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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Late blasts give Lohse sixth straight win

Schumaker, Molina back Cardinals right-hander's quality start

BOSTON -- Three guys who are not supposed to deliver home runs did for the Cardinals on Friday night. More importantly, three players who are supposed to for the Red Sox, did not.

Skip Schumaker, Jason LaRue and Yadier Molina all went deep for the visiting Redbirds as they snapped a three-game losing streak and beat the Red Sox, 5-4, at Fenway Park in the opener of an Interleague series between the past two World Series champions. Entering the game, Schumaker, LaRue and Molina had combined for eight dingers on the year.

Meanwhile, three different Cardinals pitchers escaped scary situations with the menacing heart of the Red Sox order at the plate. Kyle Lohse, Russ Springer and Ryan Franklin all walked a highwire, and all three made it to the other side. Lohse won his sixth straight start, while Franklin picked up the first two-inning save of his career.

"We had a lot of heroes," manager Tony La Russa said.

The list started with Lohse, who made it seven consecutive solid starts. After breezing through a 1-2-3 first, he found himself in trouble in the second thanks to a walk and a Cesar Izturis error. Loshe struck out Kevin Youkilis, gave up a one-out bloop single and a sacrifice fly, and got out of the inning when Kevin Cash hit into a force play.

But that was just a warmup for Lohse's true Houdini act. In the fifth, two balls fell in for singles that at least arguably could have been turned into outs by the St. Louis defense. With the bases loaded and one out, Manny Ramirez strode to the plate -- and Lohse struck him out, looking. Mike Lowell followed by grounding into a force, and Lohse had preserved a 1-1 tie.

"That's where I really had to bear down and not think about the situation I was in," Lohse said. "Just think about what pitch I needed to make. It's clich├ęd, but I really had to take it one pitch at a time and not get ahead of myself. Because if you don't have complete concentration one on of those pitches, it's a home run easily."

After the Cardinals took a 2-1 lead in the sixth, Lohse surrendered a Julio Lugo homer, but six innings with one earned run is a spectacular effort against the Red Sox at Fenway.

"Loshie pitched, for me, probably the best game of the year," Schumaker said. "That lineup is one of the best in all the big leagues. He was so impressive and dominant. I'm not surprised anymore, because I've seen him do it again and again, time after time."

It was in the next half-inning when Schumaker gave the Cardinals another lead, one they would not give up. He cranked a two-run homer off Tim Wakefield, who had gotten three easy outs against Schumaker earlier in the evening.

"I was trying to throw strike one and work from there," said Wakefield, "and the ball didn't do anything."

Even then, nothing was safe for the Cardinals. Randy Flores loaded the bases on a single and two walks to open the seventh, once again presenting Ramirez with a perfect RBI chance. This time, Springer retired the future Hall of Famer, inducing a double-play grounder, before striking out Lowell. The Red Sox got a single run, but the lead was intact.

"To me, that was the key to the game," Lohse said.

Molina's homer in his first start after missing three games due to a concussion made it 5-3, and Franklin put away the Red Sox in the bottom of the eighth. He got into trouble in the ninth, though, and once again the Cardinals had to face those sluggers. A Dustin Pedroia double brought the tying run to the plate, and an unintentional-intentional walk to Ramirez made Lowell the potential go-ahead run. This time Lowell singled home a run, but Franklin retired Youkilis to end the game.

"We're making pitches when we have to," Franklin said. "Those are outstanding hitters up there, and they've proved it for a long time."

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