A hallmark of a good team is that it is successful even when some of its stars aren't playing up to snuff.
So it makes me optimistic about the Cardinals' longterm chances to see the club take two of three against the Pirates with Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday slumping badly and Lance Berkman and Jon Jay out of action with injuries.
Kyle Lohse turned in another excellent start to give the Birds a chance to get a win if they could scratch out a few runs. And Rafaeal Furcal carried the offense on his back with three hits in four at bats with a walk, two runs scored and an RBI.
Things looked like an instant replay of a disappointing Saturday night loss in the first inning when the Cardinals loaded the bases with no outs and then shot themselves in the foot. David Freese hit into a double play to kill the rally -- but push in a single run -- as the Birds took a modest 1-0.
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It appeared St. Louis would mis-fire on another big chance in the third when Furcal led off with a double and Tyler Green walked to put two on with no outs. Holliday flied to deep center and Furcal tagged up to go to third. Greene, for some reason, didn't take second but made it a couple of minutes later on a passed ball. Carlos Beltran struck out to bring Freese to the plate with two outs and two men in scoring position. This time the Cardinals third sacker came through and knocked in both runs with a single to make the score 3-0.
Lohse allowed one run on six hits over seven innings. He struck out five and walked none. The bullpen cruised through two quiet innings as the Birds plated a pair of insurance runs in the ninth.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Furcal
Cardinals Play of the Game: Freese's two-out single.
Lowlight: Beltran was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and a walk while stranding five runners on base.