Pitching, homers continuing to carry Cards
The first-week formula of home runs and strong starting pitching (and relief, too) worked again for the Cardinals Tuesday night.
Right fielder Carlos Beltran and third baseman David Freese each hit his third homer of the season, with Freese's sixth-inning, two-run drive the difference in a 3-1 win at Cincinnati. Counting the one-game victory at Miami, the Cardinals have won all three of their series, all on the road, with one game remaining at Cincinnati.
In six games, the Cardinals have hit 11 homers, with four players having at least two.
With the Cardinals leading 1-0 in the sixth, Freese came to the plate with one out, needing only a sacrifice fly to plate an insurance run. He got that and more with an opposite-field homer.
"We're all pretty excited about where David has taken himself," said manager Mike Matheny. "He had the right philosophy going into that at-bat."
Freese, because of foot and hand injuries, never has played 100 games in a big-league season. "I think you're going to see a more complete player," Matheny said.
At the same time, the Cardinals' starters have posted six consecutive quality starts with right-hander Kyle Lohse working six innings of one-run, four-hit ball to gain his second win.
For his first 13 1/3 innings, Lohse has permitted only six hits and two runs.
Lohse, to the surprise still of many fans, was the top winner (14) and earned-run average leader (3.39) for the 2011 World Series champions.
"He's just building on that confidence he took from having a very strong season last year," said Matheny.
"It was a big deal throwing that first game in Miami. He wanted that assignment. When (Chris) Carpenter went down, he was excited about that pressure."
Lohse said he wasn't as sharp as he was in the first game of the season but had a good changeup and slider.
After Lohse left, the bullpen let nothing happen. Right-hander Mitchell Boggs, suddenly emerging as the top setup man, worked two perfect innings, fanning two and right-hander Jason Motte knocked off a perfect ninth for his second save.
The Cardinals, winning for the second night in succession at Great American Ball Park, have won one more game than they won here all last season in six meetings with the Reds. They have held the hard-hitting Reds to two runs in two games.
Injured Carpenter to undergo more tests
--RHP Chris Carpenter, out with a nerve problem that has weakened his right shoulder, will undergo another battery of tests this week, a process that should clear him to take the next step in his recovery, general manager John Mozeliak said. "He's still experiencing (the nerve-related discomfort) but not to the degree prior to being shut down," Mozeliak said. Carpenter has been in St. Louis since the team left Florida last week working on strengthening his shoulder. This week's tests are designed to measure his improvement and Carpenter must get a positive result on these results before he can begin a throwing program.
--RHP Kyle Lohse, becoming the first starter to win two games, continued the mastery of Cardinals' starting pitchers. Through six games, covering 38 2/3 innings, the St. Louis rotation has permitted just 19 hits and eight earned runs.
--SS Rafael Furcal, one of the Cardinals' hottest hitters so far, got most of a night off before a day game on Wednesday. Furcal, however, entered the game in the eighth inning as a pinch runner and stayed in at shortstop.
--3B David Freese, with a home run and a single, extended his hitting streak to six games (12-for-26) with a sixth-inning homer and eighth-inning single. His homer was the Cardinals' 11th of the season. "It's the effect of good swings," said Freese. "You try to hit line drives and if you get a little extension, they're going to go."
--1B Lance Berkman came out of the game in the eighth inning for a pinch runner because of tightness in his left calf. He appeared to have hurt himself running out a triple in his previous at-bat. "He was getting after it pretty good (on the triple)," said manager Mike Matheny. "I wouldn't doubt that was it." With a day game on Wednesday and a day off on Thursday, Berkman can get two days off if he sits out the finale of the series.
BY THE NUMBERS: 10 -- Cardinals pitchers retired the final 10 hitters they faced on Tuesday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They talk a lot of smack to each other about their starts. (Kyle) Lohse set the bar high for these guys to follow." -- Manager Mike Matheny, on his starting pitching, with RHP Kyle Lohse, who pitched the first game of the season, having provided the tone with two excellent starts.
--RHP Scott Linebrink (right shoulder capsulitis) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 30.
--RHP Chris Carpenter (nerve irritation in right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26. The Cardinals hope he'll be able to return in May.
--2B Skip Schumaker (torn right oblique) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26. He might begin a minor league rehab assignment by mid-April.
--LF Allen Craig (right knee surgery in November 2011) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26. He might begin a minor league rehab assignment by mid-April.