Lohse extends string of strong starting pitching
The Cardinals on Friday night extended their streak to 14 games in which their starting pitcher give up two earned runs or fewer over the first six innings.
Right-hander Kyle Lohse (10-2) worked seven innings, the seventh time in his last eight starts he has gone at least that far. The combination produced a rare victory.
Though St. Louis scored just one run after the first inning, the snoozing offense managed three runs in the first off Chicago ace right-hander Ryan Dempster and posted a 4-1 win that marked just the first time in seven games the Cardinals had scored more than three runs. The win was their second in the last seven games.
A lineup shakeup against Dempster didn't make any difference in the first inning, but the Cardinals struck quickly anyway. Skip Schumaker, a .431 hitter against Dempster, batted first, and Rafael Furcal, who had been 6-for-42 against Dempster, was dropped out of the leadoff spot for the first time this season, falling all the way to eighth.
Schumaker made the first out of the game, but that was followed in rapid succession by singles from Allen Craig, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina. With Lance Berkman adding a run-scoring groundout, the Cardinals ended Dempster's scoreless streak at 33 innings.
After Dempster was nicked for those four singles in the first, Holliday provided the only fireworks the rest of the way for the Cardinals. His third-inning solo homer, his 15th of the season, was measured at 469 feet, the longest in the seven-season history of new Busch Stadium.
That was more enough for Lohse, who held the Cubs to six hits in seven innings before getting help from three Cardinals relievers. Lohse has won 13 of his last 15 decisions dating to last year, when he finished 3-0 down the stretch.
"We were fortunate to have (Dempster) make some mistakes early, get us a lead like that," Lohse said. "I wasn't counting on him giving up any more after that."
LHP Brian Fuentes pitched a scoreless inning as the starter for the Cardinals' rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate Friday in Jupiter, Fla. Fuentes, a reliever, will start again on Saturday and then move to Class AA Springfield next week, where he probably will do some bullpen work. The Cardinals must promote him to the majors before July 31 or Fuentes, signed when Oakland released him, can opt out of his contract.
LHP Jaime Garcia is slated to throw 40 pitches -- fastballs and breaking balls -- off a bullpen mound Saturday as he continues his recovery from a left shoulder strain. "I can definitely feel a difference," said Garcia, who had throwing sessions Monday and Wednesday. "That's good. I'm excited. I'm confident that this is going to work. There's no discomfort." The Cardinals anticipate that Garcia will be ready to return to the roster some in early to mid-August.
SS Rafael Furcal, dropped to eighth in the order -- he had batted first in each of his first 85 starts -- had two hits Friday. The All-Star starter had batted .212 in his previous 30 games to lower his average to .274.
CF Jon Jay, who has been struggling, missed his third start in the last four, although he stole a base as a pinch runner in the seventh. Jay is hitting .211 since coming off the disabled list, where he had landed with a right shoulder injury. "I'm not going to make any excuses for anything," Jay said. "I'm just playing bad right now, hitting bad right now."
1B Lance Berkman doubled in the third inning for his first hit in 11 at-bats since coming off the disabled. He played the entire game at first base. Berkman missed nearly two months following right knee surgery.
11 RBI for C Yadier Molina in the 10 games the Cardinals have played against the Cubs this season. He has 21 against the Cubs the last two seasons.
"Offensively, we have wasted a lot of opportunities, but right now we're focusing on trying to do better." CF Carlos Beltran, after the Cardinals went 2-for-9 with men in scoring position but still beat the Cubs 4-1 Friday.