Rockies-Cardinals Preview

The Associated Press

The St. Louis Cardinals boast four All-Stars, and they may eventually have a fifth.

Kyle Lohse isn't one of them, though he's certainly been pitching All-Star caliber ball in recent weeks.

Lohse will be on the mound Monday night looking to help the Cardinals continue their recent success against the Colorado Rockies as the teams open a four-game set in St. Louis.

The Cardinals (41-38) haven't been dominant over the season's first half as they defend their World Series title, but when All-Stars were announced Sunday they had four - tied with San Francisco for the most on the NL roster. Fans elected outfielder Carlos Beltran and shortstop Rafael Furcal into the starting lineup, while catcher Yadier Molina and pitcher Lance Lynn also made the roster.

World Series MVP David Freese could join that quartet, as he's one of five NL nominees to be voted into the final spot.

"I don't know how many times I'm allowed to vote, but I will for sure," Beltran told the Cardinals' official website. "He's had ups and downs, but right now I feel like he's swinging the bat better. Hopefully he can make it also."

Beltran and the rest of the Cardinals may wish they could also vote for Lohse (7-2, 2.82 ERA). The veteran right-hander posted a 1.80 ERA with a 2-1 record in five June starts, pitching through the seventh inning in each of his last four. He allowed two runs and four hits over 7 1-3 innings of Tuesday's 5-2 victory at Miami.

St. Louis welcomes Colorado to town after avoiding a three-game sweep by beating Pittsburgh 5-4 on Sunday. Molina and Allen Craig homered for the Cardinals, while Matt Holliday added an RBI double.

Holliday is batting .491 (26 for 53) with two homers and 14 RBIs in his last 14 games. He is a .321 career hitter in 17 games against the Rockies, with whom he began his major league career from 2004-08, but he went just 1 for 12 in five meetings in 2011.

Despite Holliday's struggles in last season's series, the Cardinals took four of six contests to improve to 8-2 in their last 10 against the Rockies.

Holliday's former left field spot for Colorado (30-48) is now filled more than capably by Carlos Gonzalez, who was named as a reserve to his first All-Star game Sunday and will be the Rockies' lone representative.

Batting .337 with 17 homers and 58 RBIs, Gonzalez is having a banner season individually but has been frustrated along with the rest of his team, which leads last-place San Diego by just one game in the West.

"I'm not going to lie," Gonzalez told the Rockies' official website. "Sometimes you get tired because losing gets old. I get mad at myself. But we all want to win. All the other players feel the same way. Sometimes you try too hard and lose what you're doing because you're trying too hard to make something happen. But you have to stay positive and believe you can turn things around."

Gonzalez is batting .371 during a nine-game hitting streak, but got the afternoon off Sunday as the Rockies fell 2-0 to the Padres for their second straight loss.

Colorado will give the ball to struggling Josh Outman (0-3, 9.32) in the series opener. The left-hander's ERA is the highest of any pitcher in the majors who has made at least five starts in 2012. He has made it through the fifth inning just once in his six starts, and has given up exactly five runs in four of his last five outings.

Outman is a St. Louis native who has never faced the Cardinals.