Carlos Beltran leads the National League with 17 home runs and has gone deep twice in his last three games.
The slugger will try to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a series victory this afternoon over the Cleveland Indians in the finale of a three-game interleague set from Busch Stadium. Beltran is in his first season with the defending champion Cardinals and has already left a positive first impression. He clubbed a solo homer in Saturday's 2-0 victory and finished with a game-high three hits. Beltran needs just one more stolen base to become the majors' first-ever 300-300 switch-hitter (homers, steals).
Rafael Furcal was credited with the other RBI for his sacrifice fly in the eighth inning. Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse improved to 6-1 on the season and earned his first win since May 9 at Arizona with 7 2/3 shutout innings of three-hit ball. Marc Rzepczynski got the final out of the eighth inning and Jason Motte nailed down his 11th save in the ninth.
"He was just really locating everything," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Lohse. "He's still taking that role that we gave him opening day. He leads the staff and tries to prove a point. He tries to take charge, and it becomes contagious."
Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday was scratched from the game with back spasms. He was expected to bat cleanup for the first time this season and had appeared in 58 of the club's 59 games. Holliday is hitting .276 with nine doubles, one triple, 10 home runs, 35 RBI and 38 runs scored, and could be back in action versus the Tribe.
St. Louis, which is two games behind Cincinnati for the NL Central lead, has won four of its last six games and is 1-1 on a nine-game homestand that will continue Tuesday versus the Chicago White Sox. Kansas City will also make a stop in the Gateway City.
With Jaime Garcia banged up with shoulder and hip issues, the Cardinals will turn to Joe Kelly for his major league debut on Sunday. Kelly, who turned 24 on Saturday, has pitched at least seven innings in each of his last three starts for Triple-A Memphis. He posted a 2-5 mark with 2.86 ERA in 12 starts for the Redbirds.
Kelly hopes to earn a spot in the rotation, which is expected to be without Garcia until August. A roster spot was made possible for the right-hander after St. Louis released injured relief pitcher Scott Linebrink on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Indians lost ground in the AL Central with Saturday's loss coupled by a White Sox win over Houston, and are 1 1/2 games off the lead.
Cleveland recorded only three hits in the second installment of this series, as Michael Brantley finished 2-for-4. Brantley extended his hitting streak to 17 games and is 24-for-65 with 15 RBI and 11 runs scored during the stretch. He had a 19-game hitting streak from Aug. 30-Sept. 19, 2010.
Asdrubal Cabrera had the other hit and Justin Masterson fell on the losing side of a strong performance. Masterson pitched seven innings and allowed just one run and five hits, including Beltran's homer, to drop to 2-6.
"I think today was a really nice day ... consistent throughout, everything was kind of crisp," Masterson said on the club's site. "Unfortunately, Kyle [Lohse] did a little bit better. I do what I can to try and keep it close for the guys."
The Indians posted a 6-2 win in Friday's series opener, but are now 3-2 on a nine-game road trip following their second loss in three tries. Cleveland will also visit Cincinnati for three games.
Making his 12th start of the season for the Indians, Ubaldo Jimenez tries to turn in another good performance this afternoon. Jimenez was rattled for seven runs and seven hits in just four innings in a 12-6 loss at Chicago on May 27, but rebounded nicely on Tuesday in a 4-2 triumph over Detroit.
Jimenez held the Tigers to a run and scattered five hits through 6 2/3 innings to improve to 6-4 in 11 starts with a 5.31 earned run average. He has won three of his last four starts and is 3-3 in six road outings this season. In seven career starts against St. Louis, the right-hander and former Colorado Rockies ace is 2-3 with a 3.64 ERA.
Cleveland and St. Louis are battling for the first time since the Indians won two of three meetings at home back in 2009. Cleveland has gone 13-6 all-time against St. Louis, which includes a 7-4 mark as the guest. The Indians are the only Major League team that St. Louis has never won a series against.