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News » Cardinals-Braves Preview 2009-04-28

Cardinals-Braves Preview 2009-04-28

Cardinals-Braves Preview 2009-04-28
Even though their ace is once again sidelined with an injury, some of baseball's sharpest starting pitching has sparked the St. Louis Cardinals to the best record in the majors.

Kyle Lohse has been a big reason why.

Despite a knee injury, the right-hander will try to extend his strong start Tuesday night, when the Cardinals continue their three-game series against the host Atlanta Braves.

Part of St. Louis' optimism in 2009 stemmed from the return of Chris Carpenter, the former Cy Young award winner who has dealt with elbow and shoulder problems in recent years.

But even though Carpenter is again on the shelf due to a strained ribcage muscle, Cardinals starters have the best winning percentage in the majors at 12-2. Their 3.30 ERA is among the top three.

Joel Pineiro allowed two runs in 6 2-3 innings without walking a batter Monday night, as the Cardinals (14-6) took over the league's best record by earning a 3-2 victory over the Braves.

"You trust your defense," Pineiro said. "That's why I throw that sinker no matter what time in the count, so they can hit it at somebody."

Now, Lohse will try to join him at 4-0. Lohse (3-0, 2.42 ERA) entered the year with a 5.03 career ERA in April, but he'll have a chance to earn a fourth win in the month for the first time despite suffering a knee injury in his last start.

Coming off a season in which he notched career bests with 15 wins and a 3.78 ERA, Lohse has not missed a beat. He gave up eight hits in five innings Thursday, but held the New York Mets to two runs - one earned - in St. Louis' 12-8 win.

Lohse injured his right knee while fielding a grounder during that game and had an MRI, but he has improved and will make his scheduled start.

"I don't have a doubt," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa told his team's official Web site.

The right-hander's last three outings against the Braves have been quality starts. He's 2-0 with a 3.20 ERA over that span.

The quality efforts from Atlanta's Jo-Jo Reyes have been rare, as the left-hander has now dropped eight straight decisions dating to last June. He has a 7.82 ERA over that span, with opponents hitting .337 against him and the Braves going 1-13 in those games.

Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols is 4-for-7 with three walks and a home run against Reyes.

Reyes (0-1, 7.94) has made only one start thus far this season, pitching five solid innings before allowing four runs in the sixth during a 10-0 loss at Pittsburgh on April 18. He'll now try to avoid becoming the first Braves pitcher to lose nine straight decisions since Marty Clary in 1990.

He'll need some help from the Atlanta's struggling offense, which is batting .237 and averaging 3.2 runs in the last 13 games. The Braves are 4-9 over that span.

"We're going 1-2-3 way too many times," Atlanta outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. "We're not putting any pressure on the other team to make pitches."

The Braves also went 1-for-8 with men in scoring position Monday, one game after stranding at least 10 runners for the third time in four contests.

Atlanta has lost four straight at Turner Field, which has hosted fewer than 20,000 fans in four of seven home games this season. The team has also dropped eight of 10 against St. Louis.

The Cardinals' offense was relatively quiet Monday, but Yadier Molina has an 11-game hitting streak and Pujols leads the majors with 25 RBIs.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 28, 2009

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