St. Louis has been powered by strong starting pitching all season long. If that trend doesn't continue in Colorado, the Cardinals may soon find themselves out of the race for the NL Central with the way the Cincinnati Reds are playing.
Kyle Lohse (10-2, 2.71 ERA), a shining example of his staff's consistency throughout the year, takes the mound for St. Louis, which will look to take advantage of a three-game set against the struggling Rockies on Tuesday night.
With the exception of just one game, the Cardinals (54-48) have had their starter last at least six innings in every contest in July, and no pitcher has symbolized that strength more than Lohse. The right-hander will be looking for his 11th quality start in a row, a streak that goes back to a five-inning outing May 30, as the trade deadline looms Tuesday.
"Our starters have been great," general manager John Mozeliak told the team's official website. "I think clearly it takes a little pressure off, in terms of feeling like we have to do something."
The Cardinals' starting pitchers are tied for tops in the NL with 44 wins.
Lohse, in particular, has been fantastic. He has not lost a game since June 15 and is 4-0 with 2.22 ERA in his last seven starts. He did not receive a decision in his last outing, going seven innings and allowing two runs in the team's eventual 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers last Wednesday night.
Yet for all its strong pitching, St. Louis finds itself well behind the streaking Reds for the division lead, and Pittsburgh shows no intention of cooling off either. Despite going 7-3 in its last 10 games, the team has lost three games in the standings to Cincinnati and made up no ground against the Pirates, going into Monday night's action.
The Cardinals didn't help themselves by dropping two straight to the lowly Chicago Cubs , including a walkoff loss Sunday when Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer in the 10th to end it. They'll hope to have better luck taking advantage of the soft schedule at Coors Field.
Colorado (37-63) is looking to rebound after being swept at home by Cincinnati, but despite its overall struggles, the Rockies are a prime contender to get to Cardinals' starters early, as they lead the majors in first-inning runs.
Even with the second-worst record in the majors, Colorado has had no trouble scoring. It is second in runs in the NL with 471 - behind only St. Louis' 498.
As always, the problems for the Rockies reside mostly with their pitching. Their starting rotation has a league-low 18 wins all season, and the team's ERA of 5.30 is the highest in the majors.
"The pitching is the biggest struggle of my career," manager Jim Tracy told the team's official website. "But it's not an excuse."
Colorado has had 12 different pitchers start a game this season, and only Jeff Francis has a winning record.
Conveniently enough for the Rockies, he's Tuesday's starter.
Following a minor-league stint with Cincinnati, Francis (3-2, 4.97 ERA) has started 10 games since signing with Colorado. He comes off a solid performance against Arizona - six innings, two runs, five hits - in which he earned a victory July 25.
"I hope it's a lesson for some of our younger people," said Tracy. "Eight of his last nine starts, he's five or five-plus innings every time and he leaves the game in the kind of shape he left it tonight. That's what you hope for."
Francis has repeated that type of success against the Cardinals his entire career, as he is 6-1 with a 3.09 ERA in 11 career appearances. In his last start against them, July 3, he earned the win, allowing two runs in five innings.
The Rockies lost the other three games in that series, however, as the high-scoring Colorado offense was held at bay by the Cardinals staff, scoring just nine runs over four games.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|July 28, 2012||Rafael Furcal||Day-to-Day||Stiff back|
|July 26, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Left game - right calf cramp|
|July 24, 2012||Lance Berkman||Day-to-Day||Left game - HBP right knee|
|July 17, 2012||Matt Holliday||Day-to-Day||Left game - Left thigh|
|July 08, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Bruised left leg|
|June 06, 2012||Jaime Garcia||15-Day DL||Strained left shoulder|
|July 21, 2012||Drew Pomeranz||Day-to-Day||Left arm soreness|
|July 21, 2012||Jason Giambi||15-Day DL||Viral syndrome|
|July 20, 2012||Wilin Rosario||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower left leg injury|
|July 16, 2012||Chris Nelson||15-Day DL||Irregular heart beat|
|July 16, 2012||Jonathan Herrera||15-Day DL||Left wrist infection|
|July 09, 2012||Todd Helton||15-Day DL||Right hip inflammation|
DENVER (AP) -- Matt Holliday admittedly misjudged a first-inning fly ball that sailed over his head in left field for a double. The Cardinals slugger more than made up for it.
