Cardinals Major League Notebook: 04/11/11

On Sunday in San Francisco, Kyle Lohse served as the unlikely stopper for the St. Louis Cardinals as the club ended its three-game losing streak.



Not since May 23, 2009 had right-hander Kyle Lohse pitched as many as eight innings in a game for the Cardinals. That was the day Lohse pitched eight scoreless innings against Kansas City before being hit in the right forearm by a pitch from left-hander Ron Mahay. That was a pitch that set Lohse back nearly two seasons as he ultimately had to undergo surgery for a nerve compression issue in his forearm.

Since that day nearly two years ago, Lohse had won just five games for the Cardinals.

But, on Sunday, as the Cardinals completed their third consecutive 1-2 series by salvaging a 6-1 win over San Francisco, Lohse went eight brilliant innings. He was scored on only in the first when he allowed two hits and then escaped the inning on a liner to third baseman David Freese.

That out started a stretch of 19 outs in 20 hitters faced by Lohse, including 14 in a row before a wind-blown infield hit tipped off catcher Gerald Laird's glove in the eighth. Perhaps best of all was that Lohse didn't walk anybody.

"He was so sharp all game long," said manager Tony La Russa. "That's what he's been doing all spring."

Freese has had his own injury problems, missing the last three months of last season because of a right ankle injury that required surgery. Later, he would have surgery on his left ankle too.

This year, Freese was healthy but had started out three for 20. That changed quickly Sunday as Freese knocked in a run each with a single, double and a home run -- Freese's first homer since May 30 of last year.

"I don't take the beginning of the season too serious when I'm struggling," said Freese. "I've started like that my whole career."

La Russa, however, has every confidence in Freese. "If he's healthy, he's going to have a big RBI year," said La Russa. "He's an excellent hitter with men in scoring position. If he just stays healthy, he's going to be outstanding for us."

And the Cardinals left town feeling a little better about themselves than they had after blowing ninth-inning leads in the first two games with the Giants. "You lose like we did the last two games, you get your heart broken," said La Russa. "We really, really worked hard."

Next game: Mon., Apr. 11 at D-BACKS: Kyle McClellan (0-0, 3.00) vs. Barry Enright (0-0, 6.00) 8:40 p.m. CDT (FOX Sports Midwest, KMOX Radio and Cardinals Radio Network)



LF Matt Holliday returned to the lineup nine days after having had an appendectomy. Not coincidentally, the Cardinals offense looked better even with 1B Albert Pujols enduring another hitless day, this one 0-for-5. Holliday walked twice and poked a run-scoring single to right. "I get antsy when I'm not playing," said Holliday.

C Gerald Laird has made two starts and the Cardinals have won them both. Laird, despite being whacked in the catching helmet by the barrel of Giants 3B Pablo Sandoval's broken bat in the first inning, went all nine innings with RHP Kyle Lohse (eight innings) and LH reliever Trever Miller. Lohse and Laird had teamed several times in spring training and Lohse credited the former American League catcher with his game plan on Sunday.

3B David Freese's run-scoring single in the second was his first hit in six at-bats with a runner in scoring position. His next hit, a sixth-inning double, was his second straight hit with a man in scoring position.

2B Skip Schumaker's two-run double off the glove of San Francisco CF Aaron Rowand capped a three-run sixth. It was the first inning of more than two runs all season for the Cardinals.

CF Colby Rasmus walked and singled and has reached base 19 times in his first nine games.

RHP Ryan Franklin, who blew just two of 29 save opportunities last year, blew three in his first four chances this year. But manager Tony La Russa said Franklin was in no danger of losing his job. "I don't see anything that's changed between anybody that's his competition," La Russa said. "I think Miguel (Batista) has done that too, at times, but he also has a valuable role in other things. I think Mitchell (Boggs) and Jason (Motte) have bright futures, and they're developing in that role. Are they as ready as they're going to be? The answer is no."

   BY THE NUMBERS: 6 - Double plays grounded into by 1B Albert Pujols in the team's first nine games.

   QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're looking for ways to optimize runs scored. At this point, it's way too early to tell if the players we put in place will be able to provide that."

- GM John Mozeliak, on the Cardinals' offensive troubles.




LF Matt Holliday (appendectomy) underwent the procedure April 1. He played catch and ran sprints April 5, and the next day he hit indoors for the first time since the surgery. He was back in the lineup April 10.

RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He will miss the entire 2011 season.

INF Nick Punto (hernia surgery in February 2011) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He hopes to return in late April.

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