ST. LOUIS — Kyle Lohse is all about efficiency, about avoiding extended at-bats and letting hitters get themselves out.
The St. Louis Cardinals are in a spot where they could really use that kind of game. When he takes the mound today against the San Francisco Giants, the 16-game winner can pitch his team to into the lead of an NL championship series tied 1-1.
St. Louis has gone three straight games without a starter getting an out in the fifth inning. Lohse gets a chance to end that troubling trend when he faces Matt Cain in a matchup of 16-game winners.
Marco Scutaro’s availabilty was unclear after he got rammed by Matt Holliday while busting up a double play on Monday night. A person with knowledge of the injury told The Associated Press that Scutaro strained his left hip.
Scutaro underwent an MRI exam as was due to arrive along with the rest of the Giants later Tuesday. If they deactivate him from the roster, Scutaro would become ineligible for the World Series.
The Cardinals didn’t work out Tuesday after a return flight to the Midwest. The exception was a 49-pitch simulated game by Jake Westbrook, who recovered from a strained right oblique and is hopeful of rejoining the staff if St. Louis makes it to the World Series.
After Game 2, Holliday said he relayed an apology of sorts to Giants catcher Busty Posey before his next at-bat.
“I told Buster to tell Marco I wish I had started my slide a step earlier,” Holliday said. “I wanted him to know I wasn’t trying to hurt him. When a guy has to leave the game, I feel bad.”
Holliday also defended his hardnosed approach.
“When I’m at first and see a grounder to short, I’m just trying to make sure they can’t turn the double play,” Holliday said. “He was right on second base. I hope he’s OK. He’s a good guy.”
Back at home, where Holliday will get cheers instead of boos, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said what happened is just part of the game.
“To me, what I see is a guy who I’ve never seen one act of trying to hurt anybody,” Matheny said. “And I would never believe that’s what he was trying to do. I know what Matt’s intentions were and he was thinking about his team at the time.”
Addressing the overworked bullpen, Matheny said travel days during the postseason lessen the burden and keeps pitchers fresh. Still, he’d rather not keep making those early trips to the mound.
“You have strong starting pitching, you have an opportunity to be successful,” Matheny said. “Otherwise, you’re fighting an uphill battle all the time and it seems like you’re constantly coming back.”
Lohse needed just 87 pitches to complete a strong seven-inning outing his last time out, a 2-1 loss to the Nationals in Game 4 of the NL division series.
In the regular season, in 11starts he worked six innings or longer and threw fewer than 100 pitches.
“It’s not really a secret, I rely on getting first-pitch strikes, getting ahead of the guys and making them hit my pitch,” Lohse said. “That’s my version of pitching to contact. I’m not out there trying to strike guys out, I want them out in three or four pitches and move on.”
He’ll try not to carry any extra burden into this start.
“We’ve had our ups and downs as the rotation goes,” Lohse said. “You can’t put more pressure on yourself to go out there and do more. I can’t go out there and try to throw seven innings all at once.”
Cain was ex-Cardinals manager Tony La Russa’s choice as the NL All-Star game starter in July. The right-hander hasn’t gone deep in either of his postseason starts, giving up six runs in 10 2-3 innings.
He struggled against the Cardinals this year, too, going 1-1 with a 6.94 ERA in two starts.