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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Cards win fifth in a row, sweep Nats

Cards win fifth in a row, sweep Nats
04/06/2008 6:10 PM ET
By Nate Latsch / Special to

ST. LOUIS -- Right-hander Kyle Lohse continued the Cardinals' string of strong outings from starting pitchers, while former starter Rick Ankiel provided the pop.

Lohse tossed seven shutout innings and Ankiel had a home run and two RBIs as the Cardinals swept the Nationals, 3-0, on Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium for their fifth consecutive victory.

"Oh, man," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "Seven shutout innings. He threw the ball so well and made some really good pitches. If he pitches like that all year, he could spoil us. He was really, really good. The relievers dotted the i, too."

St. Louis improved to 5-1, its best start since opening the 2000 season with seven wins in its first eight games. Washington (3-4) has now lost four in a row.

In two starts, Lohse (1-0) has not allowed a run in 12 innings. On Sunday, he gave up four hits, struck out two and walked one among his 102 pitches.

"I didn't have my best stuff out there, but I made pitches when I had to," Lohse said. "I would have liked to not fall so deep in some counts to some of the hitters, but the bottom line is I made pitches when I had to and got those outs."

Lohse worked ahead in the count, throwing first-pitch strikes to 16 of the 24 batters he faced, and got 11 fly ball outs.

"One of the things I'm doing a little better right now," Lohse said, "is throwing the two-seamer and letting it move and let the guys get themselves out instead of trying to overpower them and get in trouble that way."

The right-hander added to the rotation's impressive run. Through the first six games of the season, the Cardinals' starters -- Adam Wainwright, Lohse, Braden Looper, Todd Wellemeyer and Brad Thompson -- are 5-0 with a 0.96 ERA and have 24 strikeouts and 12 walks in 37 2/3 innings.

"When they only give up two earned runs all week, that's a lot of fun to watch," said closer Jason Isringhausen. "They just keep getting deeper and deeper into the games. That's all we can ask of them. We've still got four guys supposedly coming up here in the next few months. You can never have enough pitching, so that's good."

"It's not surprising to me," catcher Yadier Molina said. "I know these guys. I know their talent."

Ankiel, the starting pitcher-turned-center fielder, continued his strong start to the season as well. He went 2-for-4 with a double, home run and two RBIs, and made a running, stretching and tumbling catch in right-center in the ninth.

"It's really impressive what he's doing," Lohse said. "He's had great at-bats and in the field he's making some great plays. He's been huge for us so far."

Ankiel drove home Brian Barton with an RBI double off Washington starter John Lannan (0-1), hitting it off the base of the center-field wall in the bottom of the first. In the third, Ankiel hit a solo home run, his third of the season and 16th of his career, to left-center.

All three of the left-handed-hitting Ankiel's homers this season have come against lefties. He leads the Cardinals with six RBIs.

"I've been getting balls out over the plate and putting good swings on them," Ankiel said.

St. Louis added a run in the eighth, when right fielder Ryan Ludwick led off with a triple and scored on Molina's sacrifice fly to center field. It was Molina's fifth RBI of the year.

The Cards got a scoreless eighth from left-hander Randy Flores and right-hander Ryan Franklin, then Isringhausen pitched a scoreless ninth for his third save.

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