Astros-Cardinals: Carlos Lee Causes Tough Loss for Lohse

Brian McDowellCorrespondent IJuly 20, 2009

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 20:  Pitcher Kyle Lohse #26 of the St. Louis Cardinals poses during photo day at Roger Dean Stadium on February 20, 2009 in Jupiter, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Carlos Lee's three run home run in the fourth inning was the only meaningful offense that was produced by the Houston Astros in tonight's game at Minute Maid Park. Unfortunately, that was all the team needed to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, who, for the third game in a row, only managed to cobble together two runs. It was a tough loss in a game that the Redbirds probably should have won.

Starter Kyle Lohse impressed for six of his seven innings of work. He only allowed five hits and two walks, and looked better than he has looked all year. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to overcome a disastrous fourth inning. Up by two runs, Lohse foolishly put two men on base for Lee, who tagged the ball, and doomed Lohse's chances to garner a win.

For the rest of the contest, the Cardinals' defense dazzled. Their offense, on the other hand, has been really weak the last three games. Yadier Molina had one hit in the game—a single in the fourth that drove in two runs. It was the only meaningful offense that St. Louis could scrounge up. Albert Pujols went 1 for 3.

There was a little good news at the plate for this team. Mark DeRosa finally got his first two hits since being traded to the Cards. Rick Ankiel showed some rare productivity, going two for four and scoring a run. Even Joe Thurston got a hit in the ninth, although all hopes of a Redbird rally were predictably squashed by a routine ground-out double play off the cold bat of Chris Duncan that ended the game.

The Cardinals, luckily, are still first place in the Central Division, although the race is tightening with three teams virtually tied for second. If LaRussa doesn't start tinkering with his lineups soon to increase his team's run production, they're not going to stay in first for very much longer.