ST. LOUIS -- Kyle Lohse responded to a frustrating week in the best manner possible: with an outstanding performance.
Lohse, whose start was bumped back from the weekend to Tuesday night, pitched six shutout innings to help the Cardinals beat the Brewers, 4-2, at Busch Stadium. Pitching on eight days' rest, he was in command almost from the start.
It was a strange week for the right-hander. He learned on Wednesday of last week that he would not be making his scheduled Saturday start, shortly before he was slated to throw his normal side session. He was available in relief for three days before finally throwing his bullpen session during Saturday's game.
Finally, on Tuesday, he returned to the mound, and did so in style. He beat the Brewers for the first time in three starts this year while pitching at least six shutout innings for the first time since April 27.
"It was kind of a weird eight or nine days because I wasn't able to do anything really normal," Lohse said. "I was live in the bullpen, so I wasn't able to work out or do any of my normal stuff. But I was able to make it work."
The win pulled the Cards back within 9 1/2 games of the Brewers in the National League Central with 20 games remaining. Their final head-to-head meeting of the regular season is set for Wednesday. Perhaps more important, it got them within 7 1/2 games of the Braves in the NL Wild Card race. Atlanta comes to Busch Stadium over the weekend after the series with Milwaukee comes to an end.
The Cardinals beat Yovani Gallardo for the second time in a week, scratching out a run in the first before adding a pair of solo homers in the third. Gallardo had been rolling over his previous eight starts, allowing a total of 11 runs in those games, before allowing 11 in two meetings with the Cardinals in a six-day span.
For his career, Gallardo is 1-7 against the Cardinals with a 5.66 ERA. By those standards, Tuesday night actually represented improvement from the right-hander.
"I try not to look at those things," Gallardo said. "You have to take the positives and go out there and give it all you've got. ... I don't even think about things like that. I mean, who knows? I could have gone out and thrown a no-hitter tonight."
For Lohse, it was the best start since April, and his third quality start since the beginning of July. He has been less effective in the second half than in the first, but on the two occasions he's received extended time between starts, he's responded well.
He pitched with seven days' rest on Aug. 12 against Colorado, allowing a run in 6 1/3 innings. On Tuesday, he was even better, striking out six against three walks and needing a relatively tidy 91 pitches to get 18 outs.
"He was outstanding," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's the difference in that game. He shut down a real good offense. They're trying to put us away and he was just outstanding."
The greatest threat to Lohse came in the first inning. Corey Hart led off with a double and Ryan Braun drew a one-out walk. But Lohse got Prince Fielder to fly out, and after Casey McGehee walked to load the bases, Yuniesky Betancourt's foul popup ended the inning. He permitted three hits, one an infield hit, and one walk over his last five innings.
"I think I've said since about a month ago when I started getting moved around and skipped, I just take the ball when Tony says it's my turn and go as long as I can till he says that's enough," Lohse said. "I try not to worry about all the other stuff because then you're going to be distracted."
Lohse handed it over to the Redbirds' bullpen for the seventh, and four pitchers combined to get the last nine outs. Kyle McClellan surrendered a two-out RBI double in the eighth that got Milwaukee on the board, but the run likely would not have scored if Jon Jay had fielded the ball cleanly.
That, however, was the only mark on Jay's night. After a post-All-Star swoon, the second-year outfielder is surging again. He had two hits, including a homer, two RBIs and two runs scored on Tuesday. It was the fourth straight two-hit game for Jay, the third straight game with an extra-base hit and the fifth consecutive game in which he has scored.
Jason Motte allowed an RBI single to Fielder in the ninth, ending a string of 21 consecutive scoreless appearances. Nonetheless, he recorded his career-high third save.
"I'll take the win," Motte said. "I'll take us winning any day. As a pitcher, regardless, you don't want to go out there and give up a run, but it's one of those things. It's going to happen."
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.