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STL@BAL: Rasmus jacks a solo shot in the sixth

BALTIMORE -- The additions are nice. But the revival is inspiring.

The Cardinals received significant contributions from David Freese and Nick Punto, who both returned from the disabled list on Tuesday night, but the biggest story may have been the continuing resurgence of Colby Rasmus. All three, plus several of their teammates, pitched in, and St. Louis opened a six-game Interleague road trip with a 6-2 win against Baltimore at Camden Yards.

Freese and Punto played key roles in a three-run second inning that put the Cardinals in control of the game to stay. Meanwhile, Rasmus had a walk in that inning that manager Tony La Russa pointed to as possibly the most essential part of the rally, and Rasmus followed it up by hitting a towering home run four frames later that reaffirmed the Redbirds' grip on the game.

St. Louis snapped a three-game losing streak in winning for the fourth time in 16 games, and pulled within two games of the Brewers in the National League Central.

"They all contributed," La Russa said. "That was a good, solid game."

Before the game was delayed for 28 minutes by a rainstorm in the sixth, starter Kyle Lohse turned in five excellent innings, keeping the ball on the ground and dodging trouble when he did allow baserunners. However, he didn't return after the storm, handing the ball to rookie reliever Lance Lynn, who was exceptional. Lynn struck out five over two overpowering innings, positioning himself as a potentially major addition to a relief corps that has struggled at times.

Ryan Franklin endured another rough outing in the eighth, but Fernando Salas picked him up in the eighth. Salas also tossed the ninth, getting the game's final five outs but no save because of the four-run lead.

The story, though, was the offense. A unit that had slumbered at times in recent days posted a strong showing from start to finish. Seven Cardinals had a run, an RBI or both, with Punto and Freese playing key roles and Rasmus as critical as anyone.

It was Freese who opened the go-ahead rally, beating out an infield single for the Cards' first hit with one out in the second. Rasmus walked, and with two outs, Mark Hamilton poked a go-ahead single up the middle. Punto and Ryan Theriot followed with RBI singles to make it 3-0.

"If you're behind the guys and you've got to throw the ball over the plate, they're really aggressive," said Orioles starter Zach Britton. "They don't strike out a lot, and you know they're going to be aggressive. If you're falling behind, you've got to throw a ball over the plate, obviously, and they're a pretty aggressive team."

Rasmus went deep to right before the storm to make it 4-0, and in the seventh, the Cards added some needed insurance. Punto tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly, and Matt Holliday hammered a homer to left field for the sixth run.

For Rasmus, it was his second homer and fourth extra-base hit in five games. He's 6-for-16 in that span, with three walks and six runs scored. That follows a lengthy slump in which he went 19-for-109 with eight extra-base hits in 32 games.

"I've just been working on getting [my hands] back, getting them back moving again. Get some rhythm at the plate," Rasmus said. "I'd gotten to where I was too still -- didn't have enough movement, so I didn't have much pop. I wasn't able to drive the ball, balls weren't falling. It was all bad."

If Rasmus can go from "all bad" to even mostly good, it would be an enormous boost for the Cardinals, who are, of course, still doing without Albert Pujols. Rasmus at his best can make an impact as a hitter -- witness his torrid start to the season, slugging .620 on April 20.

"That swing he put on that home run, if he could swing that [regularly], that's a money swing," La Russa said. "He got on top of it. If he could swing like that, he would realize his potential."

And the Cardinals could really start winning some games.

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