Marlins-Cardinals Preview

An injury to David Freese has the St. Louis Cardinals scrambling

for a replacement at third base.

Kyle Lohse, however, should have them feeling pretty confident

on the mound.

With Freese sidelined, Lohse looks to extend his stunning

stretch of 19 1-3 consecutive scoreless innings and become the NL’s

first five-game winner when the Cardinals open a four-game set

against the visiting Florida Marlins on Monday night.

St. Louis (16-12) has won eight of 11, but is coming off

Sunday’s 6-5 loss at Atlanta. The defeat was made worse when Freese

suffered a broken left hand while being hit with a pitch from Scott

Linebrink in the sixth inning.

There’s no timetable for Freese’s return, and he’ll undergo

further evaluation in St. Louis.

“I learned a long time ago, I’d much rather lose a game than

lose a player and get a guy hurt,” said manager Tony La Russa, who

used Albert Pujols at third for the first time since Sept. 23,

2002.

It’s unclear who will play third as Freese recovers, but

replacing him at the plate may be a tougher task. He’s hitting .356

with two homers and 14 RBIs.

Another sterling effort from Lohse (4-1, 1.64 ERA) would

certainly help the Cardinals regain their momentum. The

right-hander will try to break a tie with five others, including

teammate Kyle McClellan, for the NL lead in wins, although San

Diego’s Aaron Harang will also go for No. 5 on Monday.

Lohse was 4-8 with a 6.55 ERA in 18 starts last year while

battling an arm injury, but that appears to be well behind him as

he ranks third in the NL in ERA behind Florida’s Josh Johnson and

San Diego’s Dustin Moseley. He’s also on the cusp of eclipsing his

longest stretch without giving up an earned run – 20 innings over

four starts with Cincinnati from April 10-26, 2007.

Lohse’s current scoreless streak continued Wednesday, when he

tossed seven shutout innings in a 6-5 win at Houston. He’s won four

straight starts with an 0.86 ERA since losing his season debut to

Pittsburgh on April 4.

Lohse is 2-2 with a 5.01 ERA in four starts against the Marlins,

but hasn’t faced them since Aug. 12, 2008.

The Cardinals dropped three of five to Florida last year.

The Marlins (17-9) bring some hot bats after connecting for a

season-high five homers in Sunday’s 9-5 win over Cincinnati,

winning for the 12th time in 16 games.

Hanley Ramirez is hoping he can build on his first homer of the

season, a two-run shot Sunday. The All-Star shortstop is off to a

slow start with a .200 average, 11 RBIs and a .294 on-base

percentage.

“I’m not concerned about his numbers,” manager Edwin Rodriguez

said. “I am more concerned with how he is handling the slump. I

know the numbers will be there. So far, he’s handled it well.”

Facing Lohse could get Ramirez going, as he’s 5 for 11 with

three doubles and a homer against him.

Florida’s Chris Volstad (2-1, 5.32) looks to extend his personal

winning streak to three games after allowing two runs in seven

innings of a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday.

“I just got back to being in the zone, attacking and really just

putting the hitters on the defensive side,” Volstad told the team’s

official website. “I think that was the key part.”

Volstad threw a five-hitter in his most recent start against St.

Louis, winning 4-0 on Sept. 20.