Cardinals 9, Twins 2

St. Louis pitcher Kyle Lohse has reached the point of spring

where he’s trying to bring everything together.

The combination looked good Sunday.

Lohse allowed two runs and five hits in six innings and the

Cardinals beat the Minnesota Twins 9-2.

”Each of the last starts I had something I wanted to

concentrate on and today was kind of a mix of all,” Lohse said.

”I was able to drop some good curveballs in. My slider was really

good. My change-up was good. I was just continually trying to

locate the fastball better and better.”

One fastball Lohse didn’t locate as well as he would have liked

became Luke Hughes’ fourth home run of the spring. Hughes, who was

coming off a 5-for-5 effort in Saturday’s victory over Tampa Bay,

hit the first pitch he saw into a 1-0 first-inning Twins lead.

”I am trying to get ahead of guys and I let that one get back

over the middle,” said Lohse, who has allowed one homer in each of

his five spring starts. ”He did what you are supposed to do with

that fastball that you leave down the middle. I didn’t throw many

of those.”

Aside from the home run, Lohse didn’t allow any base runners

until fifth. A lead-off walk to Ryan Doumit followed by a one-out

single by Brian Dinkleman put a runner in scoring position for the

first time, but the inning ended when shortstop Rafael Furcal

snagged Joe Benson’s line drive, then touched second for the

unassisted double play.

Lohse allowed his only other run in the sixth when the first

three batters reached on hits, the third being Hughes’ second RBI

of the afternoon.

”It’s good to get into some jams in spring training,” said

Lohse, who struck out six while walking one. ”They are not all

going to be 1-2-3 innings once the season starts, so you have to

pitch out of the stretch in some jams and make some good

pitches.”

Minnesota pitcher Nick Blackburn retired the first 10 batters he

faced before Carlos Beltran’s one-out bloop single fell barely

inside the left field line. Matt Holliday reached out and pulled

the next pitch, a change-up, over the left field wall, putting the

Cardinals up 2-1.

”I feel good right now and hopefully it carries over to the

season,” Holliday said.

The runs were the first allowed by Blackburn in an official game

this spring.

”I’m ready for spring to wind down,” Blackburn said. ”It was

just nice to face a lineup that’s pretty much one through nine what

you’re going to see during the season. I’m looking forward to

getting out there and actually playing for something that has some

meaning.”

Lance Berkman’s RBI single in the sixth gave the Cardinals a

lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Shane Robinson and Jon Jay added

late inning home runs.

Rain twice delayed the game for a total of 57 minutes.

Notes: Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire announced that Josh

Willingham would be the Twins regular left fielder once the season

starts. Willingham, signed with Minnesota during the off-season

after spending last year with Oakland, had been projected as a

right fielder. …With Willingham grabbing the left field spot, Ben

Revere will now battle Chris Parmalee and Trevor Plouffe for the

right field job. Denard Span is locked into center. ..The Cardinals

released non-roster invitees Alex Cora and Koyie Hill on Sunday.

…Allen Craig could make his first appearance on the main stadium

field in the coming days. ”I think he’s pretty close to being able

to hit out here,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. ”He just

has to pass the test of being able to run the bases.” Craig, who

can play multiple positions for the Cardinals, is rehabbing from

off-season surgery to repair a fractured knee cap