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Cardinals-Cubs Preview 2009-04-17


Cardinals-Cubs Preview 2009-04-17
Kyle Lohse joined the St. Louis Cardinals a little over a year ago hoping to add some depth to their rotation. He's instead become their most reliable pitcher.

Coming off one of the best performances of his career, Lohse looks to open a season with three consecutive winning starts for the first time as St. Louis continues its four-game series against the Chicago Cubs on Friday.

Lohse (2-0, 1.13 ERA) signed a one-year, $4.25 million contract with the Cardinals (8-3) in March 2008 after going 9-12 with a 4.62 ERA in 34 games with Cincinnati and Philadelphia the previous season. That was another rough year for the right-hander, who hadn't won more than nine games since he went 14-11 with a 4.61 ERA with Minnesota in 2003.

Despite his shaky history, Lohse turned in a career year with St. Louis, going 15-6 with a personal-best 3.78 ERA in 33 starts to lead the team in wins.

In September, the Cardinals rewarded him with a four-year, $41 million contract.

"I try not to think about it like that," Lohse said. "I'm privileged that they thought that much of me to give me a four-year deal. That's part of the job, to go out there and be professional about it, get your work done even when no one's looking."

Lohse was outstanding Sunday, throwing a career-best three-hitter to lead St. Louis to a 3-0 win over Houston. He retired 24 in a row after allowing a single on the first pitch of the game, and extended his streak of winning starts to four with a 2.20 ERA dating back to last season.

Lohse hasn't been charged with a loss since a 7-3 defeat at Cincinnati on Aug. 17. However, he went 0-1 with a 6.38 ERA in three starts against the Cubs (5-4) last season.

He'll try to beat them for the first time since he was with the Reds on April 15, 2007.

The Cardinals defeated Chicago 7-4 in Thursday's series opener, winning for the seventh time in eight games.

Chris Duncan extended his hitting streak to career-high 10 games after going 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs on Thursday. The left fielder is 14-for-36 (.389) with five doubles, a triple, two homers and 10 RBIs during the run.

His outstanding start to 2009 has come after he missed the second half of last season with a degenerative disk in his neck. A unique surgery, in which the bad disk was replaced by a titanium one, made it a relatively quick recovery.

"His toughness is off the charts," Cards manager Tony La Russa said. "You see it the way he plays, the way he runs the bases, the way he defends, the way he takes at-bats. He's never going to give in."

Duncan is batting .391 with five homers and 10 RBIs in 15 career games at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs hope Carlos Zambrano (1-0, 3.00) can help them avoid a three-game losing streak in his first home start of the season. The right-hander went 7-2 with a 3.77 ERA in 16 starts there last year.

A return to Wrigley might help Zambrano after he labored through six innings and didn't factor in the decision of Saturday's 6-5 win at Milwaukee. He allowed three runs and seven hits with seven strikeouts on 118 pitches in that outing.

"I really had to battle, but I just wanted to give us a chance to win the ballgame," Zambrano said.

Zambrano, though, wasn't very effective in losing two home starts against the Cardinals last year, allowing 17 runs and 16 hits - five homers - in six innings.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 17, 2009

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