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STL@CIN: Lohse dominates the Reds over six innings

CINCINNATI -- For the second straight season the Cardinals are without one of their top starting pitchers due to injury, with Chris Carpenter beginning the season on the disabled list. But much like last year when Adam Wainwright went down, the Cardinals starting pitchers have rallied around each other.

"These starters keep giving each other something to measure up to," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "They talk a lot of smack to each other about their starts, trying to better the guy before them. It's healthy competition. But Lohse did it again. He sets the bar high for these guys to follow."

Lohse delivered his second consecutive solid outing to begin the season, allowing just one run and four hits in six innings, and Carlos Beltran and David Freese each homered, as St. Louis defeated the Reds 3-1 on a chilly Tuesday evening at chilly Great American Ball Park.

Lohse (2-0) walked one and struck out two to lower his ERA to 1.35 in two starts. He hasn't allowed more than one run in a regular-season start since Sept. 12, 2011.

The game-time temperature was 51 degrees, but it got progressively colder later in the game. It was quite a contrast from the conditions in Miami during Lohse's start on Opening Day.

"You're not going to get the same feel on the baseball, with the temperature," Lohse said. "I didn't have complete control of my changeup. But I had a pretty good slider. You're not going to have your best stuff, so you have to make do with what you've got."

Lohse was the beneficiary of some early run support. The Cardinals, who hit three home runs in the first inning on Monday, got a solo home run from Beltran off Reds starter Mike Leake in the first.

Lohse was coming off his stellar Opening Day start when he held the Marlins hitless for 7 1/3 innings. He has picked up where he left off this spring when he made a team-high six starts and went 3-1 with a 2.81 ERA.

"It's unbelievable, you're going to win a ton of ballgames if your starters do what they're doing," Freese said. "The bats aren't always going to be there. The arms won't always be there. But when everything is clicking we're a tough team to beat."

The Reds' only scoring threat against Lohse through five innings was when Jay Bruce led off the second with a double, but he was left stranded.

Lohse held the Reds to just two hits through four innings, but he had an adventure at the plate, bunting into a 1-6-4 inning-ending double play in the second, and then popping out to the catcher attempting a sac bunt in the fifth. In the end, the Cardinals didn't need more runs. Lohse made certain of that.

After a rocky first inning Leake cruised through the next four frames. But with one out in the sixth, Lance Berkman tripled. And Freese followed with a two-run homer on an 0-1 pitch from Leake to give St. Louis a 3-0 lead. Freese admitted his primary intention was a sacrifice fly.

"You're up 1-0, Lohse is pitching a heck of a game, and you want to give him a little cushion," Freese said. "I let that first pitch go by. I was kicking myself. Fortunately I got another pitch to hit."

Berkman later left the game with a strained left calf after singling in the eighth. Rafael Furcal pinch-ran for Berkman.

Leake (0-1) allowed three earned runs and seven hits in six innings, walked one and struck out four in his season debut.

"Leake did a good job of shutting us down for a while," Lohse said. "I was trying to come right at them. I threw a lot of first-pitch strikes. Somehow they ran my pitch-count up high pretty good. It's a different ballpark. Try to keep the ball out of the air or you can give up some home runs real quick."

The Reds scored their first and only run in the sixth when Zack Cozart led off with a triple and scored on Joey Votto's sacrifice fly to center. That was all the Reds would muster off Lohse.

"He mixed his pitches very well," said Reds outfielder Drew Stubbs. "The main thing he did was keep the ball down and stay away from the middle of the plate all night. Whenever he gave you a pitch to hit, it was on the corner. You noticed there weren't too many good swings where balls were hit hard."

The Cardinals bullpen continued its solid stretch. Mitchell Boggs pitched two perfect innings with two strikeouts. Jason Motte finished the evening with a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his second save. Comments