Craig homers twice in Cards' win over Rockies

Craig homers twice in Cards' win over Rockies

Craig homers twice in Cards' win over Rockies
ST. LOUIS -- If the Cardinals are to continue their climb toward the division-leading Reds, Monday's 9-3 win over the Rockies provides an ample blueprint.

A crowd of 39,456 at Busch Stadium watched the Cardinals beat up a lesser team (a category into which the now 30-49 Rockies clearly fall), showcase an ideal offensive balance and ride another deep, quality performance from their starter. If there's an outline to follow, that would be it.

"Yeah, I'd like that," joked manager Mike Matheny when asked about emulating such a script. "When this team gets going and good things start to happen, it's a good, good vibe in that dugout. We need to keep it and make it last for a long time."

The Rockies certainly provided their share of assistance. Four pitchers combined to throw four wild pitches and issue eight walks. An infield error led to two unearned runs. But the blowout victory wasn't entirely handed over.

As it has when things have been going well for St. Louis, the top of the lineup found a way to provide the middle of the order with RBI opportunities. Those chances weren't squandered.

The Cardinals' Nos. 3, 4 and 5 batters drove in six runs. Matt Holliday delivered the first long ball, taking Rockies starter and St. Louis-area native Josh Outman deep in the third. Two innings later, after Colorado had tied the score on Tyler Colvin's two-run blast, Allen Craig connected for his own two-run homer.

The Cardinals never again trailed, nor was Craig done. Though the insurance wasn't needed, he added a homer in the eighth, giving him his third career multihomer game.

"He's not a guy who seems to have glaring holes," Matheny said. "You pitch him one way consistently, he's going to make an adjustment. And he stays through the ball. He sees the ball well. He's got a nice swing path. And he generates a lot of power. It's a really dangerous combination."

Though it's not a revelation, Craig's continued offensive tear regularly adds wrinkles. These two homers established career highs in RBIs (43) and homers (13). He's reached those totals in 40 games. He had 40 and 11, respectively, last season in nearly twice as many games.

"Honestly, I don't think about that stuff too much," Craig said. "I try to take every at-bat seriously, and I don't think about the RBI stuff. I focus on what I'm doing out there and stick to my approach and don't try to do too much. That's really what I just try to do -- take every at-bat like it's my last."

Craig's first blast came during a three-run inning for the Cardinals, who tacked on at least one more run in each of the innings that followed. Holliday drove home one in the sixth. A pair of unearned runs scored in the seventh. Craig punctuated the eighth.

Seven of the eight starting position players scored at least one run, and three of the walks St. Louis drew directly resulted in runs.

"We didn't pitch at all tonight," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "When you walk eight guys, you don't afford yourself much of a chance to win a Major League game."

The Rockies also received only three innings from Outman, who went too close to his club-imposed 75-pitch limit to return for the fourth. Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse helped run up that pitch count with an 11-pitch at-bat in the second. He eventually drew a walk.

But Lohse's night was made on the mound. Though he was not the one to earn the All-Star invitation, Lohse has been the most consistent pitcher in the rotation this season. On Monday he was rewarded with his eighth win.

Lohse allowed three singles -- two of the infield variety -- and Colvin turned his only mistake, a changeup, into a two-run homer in the fourth. Lohse responded by limiting the Rockies to only five more hits -- three of those were in the infield, too -- before exiting to a standing ovation with one out in the eighth.

"I really know what I need to do to be successful," Lohse said. "I'm two years removed from surgery [on my forearm], and I feel like I know now what my arm is going to do and what it's capable of. The ability to go out there and hit my spots is something that's been able to keep me in the game. I go out there with a lot of confidence."

Though the game morphed into a runaway win, Lohse's work in the fifth was, at the time, among his most important. A pair of infield hits brought up Rockies All-Star Carlos Gonzalez with two on and two out. Wanting no part of that battle, Lohse pitched around Gonzalez to load the bases for cleanup hitter Michael Cuddyer.

"It's one of those matchups," Lohse said, "where you have to pick your poison."

He chose wisely. Cuddyer flied out to end the inning.

Lohse would have been able to finish the eighth had Colorado not strung together a pair of hits and a walk to load the bases. Not wanting to mar Lohse's night any further, Matheny called in Mitchell Boggs.

Two pitches and a double play later, Lohse's line was in the books. His ERA dropped to 2.80, the lowest it's been since May 15.

"He's been overlooked," Matheny said. "He was overlooked all winter, all spring. Everybody talked about our club, and not many people talked about Kyle Lohse, and that's a shame. He had a strong season last year, and he's having a great year again this year."

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.