Kyle Lohse, who lamented recently that his location wasn't overcoming a drop of velocity after he had forearm surgery last year, turned in one of his most efficient outings in the last couple of months Friday night.
Working 6 1/3 innings for his longest stint since June 22, when he went eight innings in a loss, Lohse held the Colorado Rockies to four hits and one run in a 6-1 Cardinals victory. The win, Lohse's 10th in 17 decisions, was his third in his last 12 outings.
The Cardinals will need more consistency from Lohse in the final six weeks, and some other starters, too, if they hope to run down the National League Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers.
"We definitely need to step it up at this point of the season," said Lohse, who has had a middle finger issue on his pitching hand but has insisted that it hasn't bothered him. "We've got the arms capable of doing it. We haven't done it yet."
Manager Tony La Russa knows how significant it is for his starters to be steady. "If we get our rotation cracking, that would be the single best thing that could happen to this club, as far as running off some wins and staying in contention," said La Rsusa.
From Lohse's standpoint, he said he had made two notable adjustments.
One, he said, was to drop his arm slot, from almost straight over the top, to create more movement in his pitches. Lohse said he did it "just to see what would happen, and I came out with some pretty good results."
Additionally, Lohse said pitching coach Dave Duncan had suggested that Lohse not go as deep into counts, so as to not let the hitters see so many pitches.
La Russa, who gave Lohse a couple of extra days this time through the rotation, has asked him on occasion if he was healthy, and Lohse had responded that he was.
"He did a lot of good things (Friday), which he's done many times before," said La Russa. "Everybody gets into a rut, I don't care who you are.
"The only reason to question (Lohse) is that he's gone out there before with less than his best stuff because he knew we didn't have anybody else. And we tried to get him away from that."
C Tony Cruz was optioned
to Class AAA Memphis to make room for new reliever Arthur Rhodes, who threw a
bullpen session before Friday's game and will be available to pitch Saturday.
LHP Raul Valdes, who was at Class AAA Memphis, was designated for assignment to
clear space for the 41-year-old
LF Matt Holliday was back
in the lineup after missing two games, the result of a mild lower back strain
that occurred as he reached for a weight in the weight room. Holliday, who has a
six-game hitting streak, delivered a key blow in the Cardinals' five-run sixth
inning, bouncing a run-scoring double over the head of
The Cardinals parlayed five singles, a double and an intentional walk into the five-run rally. This was just the second time since their recent trades that they had put what is seen as their starting lineup on the field. That lineup is a deep one, with 1B Albert Pujols, who has six hits in his last two games, sixth in batting average at .286.
RHP Jason Motte continues to be one of the best setup men in the league. Motte retired both men he faced in the seventh as he posted his 22nd consecutive scoreless outing, covering 15 2/3 innings.
SS Rafael Furcal isn't getting many hits but is making them count. Furcal extended his hitting streak to seven games in which he is 8-for-32 (.250). But that one hit, a single, started the five-run sixth inning.
RF Lance Berkman extended his hitting streak to seven games and is 11-for-25 (.440) in that span.
BY THE NUMBERS: 0.49 - RHP Kyle Lohse's career earned run average at Busch Stadium against the Colorado Rockies, covering three games and 18 1/3 innings.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They haven't played together all that much. But if we can keep those guys healthy, then you're talking about as good as anybody."
- Manager Tony La Russa on having his Nos. 3-4-5 hitters, 1B Albert Pujols, LF Matt Holliday and RF Lance Berkman together in the lineup.
INF Nick Punto (strained left oblique) went on the 15-day disabled list July 29.
RHP Eduardo Sanchez (mild right shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 13. He began a rehab assignment with Class AA Springfield on July 7 but had renewed soreness soon after and was shut down until late August or early September. He was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 31.
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.
VIDEO FROM FOXSPORTSMIDWEST.COM
Skipper Tony La Russa, David Freese and starter Kyle Lohse talk about Friday's romp over Colorado.