Holliday homered, doubled and drove in four runs, and Kyle Lohse persevered through an erratic outing to win his fifth consecutive decision and lift St. Louis over the Colorado Rockies 11-6 on Tuesday night.
"I screwed up that ball in the first inning," said Holliday, who ran in initially before backpedaling only to have Eric Young Jr.'s fly ball go over his head for a leadoff double that opened the door to two runs after the Cardinals had grabbed a 4-0 lead.
"(Second baseman) Skip (Schumaker) had a chance to make a play on the pitcher's base hit" in the sixth inning, Holliday added. "So, I think Kyle pitched better than the numbers said. But he's pitched great all season. We were finally able to give him a little bit of a cushion and get him a win."
Carlos Beltran and David Freese also homered, and Allen Craig went 3 for 3 with two walks and three RBIs to help the Cardinals rebound from consecutive losses. The Rockies dropped to 0-4 on their homestand and have lost seven of eight overall.
Lohse (11-2), who also beat the Rockies three weeks ago in St. Louis, gave up nine hits and five runs in six innings, breaking a string of 10 consecutive quality starts. He struck out five and walked two.
"I had to make a lot of pitches, a lot of tough ones, had a lot of guys on base," Lohse. "It was just one of those nights where balls were falling in. We had chances to get out of some innings. Things started happening.
"We've got to start playing better. It started tonight. We've got to tighten things up and get the job done," Lohse added.
He got more than enough offensive support, though, and the newly reinforced Cardinals bullpen pitched in with three innings of one-run ball. In a trade completed earlier Tuesday, St. Louis acquired right-handed reliever Edward Mujica from the Miami Marlins for minor league infielder Zack Cox .
Rockies starter Jeff Francis (3-3) went four innings, his second shortest outing since he lasted only 3 1-3 innings in his initial start on June 9 for the Rockies. He allowed six hits and five runs, struck out two and walked none.
Trailing 6-2 in the sixth, the Rockies pulled to within one on Josh Rutledge 's three-run homer off Lohse.
Reliever Adam Ottovino got his first major league hit, a single, with two outs. Eric Young Jr. followed with a single to right, and Rutledge followed with a drive over the left field wall for his third homer of the season.
But the Cardinals came right back in the seventh to rebuild a four-run cushion. Craig drew a one-out walk, and Holliday, formerly of the Rockies, followed with a homer over the center field wall, his 19th shot of the year. One out later, Freese extended his hitting streak to 11 games by connecting for his 15th homer.
Craig singled for a third time in the eighth, scoring Skip Schumacher and pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter after they each singled and advanced on a sacrifice.
"They just keep coming at you," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said of the Cardinals. "They threw up five runs in the first two innings of the game. Bottom line is 11 runs, that's a big number."
St. Louis jumped to a 4-0 lead before Francis, who had been 6-1 in 11 previous outings against the Cardinals, recorded an out.
"A couple of tough mistakes to some good hitters," Francis said. "I hit the guy and Matt and Beltran hit some mistakes. I really felt good all day, but when guys take advantage of mistakes early in the game, it put us in a big hole."
Francis hit Daniel Descalso , the first batter he faced, and Craig followed with a single. Holliday scored them both with a double to the center field fence, and Beltran drove Francis' first offering deep into the left field bleachers for his 24th homer.
The Rockies answered in their half of the first. Young led off with a double that went over the head of Holliday in left field. One out later, Carlos Gonzalez brought him home with a single to left that extended his hitting streak at Coors Field to 29 games, one shy of Larry Walker 's team record, set during the 2002 season.
Michael Cuddyer followed with a run-scoring double to center.
St. Louis added single runs in the second and sixth innings. Schumacher tripled and scored on Craig's single to right to put the Cardinals up 5-2, and St. Louis went up by four when Beltran doubled and scored on a single by Jon Jay .
Todd Helton had an RBI double for the Rockies in the ninth.
NOTES: Mujica is expected to join the Cardinals in time for Wednesday night's game against the Rockies. ... Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler was a late scratch from the lineup after coming down with flulike symptoms. Young replaced him in the lineup. ... Holliday is 10-for-19 with three home runs and 11 RBIs against Colorado this season. ... Rutledge and Jordan Pacheco each had three hits for the Rockies. .. The Rockies' Drew Pomeranz (1-6) faces the Cardinals' Jake Westbrook (9-8) on Wednesday.