ST. LOUIS – Almost three weeks into the season, the Washington Nationals stand alone in one category. No other rotation has worked at least five innings in every game.
Tom Gorzelanny kept that run alive despite struggles with command in a 5-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Kyle Lohse's two-hitter on Thursday.
Gorzelanny walked a batter in each of his first four innings and needed 108 pitches to get through five, but was hurt by Matt Holliday's two-run home run with two outs in the first.
"Not every start you're going to feel good and go out there with your best stuff," Gorzelanny said. "You've just got to tell yourself to bear down and no matter how many you throw to each batter, make sure you do whatever you can to get them out.
"I just tried to do what I could and limit the damage."
John Lannan also worked five innings in an 8-6 victory in the first game of a doubleheader on Wednesday and Jordan Zimmermann went six innings in a 5-3 loss in Game 2.
The Cardinals have a much higher profile rotation, even without injured Adam Wainwright, but three times their starter has failed to last five innings.
Holliday had both of St. Louis' hits against Gorzelanny (0-2), also singling to start the fourth. Gorzelanny's only perfect inning was his last, but he kept the game close.
"I think most starting pitchers will tell you that it's not that often they go out there and everything is in sync and they feel great," manager Jim Riggleman said. "Most days you're scrambling a little bit.
"That was Gorzelanny today, he did a good job battling through that."
The two-hit game was a career best for Lohse (3-1), who struck out six and walked two in his eighth career complete game and sixth shutout, both accomplished last on April 12, 2009, against Houston.
Albert Pujols added a two-run homer off Collin Balester in a three-run eighth for the Cardinals. St. Louis took two of three from the Nationals and has won eight of 11 overall.
The Nationals are 4-14 at 6-year-old Busch Stadium. The combined Expos/Nationals franchise has won only two of 16 series in St. Louis dating to 1997.
After beating the Cardinals 8-6 in the first game of a doubleheader for their fourth straight win on Wednesday, Washington totaled three runs on seven hits.
"Right now we're in a period where they pitched and we didn't hit," Riggleman said. "It was only a few days before that we were putting double figures in hits out there."
Lohse has worked at least seven innings in all four starts, moving past a pair of seasons when he was hindered by a forearm injury that required surgery last May, going a combined 10-18 in 2009-10.
Pujols walked with two outs ahead of Holliday's drive into the Washington bullpen in left on an 0-2 pitch. Holliday is batting .455, although he doesn't yet have enough plate appearances to qualify for the league leaders after missing seven games in early April following an appendectomy.
Holliday is 7 for 12 with runners in scoring position, a huge change from the start to his first season in St. Louis. Holliday batted .312 with 28 homers and 103 RBIs last year — in mid-June, he was sixth on the team with only 25 RBIs and batting below .200 with runners in scoring position.
Lohse retired 11 in a row to start the game before running into his only trouble when Jayson Werth singled and Adam LaRoche walked with two outs in the fourth, giving the Nationals their lone runner in scoring position. Mike Morse singled leading off the fifth before being erased on a double play and Lohse set down 10 of the last 11.
Pujols hit his sixth homer in the eighth after Colby Rasmus drew a leadoff walk, and David Freese added an RBI double.
NOTES: Pujols grounded into his eighth double play in the third, most in the National League. He entered tied for first in the majors. ... Gorzelanny has allowed four homers in 15 2-3 innings. ... The Cardinals have used 17 different lineups in 19 games.