Former 29th-round pick Kyle Lohse will try to stop the bleeding for the Cardinals, who have been outscored by the Mets, 19-1, in the series. St. Louis enters Monday's game playing with a .500 record for the first time since Opening Day, in the midst of a 7-16 skid. The streak prompted manager Mike Matheny to proclaim his team was "in a fight mode" before Sunday's game.
The Cardinals didn't receive much help from their pitching in the month of May. They ranked second to last in the National League in ERA last month and are off to a similar start to June.
"I think we need to get back to what was making us successful early on," Lohse said. "You're seeing a lot of pitches up in the zone. We're not getting as many ground balls as we were before. We're not pitching as well as we were early. You're looking at what's going on -- time to time we get back in that zone, and then we get away from it."
Lohse, who is 1-3 with a 5.70 ERA in his last four starts, will need to fight off the Mets' bats on Monday if he has any hope of ending the Cardinals' season-high five-game losing streak. That won't be an easy task, as the Mets boast the fifth-best batting average in the National League and have homered in a season-high six consecutive games.
"I do know they should be very proud of where they are," manager Terry Collins said of his Mets. "They've played very hard, and they've come through in big games. The one thing is they never hang their heads."The Mets will send out former 23rd-round Draft pick Dillon Gee, who is replacing rookie Jeremy Hefner in the rotation. Collins made the switch because he needs Hefner as a security option should Johan Santana need more rest later in the week, as he recovers from his 134-pitch no-hitter on Friday. Gee is coming off one of his better outings of the season, when he held the Phillies to two runs in 6 2/3 innings in a 10-6 loss.
Gee's outing on Monday follows Santana's no-hitter, R.A. Dickey's five-hit shutout and Jonathon Niese's six-inning performance, in which he struck out 10 batters and allowed no runs. The Cardinals' scoreless streak was snapped at 26 innings in the eighth inning of Sunday's game, when they scored a late run off the Mets' bullpen. The last time the Cardinals were held scoreless for 25 or more innings was July 27-30, 1995.
"I think that you have to give credit to their pitchers," Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday said. "Johan is obviously an established pitcher and he pitched very well. Dickey is kind of a trick deal and he's obviously 8-1 with a two ERA. We're not the only team that hasn't hit him. I've always thought that Niese is kind of an underrated. I have to give credit to that they've just pitched really well."
Mets: Young returns in rotation shuffle
With Gee moving up a day, the Mets rotation will get a different look this week. Chris Young will make his season debut on Tuesday in Washington, pitching for the first time since May 1, 2011.
A former All-Star, Young has been rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his right shoulder. He started three games at Class A Port St. Lucie before starting at Triple-A Buffalo on Thursday. He threw six scoreless innings in the outing, allowing just two hits.
Collins will also shake things up on Wednesday and Thursday, switching Dickey's and Santana's turns in the rotation. Barring any setbacks in either of the their bullpen sessions on Monday, Dickey will take the hill on four days' rest on Wednesday, so he'll get a turn to face the Nationals.
The move also gives Santana an extra day to rest his arm after exceeding his pitch count on Friday. Hefner is available as insurance should either starter need more time before his next outing.
Cardinals: Signs point to Garcia making next start
Matheny expects Jaime Garcia to make his next start after missing his last turn in the rotation because of unusual left-elbow discomfort. An MRI on Tuesday in St. Louis showed no structural damage to the elbow.
Joe Kelly, currently scheduled to start at Triple-A Memphis on Monday, may be Matheny's backup plan should Garcia not be available for the start on Tuesday. Garcia, however, is expected to rejoin the team when it arrives in Houston on Monday night.
This weekend, Garcia threw off flat ground with assistant athletic trainer Adam Olsen.
Miguel Batista will be activated off the Mets' disabled list on Tuesday. He'll serve in the bullpen as the primary backup for Young.
With their eighth-inning run on Sunday, the Cardinals avoided becoming the first defending World Series champ since the '66 Dodgers to be shut out in three straight games.