Cardinals-Nationals Preview

The Associated Press

Even if Kyle Lohse continues to pitch well, it probably won't matter if the St. Louis Cardinals can't find ways to score some runs.

Looking to avoid matching their season high with a fifth straight loss, the Cardinals hope the expected return of one of their sluggers will help them break out Saturday and also end their seven-game skid in the nation's capital against the NL East-leading Washington Nationals.

St. Louis (71-61) currently holds the final wild-card spot and leads the NL in batting (.274) and runs scored (633), but the Cardinals have batted .154 while being outscored 32-1 during their four-game skid. The lone run came in Thursday's opener of this four-game set, an 8-1 defeat.

The Cardinals, who lost five straight May 29-June 3, managed five hits - two by Jon Jay - against Gio Gonzalez during Friday's 10-0 loss to the Nationals (80-51). Matt Holliday went 0 for 3, and is 1 for 14 over the last four games after he hit .452 (14 for 31) in his previous seven.

"This shouldn't happen to us one day, let alone four," manager Mike Matheny said. "These guys are embarrassed right now. We're all embarrassed. That's not the team we are.''

St. Louis has also been outscored 61-18 during a seven-game losing streak at Washington that dates to a 4-2 win Aug. 27, 2010.

Things might not get any easier for the Cardinals with shortstop Rafael Furcal likely to miss the rest of the season due to a strained right elbow. However, veteran Lance Berkman was taken off the DL on Saturday, though he'll be limited to pinch-hitting duties for now.

Out since Aug. 3 with a knee injury, Berkman has hit .267 with two homers and seven RBIs in 28 games during an injury-riddled season. He's batting .375 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in his last eight contests versus Washington.

Lohse (14-2, 2.64 ERA) is 8-0 with a 2.29 ERA in 13 starts since losing to Kansas City on June 15. A rain delay limited the right-hander to five innings of a 4-3 victory at Pittsburgh on Monday, when he allowed two runs but still got credit for the win. In doing so, Lohse ran his record to 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA in five August starts.

He is 4-2 with a 5.02 ERA in 10 starts against the Nationals, but 1-1 with a 7.66 ERA in five at Washington.

Jayson Werth, 6 for 14 with two doubles and three homers versus Lohse, had three hits with an RBI on Friday to help the Nationals to a third straight victory following five consecutive losses. He is 7 for 12 with four RBIs in his last three games.

Scheduled Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann (9-8, 2.63) is 0-2 with an 8.62 ERA in three career starts against the Cardinals.

The right-hander also has struggled of late, going 0-2 with a 5.17 ERA in three starts after he went 6-0 with a 1.47 ERA in his previous nine. He's also allowed nine runs and 15 hits over 10 innings while not earning a decision in his last two home outings.

Zimmermann gave up three runs, including a two-run homer, in his fifth and final inning of a 4-1 loss at Philadelphia on Sunday.

"Nothing changed. I left a few balls up," Zimmermann told the Nationals' official website.