOTES: David Freese didn’t leave the box on a groundout to third ending the fourth, believing he’d fouled a ball off his left foot. He turned the opposite direction for several seconds before pivoting back and noting the Indians had left the field, then Freese and Matheny briefly complained to home plate umpire Mark Wegner. ”Sometimes being tough works against you,” Matheny said. ”It sounded different to me and that’s what I was trying to at least try to get him to agree with me on.” … RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, who starts the series finale against rookie RHP Joe Kelly, has a 3.09 ERA in seven starts with a win or no decision, but is 0-4 with a 10.42 ERA when taking the loss. RHP Joe Kelly starts in his major league debut, one day after his 24th birthday, in place of injured Jaime Garcia for the Cardinals. Kelly is 2-5 at Triple-A Memphis but leads the Pacific Coast League with a 2.86 ERA. He’s a distant relative of gangster George ”Machine Gun” Kelly.