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CLE@STL: Lohse hurls 7 2/3 scoreless frames vs. Tribe

ST. LOUIS -- Much had changed since Kyle Lohse's last victory.

The Cardinals were 20-11 after the veteran right-hander defeated the D-backs in the desert on May 9 and led the National League Central by 3 1/2 games.

But what followed was a difficult stretch of eight losses in 10 games and a 10-18 mark overall as Lohse received no decisions in his next five starts.

On Saturday night, exactly one month later, Lohse gave the struggling Cardinals just what they've needed. He allowed three hits over 7 2/3 shutout innings in a 2-0 victory over the Indians before 41,694 at Busch Stadium.

"We're looking for something to get us going," Lohse said. "I haven't pitched up to my capabilities, I know that, for a while now. It's just getting back to what we were doing earlier in the season. Every one of us is capable of going out there and putting together something like that. We just have to get back to basics, getting ahead of guys and locating better."

Lohse (6-1) threw first-pitch strikes to 22 of the 29 batters he faced. He struck out four and walked two among his 105 pitches (66 strikes), improving his career record to 108-107 over 12 seasons.

"Kyle was very good, very good," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Just using everything. About as sharp as we've seen him. He wasn't overthrowing the ball, he was just really locating. He was locating everything. He was back-dooring his breaking ball and making effective pitches inside. It was just a great display of pitching. That's a couple starts in a row where he's done a nice job."

Lohse followed up a strong start in New York last week -- he allowed one earned run on two hits over six innings -- and seems to have built some momentum after four rocky outings.

"The first game, the Opening Day, he threw the ball pretty good too," catcher Yadier Molina said. "He's been like that all year. He's been so nasty the whole year. I'm happy for him for having a good year."

Lohse didn't allow a hit until Michael Brantley's one-out bunt single in the fourth inning, which extended the center fielder's hit streak to 17 games.

"He seemed like he put his fastball, or I should say all of his pitches, exactly where he wanted to all the time," Indians left fielder Johnny Damon said. "He definitely out-guessed us a little bit. Normally a guy like that keeps the ball down quite a bit, but I think his most effective pitches were the ones that were up."

The Cardinals (31-29) needed that kind of performance from Lohse, especially on a night when left fielder Matt Holliday was scratched from the lineup late with back spasms.

Right fielder Carlos Beltran gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead with a solo home run, his National League-leading 17th of the season, to center field with two outs in the third inning off Indians righty Justin Masterson.

"In that particular at-bat, actually, I wasn't thinking about a homer," he said. "I was thinking about hitting the ball hard. He threw me a first-pitch fastball inside and a second-pitch slider. I was able to recognize it and stay inside the ball. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was going to be close. When it left the ballpark, it was a good feeling. One run right there, after what Lohse was doing pitching-wise, we felt personally that we were going to have a good chance to win."

That turned out to be all the offense the 33-year-old Lohse would need on this night, and also all the Cardinals could manage off Masterson.

Masterson (2-6), who entered the night with a 5.09 earned-run average, gave Cleveland a chance on Saturday. He allowed just one run on five hits and struck out six over seven innings.

Matheny pulled Lohse after he surrendered a two-out single off the right field wall to Asdrubal Cabrera in the eighth inning. Lefty Marc Rzepczynski came in to face Jason Kipnis, but Cabrera was caught trying to steal second base on the next pitch with a perfect throw from Molina.

"We're spoiled around here. We are," Matheny said of his catcher. "That's a play that may get overlooked in the highlights but that's a big part of the game."

The Cardinals added an insurance run in the eighth inning off reliever Jeremy Accardo. Shane Robinson, who was inserted into the starting lineup when Holliday was scratched, led off with a double to right and scored on an RBI sacrifice fly by Rafael Furcal.

Jason Motte tossed a perfect ninth inning to record his 11th save.

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