MLB Insiders: St. Louis Cardinals

Charlie Morton

The Pirates open a three-game series in St. Louis on Monday night. Right-hander Charlie Morton gets the start for the Bucs. The Cardinals will counter with right-hander Kyle Lohse.

With a better performance against teams with losing records, the St. Louis Cardinals might not be on the verge of missing the postseason.

Looking to improve their record against teams below .500, the Cardinals open a three-game series with the major league-worst Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night.

Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse (4-8, 7.18 ERA) looks for a better outing than the last time he faced the Pirates when he takes the ball Monday.

The right-hander had allowed five total runs while winning his two previous starts, but gave up six in three innings of an 11-6 loss at Pittsburgh on Wednesday. The defeat was Lohse's first in eight career starts against the Pirates.

Pittsburgh's scheduled starter Charlie Morton (2-11, 8.11) gave up two runs in six innings Wednesday against Lohse and the Cardinals to record his first win since May 5.

The right-hander is 1-3 with an 8.44 lifetime ERA versus St. Louis.

The Cardinals had lost 10 straight series to teams with losing records before finally ending that streak in their last road game of the season.

It wasn't easy. They blew all but one run of an 8-0 lead they had in the fifth but they held on to win, 8-7, and take two of three from the Chicago Cubs. In the process, they stayed alive in the National League Central Division race for perhaps one or two more days. Their magic number for elimination is one.

The Cardinals now are 45-49 against teams with losing records and 35-26 against winning teams.

"That's been ridiculous," said manager Tony La Russa. "It's one of the dumbest things I've ever seen in all my years. I have no explanation."

First baseman Albert Pujols walloped his 42nd homer, a three-run blast into Waveland Avenue, as he extended his home-run lead in the National League and regained the league RBI lead at 116.

There is no question the Cardinals have some of the top stars in the game in Pujols, 20-game-winning right-hander Adam Wainwright, left fielder Matt Holliday (100 RBI) and righty Chris Carpenter, a 15-game winner. But they must fill in some gaps.

"The positive thing going into 2011 is that we have some great players, we have a core in place, and we have to complement it with a group of talented players," general manager John Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Things have to change. There's no way we can go into this offseason thinking that everything we did this year everything we planned to have happen … that it's going to come together and next year it will magically be different. Because it won't."

CARDINALS 8, CUBS 7: RHP Jake Westbrook pitched no-hit ball for 4 2/3 innings and four relievers preserved his third victory as a Cardinal. RH reliever Ryan Franklin executed a rare five-out save, giving him 26 saves in 28 opportunities.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Blake Hawksworth was discharged from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago after spending Saturday night there. Hawksworth needed almost 30 stitches to close wounds in his mouth and upper lip caused by a fifth-inning line drive that struck him in Saturday's game. "It's a little painful," Hawksworth said. Manager Tony La Russa said he did not expect Hawksworth to pitch again this season.

--C Matt Pagnozzi had his first multi-hit and multi-RBI game Sunday when he had a single and a double and drove in three runs. Pagnozzi is known for his defense and if he can hit even a little, might have a leg up on the backup role to Gold Glove C Yadier Molina for next year.

--RF Allen Craig, who will get many more starts in the outfield next week, had three hits Sunday after hitting a three-run homer in a start on Friday.

--The Cardinals finished with a 34-47 road record, their worst since 2006, when they had the same mark but won the World Series.

--SS Brendan Ryan, continuing his late season splurge after hitting close to .200 or under it most of the year, had two more hits. That gaveg him five for the three-game series.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Saves blown by RH reliever Ryan Franklin, the Cardinals' closer, through the first 25 weeks of the season. The problem was that he had only 28 save chances in that time.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Mind-boggling." -- Manager Tony La Russa, about his team dropping eight straight games to teams with losing records before finally winning at Pittsburgh.

ROSTER REPORT

MEDICAL WATCH:

--RHP Blake Hawksworth (mouth, lip lacerations) was struck in the face by a line drive Sept. 25 and was hospitalized for observation. He was discharged from on Sept. 26 after requiring almost 30 stitches to close wounds in his mouth and upper lip. Manager Tony La Russa said he did not expect Hawksworth to pitch again this season.

--C Yadier Molina (sore right knee) hasn't played since Sept. 21. An MRI on Sept. 22 found inflammation in the knee, and he was shut down for the season.

--LHP Jaime Garcia (arm fatigue) missed starts Sept. 18 and Sept. 23, and the Cardinals announced on Sept. 24 that he had been shut down for the season.

--C Jason LaRue (concussion) went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 13. He was moved to the 60-day DL on Aug. 19, ending his season. He has announced that he will retire.

--RHP Adam Ottavino (right shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 4, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on Aug. 17. He was throwing in early September, hoping to get in a game or two before season's end, but manager Tony La Russa said that was unlikely.

--3B David Freese (right ankle surgery in August 2010, left ankle surgery in September 2010) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 28, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on Aug. 15. He was originally out due to a bone bruise on his right ankle, and then he broke his left big toe in mid-July. He tore a right ankle tendon Aug. 2 in his first rehab game with Class AA Springfield, and he had season-ending surgery Aug. 6. He underwent surgery on the left ankle a month later, but he expects to be ready for spring training.

--RHP Brad Penny (strained upper back) went on the 15-day disabled list May 22, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 31. He threw bullpen sessions June 28 and July 1 but had to cut short a bullpen session July 6 because of tightness in his triceps area. He underwent an MRI on July 7 that found nothing that hadn't been diagnosed before. As of Aug. 5, he was playing catch but not throwing off a mound. Penny is out indefinitely.

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