Lohse, who allowed an unearned run in seven innings of the Cardinals' 7-1 victory on Monday night, showed them he is not the same guy who entered the year 11 games below .500 for his career and had to wait until mid-March for a free-agent deal.
"That's in the past," said Lohse (10-2). "I've been doing a lot of stuff different this year. I feel like a different pitcher."
Albert Pujols had two hits and two RBI to back Lohse's seventh consecutive win. Chris Duncan added a two-run homer, his first since May 16, and Aaron Miles had three hits while extending his hitting streak to 12 games.
The Cardinals won the opener of a four-game series against a team that's dominated them lately -- at least in the regular season. They won the 2006 World Series after upsetting the Mets in a seven-game NLCS, but had lost eight of the previous 10 regular-season meetings.
John Maine (8-6) lasted only four innings to match his season worst for the Mets, who have lost three of four and dropped the opener of an eight-game trip against the Central-contending Cardinals and NL East-leading Phillies. This is the Mets' first trip to St. Louis since they opened the 2007 season with a three-game sweep, outscoring the defending champs 20-2.
In the opener they were hampered by three errors, matching a season high.
"We didn't do too much of anything right," interim manager Jerry Manuel said. "We didn't do too much defensively, we didn't do much offensively."
Mark Mulder recorded the last three outs, making the first relief appearance of his career in his season debut. He missed most of the previous two seasons with a shoulder injury. Throwing from a lower arm angle after problems cut short one rehab assignment earlier in the year, he allowed two hits with a strikeout.
"Of course I want to be starting, but right now I really could care less," Mulder said. "It's just a relief to be out there and feeling good about what you're doing."
Lohse allowed five hits against a lineup loaded with hitters with big career numbers against him, striking out four and walking two. Carlos Beltran, 15-for-29 with four homers and 11 RBI entering the game, had a single and walk. Carlos Delgado (7-for-13 with three homers) was 0-for-2 with a hit by pitch and a rare double-play ball in the sixth, with third baseman Troy Glaus handling the relay in an overshifted defense.
David Wright and Ryan Church both had been 4-for-8, while Brian Schneider was 3-for-8 and Jose Reyes 3-for-8. Together, those six hitters were 2-for-16 against Lohse.
"There's a reason why he's got 10 wins now," Schneider said. "He kept all of his pitches going and went back and forth."
Lohse reached double figures in victories for the first time since 2003, also his last winning record when he was 14-11 for the Twins. He's won seven of eight starts with a 2.44 ERA since May 24, the no-decision coming in his last outing when he surrendered five runs on 11 hits in four innings at Detroit.
The winning streak matches his career best from July 25, 2007, to May 3, 2008, and he's 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in four starts against NL East teams.
"I kind of had a little hiccup last time and didn't really feel like myself out there, but it was good to bounce back and get back on track," Lohse said. "I just had better command."
Duncan homered just inside the right-field foul pole and over the fence off Carlos Muniz for a 7-1 lead in the fifth.
Maine started slowly, allowing two singles and two walks to the first four batters in a two-run first, and never picked up any steam, although two of the five runs against him were unearned. He said he had a "dead arm" on top of poor preparation between starts.
"It's not like I was sick, it's just that my arm just had no life," Maine said. "Hopefully, you just chalk it up to one of those days."
Skip Schumaker's routine two-out grounder trickled between second baseman Luis Castillo's legs to allow a run in the second. Third baseman Wright's wild throw to first on Miles' infield hit in the fourth also was costly.
Miles, who singled three times and is 23-for-53 (.434) during his streak, scored on Pujols' second RBI single for a 5-0 lead.
- Plate umpire Brian O'Nora was struck near the ribcage by a pitch that deflected off catcher Schneider's glove in the second inning, but was able to resume after catching his breath. O'Nora was hospitalized with a mild concussion last week after getting struck by a broken bat in Kansas City.
- Maine is 1-1 with a 5.63 ERA in three career starts against the Cardinals.
- Lohse is 5-1 with a 2.77 ERA in 10 starts at home.