The St. Louis Cardinals' offense has struggled mightily over a four-game losing streak. The pressure will be on starter Kyle Lohse to maintain his consistency and get his club back on track this afternoon in the third meeting of a four-game set with the Washington Nationals.
Lohse has been one of the best pitchers in the NL this season, going 14-2 with a 2.64 earned run average in 27 starts. Only a rain delay prevented him from logging at least six innings for a 16th start in a row on Monday at the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he still won his second straight start and eighth decision in a row.
The righty yielded two runs on five hits without a walk in five innings.
Lohse, 33, is 4-2 with a 4.90 ERA in 12 career meetings (10 starts) with the Nationals, who have put their own recent woes behind them while extending the Cardinals' struggles.
Washington followed up Thursday's 8-1 series-opening win with Friday's 10-0 triumph as Gio Gonzalez tossed his first career shutout to win his career-high 17th game of the season.
Gonzalez scattered five hits and three walks while striking out eight for the Nats, who have scored 26 runs over a three-game win streak that comes on the heels of five straight losses. That has helped Washington push its edge over the Atlanta Braves for first place in the NL East to 6 1/2 games.
"I was just trying to do my best to try to minimize the damage as much as possible, but our defense made some great plays," Gonzalez said. "The offense came alive, 10 runs is a pretty good cushion."
Jayson Werth reached base five times on Friday, going 3-for-3 with two walks, three runs scored and one RBI. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman each had two hits and drove in a pair of runs.
St. Louis, meanwhile, was shut out for the third time on a four-game slide and has been outscored 32-1 over that time. The Cards have fallen 9 1/2 games back of the Cincinnati Reds for first place in the NL Central and lead the Pirates by only a half-game for the second wild card in the league.
Adam Wainwright surrendered six runs on nine hits and walked three in 2 2/3 innings for the loss, while Jon Jay had two of St. Louis' five hits.
"Definitely a loss you can pin on my shoulders, no doubt," Wainwright admitted. "I was focused, I had a good plan, I just didn't execute."
The Cards played Friday's game without shortstop Rafael Furcal, who landed on the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day with a right elbow strain.
Taking the hill for the Nats will be Jordan Zimmermann, who tries to avoid a fourth straight start without a win. He is 0-2 over his skid with a 5.17 ERA following a string of six straight winning decisions.
Zimmermann, 26, lost at the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, and was charged with three runs on five hits and three walks over five innings. He fell to 9-8 with a 2.63 ERA over a career high-tying 26 starts this season.
"I wanted to go as deep as I could," Zimmermann remarked. "The first four (innings) were a breeze, then I hit a wall and made a couple of bad pitches."
The righty is 0-2 with an 8.62 ERA in three lifetime meetings with the Cardinals.
Washington was 4-2 versus St. Louis last season.