Watch Tonight: Cardinals at Pirates

(AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals appear to be heading in the right direction after stumbling last week.

Now they need to get Kyle Lohse on track.

Lohse hopes his second start off the disabled list goes better than his first as he takes the ball in Monday night’s series opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

After a season-high five-game skid knocked St. Louis (67-55) from atop the NL Central to 4 1/2 games back of first-place Cincinnati, the Cardinals won the final two games of a weekend series with San Francisco. In Sunday’s 9-0 win, Jaime Garcia threw a three-hitter for the Cardinals, who are 3 1/2 back of the Reds and two behind wild card-leading Philadelphia.

With Sunday’s victory, St. Louis moved to 50-27 in games started by Garcia, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals are just 17-27 in their other games, and need for Lohse (1-5, 6.79 ERA) to start contributing positively.

After being sidelined since May 22 because of a right forearm strain, Lohse was tagged for seven runs and six hits in three-plus innings in last Sunday’s 9-7 loss to the Cubs. If there was one positive to take from the outing it was the right-hander didn’t have any arm pain.

“I’m back,” said Lohse, a 15-game winner in 2008. “It is what it is. I didn’t pitch very good and I’m waiting to get back out there.”

Because of scheduled off days for the Cardinals, manager Tony La Russa gave Lohse three extra days’ rest.

La Russa hopes Lohse can get things turned around against a Pittsburgh team he is 4-0 with a 2.14 ERA in seven games against.

The Cardinals are 5-1 against the Pirates this year, outscoring them 36-9 in the victories. They’ve also won eight of 10 meetings in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates (41-83), who snapped a five-game skid with a 2-1 win over the Mets on Sunday, are in the midst of their 18th consecutive losing season, the longest run of futility in major American pro sports history.

Albert Pujols has been instrumental St. Louis’ success against the Pirates, batting .410 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs in 21 games against them since the start of last season, but is just 1 for 6 against scheduled starter Ross Ohlendorf (1-10, 3.90 ERA).

Ohlendorf hasn’t pitched as bad as his win-loss record indicates and continues to encounter bad luck. The right-hander hasn’t received more than three runs of support in any of his 20 starts, and he’s won only once despite having a 2.34 ERA over his last 10 outings.

“One of these days, we’ll score him some runs,” manager John Russell said.

Against Florida on Wednesday, Ohlendorf gave up three runs and four hits in a season-high eight innings of a 3-2 loss.

“I’m trying to take the positives out of things,” he said. “I feel like I’m pitching well, so I’m just trying to go out and get a win that night. I wish my record was better at this point, but I’ve got to worry about going forward and getting wins the rest of the year.”

Ohlendorf pitched well in four starts against the Cardinals last season, recording a 2.77 ERA, but a lack of run support left him with a 1-2 record.


STATS Senior Writer