Cards pull away to finish off first sweep of '12

Cards pull away to finish off first sweep of '12

Cards pull away to finish off first sweep of '12
PHOENIX -- Seeing as much an opportunity to prevent Kyle Lohse from further aggravating his hamstring as a chance to seize the lead, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny summoned Matt Carpenter to pinch-hit for Lohse in a key sixth-inning spot.

And yet with the one move, Matheny accomplished both.

The rookie Carpenter provided a tiebreaking, two-out, two-run double that, when later complemented with the team's four-run ninth, drove St. Louis to a 7-2 win over the D-backs at Chase Field on Wednesday. With it, the Cardinals also finally closed out a series sweep, having come up empty in four previous tries.

"It's nice to come in and finish it off and get out of here with a good win," Matheny said. "What worked out was Carpenter put together a good at-bat against a lefty. That was a huge at-bat, huge hit for him."

The call for Carpenter came in response to what happened the previous inning, when Lohse felt his left hamstring cramp as he raced from first to third on a single. Unsure that he could slide into third base, Lohse made an awkward lunge at the base as he approached.

"Had I slid, it probably would have been a flop headfirst," said Lohse, who received the signal to slide from third-base coach Jose Oquendo. "I knew the ball was right on me. I was just happy I wasn't laying out there between second and third because it was cramped up."

Lohse reached safely on the bang-bang play, and later scored his team's first run. But he moved around gingerly afterward and was immediately checked on by head athletic trainer Greg Hauck and Matheny.

Lohse assured Matheny that he was OK to remain in the game.

The righty returned to the mound in the bottom half of the inning and threw a scoreless frame. But he felt continued cramping in the muscle, and that was enough for Matheny to end Lohse's night when, in the sixth, his spot in the batting order came up with two runners on.

"He wanted to keep pitching," Matheny said. "He said he was fine, but he was feeling it a little bit."

Had the Cardinals' offense not extended the inning long enough to get to the ninth spot, Matheny was considering letting Lohse pitch another inning. That would suggest that the injury -- which the team referred to as a strain -- is not believed to be serious. Lohse said he hopes it won't keep him from making his next scheduled start.

"I feel like I could have kept going," Lohse said. "But it worked out good. It was probably good that I didn't irritate it anymore today."

The decision paid off doubly when Carpenter drilled a double past a diving Jason Kubel in left to score two. The RBIs pushed Carpenter's season total to 16, six of which have come with his two pinch-hits.

"I think the biggest thing is just being ready throughout the whole game," Carpenter said of the pinch-hit role. "I watch and just put myself in those positions mentally before they happen. Then when you get up there, you just try to execute."

By the time Carpenter delivered the go-ahead knock, the Cardinals had already let several run-scoring opportunities pass. St. Louis scored once off lefty starter Wade Miley in the first five innings, despite collecting eight hits.

Rafael Furcal ended both the first and third innings by being thrown out on the bases. The second time he was called out at home, trying to score from first on a double. Replays showed Furcal appeared to get his hand in before the tag. But when he didn't offer any argument, neither did Matheny.

And though the Cardinals tied the score at 1 in the fifth, they were unable to add on then, too. With the bases full, Allen Craig grounded into a double play to end the frame.

The Cardinals did capitalize late, however. Matt Holliday followed a pair of two-out singles in the ninth with a two-run double. Craig then delivered a two-run homer, to push a one-run lead to five.

"They just keep coming at you," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "If you don't locate the ball they pound it. They out-pitched us. They out-defended us. They swung the bats better than we did. And we're happy to see them go."

That lead was put in brief peril when Matheny opted to turn it over to Mitchell Boggs in the ninth. Wanting to give Boggs the chance to bounce back on the heels of a laborious, 28-pitch appearance on Tuesday, Matheny watched the move backfire.

Arizona opened the inning with three straight hits, prompting Matheny to turn to closer Jason Motte, who collected his sixth save with a strikeout and double play.

"I like getting him a save any way I can," Matheny said.

The win went to Lohse, who moved to 5-1. He is just the third National League starter to win five games, joining teammate Lance Lynn and San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner.

Before his hamstring flared up, he fell behind, 1-0, when Arizona delivered three straight two-out singles in the second. The last came from Miley, who drove home a run with his fifth hit in his first 11 season at-bats.

All night, Lohse had his outfielders, particularly Shane Robinson, running all about chasing down fly balls, but most were caught. Robinson also helped out with a key assist, nailing Lyle Overbay as he tried to score from second on a fourth-inning single.

"When you come into these parks, you know it's going to be a battle and you have to keep it down as much as you can," Lohse said. "They may be struggling over there, but they've got some good hitters who can put together some good at-bats."

Arizona has dropped five straight, while the Cardinals end their road trip on a four-game winning streak.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.