05/23/09 12:56 AM ET
Cards' rotation remains red-hot in win
Wellemeyer stellar over six-plus in I-70 Series opener
By B.J. Rains / MLB.com
Todd Wellemeyer became the fourth straight Cardinals starter to toss a gem, throwing six-plus scoreless innings and striking out three, as the Cardinals won their fourth straight with a 5-0 victory over the cross-state rival Kansas City Royals on Friday.
Since Lohse -- who starts for the Cardinals on Saturday -- last pitched on Monday against Milwaukee, Joel Pineiro, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and now Wellemeyer have combined to give up just one earned run in 28 2/3 innings. The Cardinals won all four games and have climbed to within one game of the NL Central-leading Brewers.
"It's been incredible," said outfielder Nick Stavinoha, who gave the Cardinals an early 2-0 lead with a two-out, two-run single in the first. "You can't really say enough about the job that the starters and the relievers have done. What, four games with very few runs given up now? They are doing a great job."
Wellemeyer retired the first six Royals in order but allowed a baserunner in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and two in the seventh before turning things over to the bullpen. After Trever Miller coaxed a sac bunt by David DeJesus that moved the tying run into scoring position, Jason Motte entered and struck out pinch-hitters Willie Bloomquist and Billy Butler to keep the shutout alive.
Of Motte's seven pitches to get out of the seventh inning, all were strikes and all were at least 96 mph on the stadium gun.
"He threw the old country fastball by me," Bloomquist said. "I was looking for it. It had some pretty good giddyup on it, but I still expected to at least put a ball in play right there and get a run. ... A good at-bat there maybe changes that game."
The game was a mirror of the Cardinals' previous three, all wins against the Cubs in which they swept the series despite scoring a total of eight runs. The Cardinals' offense hasn't exactly been lighting up the scoreboard with Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick on the disabled list, but they haven't needed to because of the dominating performance by their pitching.
After watching the three previous starters before him stifle the Cubs, Wellemeyer wanted to make sure that he jumped on the train before it pulled out of the station.
"Oh yeah," Wellemeyer said. "I want to get on that thing and ride as long as we can."
They say hitting is contagious. With the Cardinals, good pitching may be contagious, as well.
"Maybe it is," Wellemeyer said. "I don't know."
After Stavinoha gave the Cardinals the early 2-0 lead, the offense again went silent as it has in recent games. Royals starter Kyle Davies sent down 15 straight Cardinals, starting with Colby Rasmus' popup to end the first. The next Cardinals baserunner wasn't until the sixth, on a two-out single by Pujols.
Tyler Greene, who entered the game on a double-switch when Motte came in to pitch in the seventh, hit his second big league home run -- a solo blast into the right-field bullpen in the bottom of the seventh. Khalil Greene added two insurance runs in the eighth with a bases-loaded single that scored two and made it 5-0.
Add in a scoreless ninth against the Brewers on Monday and Cardinals pitchers have given up just two runs in their past 37 innings. Thanks to the recent surge, their ERA has dipped to 3.87, the third lowest in the NL.
And now it's Lohse's turn to jump on board and keep the streak alive.
"Yeah, but I think that's part of it," Stavinoha said. "I'm sure he enjoys that and we're looking forward to another good performance tomorrow."
B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.