ST. LOUIS -- Kyle Lohse gave the Cardinals lots of reasons for optimism on Monday night, but a mostly misfiring offense left him hanging just the same.Lohse turned in six strong innings and one rough one in a 4-3 loss to the Pirates. He kept the ball down, showed good stuff and had life with the entirety of his arsenal. He even managed to come back to finish strong after a five-batter hiccup. In the end, it didn't matter, though, as the Cards went down in defeat for the third time in four games. The clubs played on a chilly, windy night in front of an announced crowd of 32,007, the lowest paid attendance in the five-plus years of the current Busch Stadium. "Right now, it's frustrating because it cost us the game," Lohse said. "It's time to turn the page for the night. I feel like I did some good things, but we didn't win, so that's the bottom line." Still, given the light of day and a little distance on Tuesday morning, Lohse, the Cardinals and even their fans will likely be able to see the silver lining in the cloud of another defeat. After spending nearly all of the past two seasons dealing with physical issues in his right forearm, Lohse was healthy and effective on Monday. "I could take that every night," he said. "Hopefully a couple fewer mistakes, and we wind up winning a lot of games if I can do that." The problem for the Cardinals was less on the pitching side and more when they were at the plate. Charlie Morton, coming off an extremely rocky 2010, stifled the Cardinals over six innings for his first win of the season. The game recalled numerous nights in '10 when the Cardinals scuffled to score runs against less-than-imposing hurlers. Morton walked five and threw fewer than 60 percent of his pitches for strikes, but the Cardinals couldn't capitalize on his shaky command for base hits. The right-hander, who went 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA in 2010, held Cardinals batters to three hits over his six innings. "He walked five guys and we had some chances, but he had a lot of movement," manager Tony La Russa said. "We had trouble centering it. ... Both pitchers, the other team had good numbers against them [in the past], and they both pitched very well. Kyle's healthy and Morton's getting some experience and he's doing more things to get guys out. They're not the same pitcher. Neither one of them [is]." The Cards hit into two double plays and went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. They've grounded into seven twin killings in four games, tied for the most in the Major Leagues. St. Louis' only run against Morton came when David Freese grounded into a double play with runners on first and third and no outs in the second inning. That gave the Redbirds a 1-0 lead. Otherwise, Morton became a mystery with men in scoring position. For a while, Lohse was going so well, one run looked like it might be enough. However, with so little margin for error, one inning was enough to doom Lohse. Pitching with great optimism after spending most of the past two seasons physically compromised, Lohse came out strong but was undone by a five-batter stretch in the sixth inning. Lohse breezed through the first five frames, holding the Bucs to two singles and no walks. But a Ronny Cedeno leadoff single in the sixth set danger in motion. Morton bunted Cedeno over, and Lohse walked Jose Tabata. That brought up Neal Walker, who doubled in two runs to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead. Two pitches later, Andrew McCutchen drilled an 0-1 pitch 370 feet to left field for a two-run homer. "Lohse was having a good game and keeping the ball low and we didn't chase," McCutchen said. "We stayed within ourselves. He elevated some balls and we were able to do some damage. He was staying pretty low with his pitches. His sliders and sinkers, he was keeping them pretty low. He elevated one and I was able to put a good swing on it." After the home runs, Lohse settled down, but the damage was done. He finished with four runs allowed on six hits over seven innings. He struck out five and walked one. The Cardinals rallied for two runs against the Pittsburgh bullpen in the eighth, but couldn't come all the way back. They fell to 1-3 on the young season.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer, and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.