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MIL@STL: Lohse strikes out six in six shutout frames

ST. LOUIS -- The performance did not unfold with the ease that Adam Wainwright's did one night earlier. But in a game where style points are negligible, Kyle Lohse positioned the Cardinals to finish off a momentum-building sweep.

Another fine start from Lohse, piggybacked by the ideal bullpen sequence, drove St. Louis to a 3-0 win Sunday night with 40,274 packed into Busch Stadium. And for the first time since this ballpark opened, the Brewers came and left St. Louis without a win in a series.

"Everything is kind of clicking right now," closer Jason Motte said of his club, which has won 12 of its last 16 overall and nine of the last 10 games played at home. "Everything is kind of coming together right now. Hopefully, we can keep it up for a while."

Not since April have the Cardinals had a stretch similar to this, one in which there's not an obviously weak facet of their game. The Cardinals kept the Brewers scoreless for the final 17 innings of the series and allowed only four runs total. The offense did its part, too, scoring in nine different frames.

"I think it's the most dangerous," Brewers starter Marco Estrada said after being asked if there's a tougher lineup to face. "They have guys throughout the lineup that can hit home runs [and] that can hurt you different ways."

On Sunday, though, it was again the pitching that shined.

The rotation's most reliable member since dominating on Opening Day, Lohse pitched the first six innings of the shutout. He needed more pitches (100) to go that long than Wainwright (98) threw over nine innings on Saturday. Situational strategy played largely into that.

Lohse meandered his way through the first three innings before putting himself in deeper trouble in the fourth. It was trouble, though, that he chose.

A one-out error brought up No. 6 hitter Rickie Weeks. Preferring to go after Jonathan Lucroy, who was on deck, Lohse didn't leave Weeks anything over the plate. The Brewers' second baseman eventually drew a six-pitch walk.

Lohse answered by striking out Lucroy, before returning to the pitch-around strategy. With the pitcher up next, Lohse saw no reason not to.

"It ended up costing me a lot of pitches, but it's something you have to do once in a while," Lohse said. "I don't want to walk guys, but when you realize you have to get one out of three out to face the pitcher, I'll take that."

The inning ended with Estrada watching strike three.

"Those innings in the past, I think, have reached up and kind of bit him," manager Mike Matheny said. "You're just seeing a different pitcher right now. He's really trusting his stuff ... and gets out of those bad spots."

There was not another bad spot for Lohse all night. He rebounded from that 33-pitch inning to get through a perfect fifth with six pitches.

He stranded seven baserunners in all. None of the four hits he gave up came with a runner in scoring position.

Now at 12-2, Lohse owns a National League-best .857 winning percentage. He is also quickly creeping up on 15 victories -- the career-high win total Lohse set in 2008, his first season with St. Louis.

"I feel like it's a continuation of what I did last year," Lohse said of his success. "I know I had a rough middle part of the season [in 2011], but if you look at the season as a whole, I felt like I did a good job. This year is building off of that. I have an idea of what I'm trying to do out there and I'm just going out to try and execute it."

The run support wasn't overflowing for Lohse, but the Cards did stake him to an early lead. In the second inning, Daniel Descalso followed Jon Jay's one-out walk with an RBI triple. It was the first of three hits for Descalso, who has six multihit games in his last 12 starts.

The Cardinals then scooted away late.

Descalso's final hit of the night, a seventh-inning single, set up a spot for Allen Craig to drive him in with a two-out double. David Freese singled home another run in the eighth.

"St. Louis can hit," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "It's a really tough lineup to get through."

An oft-combustible bullpen ended up not needing the insurance runs, as the Edward Mujica-Mitchell Boggs-Motte sequence worked beautifully.

The Cardinals acquired Mujica on July 31 to plug the seventh-inning hole, and he worked around a leadoff single on Sunday to do so. All three of his appearances for the Cardinals have been scoreless.

Boggs extended his scoreless-innings streak to 20 1/3 over 23 games. Motte collected his 24th save in 27 opportunities.

It's a three-man succession that has the potential to basically shorten the game to six innings.

"I think we can be a big part of this team putting together a real nice streak down the stretch," Boggs said. "I know every single guy feels that way. I think we all realize that we all have the opportunity to help us win games."

For a change, too, this win actually helped the Cardinals gain ground on the Reds. On a day when Cincinnati suffered just its fourth loss since the All-Star break, St. Louis shaved its deficit to seven in the National League Central.

The Cardinals, who sit 10 games above .500 for the first time this year, have a four-game series against the NL West-leading Giants on tap next, beginning Monday at Busch Stadium.

"I feel like we're starting to play some good ball," Lohse said. "We have a good month where we're going to be at home a lot, and we have to take advantage of that and get this thing going."

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