PITTSBURGH -- Kyle Lohse is one of the NL's biggest surprise stories of the season, so his latest effective start wasn't exactly an unexpected development.
This was: The St. Louis Cardinals put together one of their best offensive games in weeks, and it all began with a big inning that already looked to be over.
Lohse limited the Pirates to six hits over seven shutout innings and Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick homered, helping St. Louis break out of a scoring slump with a 6-0 victory over Pittsburgh on Friday night.
Lohse (11-2) won his eighth in a row by limiting the Pirates to one extra-base hit. He hasn't lost in 12 starts since May 9, giving up two runs or fewer in all but two of his last 10 starts.
"This was the one where I don't know if I'm the proudest, but I'm the happiest about the way I went out and pitched because I didn't really feel like I had the best stuff," Lohse said. "When you bear down and make pitches like I was able to, it feels really good to get the win."
Ankiel's two-run drive followed Yadier Molina's two-run double and finished off a decisive four-run third inning, with all the scoring occurring after Pirates starter Zach Duke (4-6) got two quick outs and was ahead of Albert Pujols 1-2 in the count.
Pujols and Troy Glaus singled ahead of Molina's double down the left-field line, and Ankiel hit a 1-0 pitch by Duke into the seats in right-center for his 20th homer. Ludwick made it 5-0 an inning later with his 19th.
"Two outs and two strikes and they scored four runs, that was a big blow to us," Pirates manager John Russell. "If you get through that inning, you don't know what will happen. Four runs, with the way Lohse was pitching, it was tough to come back."
Ankiel went 3-for-3 with a walk and drove in three runs. Glaus also had three of the Cardinals' 13 hits as all of their runs scored with two outs.
"Baseball is a long year, and you're going to go through stretches where you're getting two-out knocks and you're going to go through stretches where you're not," Ankiel said.
No doubt the offense was welcomed by manager Tony La Russa, whose team scored only five runs while losing two of three in Philadelphia earlier in the week. The Cardinals were limited to two runs or fewer in six of their previous seven -- getting a combined 13 runs -- and had scored as many as six runs only once in 10 games.
"We really haven't been swinging very well, but as long as you give yourself a chance, all of a sudden that can turn," La Russa said. "It did today."
Duke was one pitch away from getting out of the third, only to be trailing 4-0 before it was over.
"I threw a pitch right down the middle (to Pujols), fell behind the next guy and I fell apart. I have to be able to take a step back ... get focused and execute pitches," Duke said. "It kind of snowballed from that point. I hung a breaking ball to Ankiel and he did what he's supposed to do with a hanging breaking ball. It's very frustrating."
Lohse didn't need much offense. He worked out of his biggest jam in the fourth, striking out Duke -- who was batting eighth -- and getting Jack Wilson on a fly ball to center after the Pirates loaded the bases with three consecutive one-out singles.
"If you let down one pitch, it's a totally different ballgame," Lohse said. "I couldn't allow myself to do that."
Lohse already has two more victories than he had while going a combined 9-12 for the Reds and Phillies last season.
Jaime Garcia, supposed to pitch in Sunday's Futures Games in New York until being called up, followed Ankiel by throwing two scoreless innings in his major league debut, allowing one hit. The two-pitcher shutout was St. Louis' sixth this season.
Pirates pitchers have stranded six runners in two nights while hitting eighth. ... The Cardinals had no update on RHP Mark Mulder, whose season -- and career -- are in jeopardy following his latest shoulder setback. Coming off two shoulder operations, Mulder was scheduled to undergo tests Friday in St. Louis after lasting only 16 pitches Wednesday in his first start of the season. ... The crowd of 37,113 was the Pirates' second sellout in as many nights and fifth of the season. ... Going into the game, Pittsburgh had outscored St. Louis 45-25 in July. ... Duke has given up 10 earned runs and 17 hits in 8 1/3 innings over his last two starts. ... The Pirates put scheduled Saturday starter Phil Dumatrait (shoulder) on the 15-day disabled list and recalled RHP Yoslan Herrera from Double-A Altoona to start against the Cardinals. Dumatrait came off the disabled list Monday but gave up seven runs in 3 1/3 innings against Houston.