ST. LOUIS -- A tumultuous season for Cardinals top pitching prospect Shelby Miller has hit one of its calmest stretches in recent weeks. And it hasn't gone unnoticed.
On Monday, Miller was named the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week, an honor that highlights his two most recent starts for Triple-A Memphis. Both outings lasted seven innings, and Miller allowed a combined four runs on 12 hits. He did not walk a batter, and he struck out 16.
Miller earned the win in both games, pushing his record to 7-9. While Miller's season ERA of 5.25 still reflects the sometimes substantial struggles he's had in his first season at the Triple-A level, it's the 2.79 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break that the organization would prefer to draw attention to. It was just before that stretch of starts that Miller made some specific changes with his mechanics.
Miller is currently ranked by MLB.com as the second-best prospect in baseball.
Next contract should be lucrative for Lohse
ST. LOUIS -- Kyle Lohse maintains that he's not thinking much beyond 2012, a season in which he believes he can help lead the Cardinals back to the postseason. If he did, however, Lohse would certainly find himself to be among the most attractive free-agent pitchers.
It's a reality that, while not regularly discussed publicly right now, will be scrutinized soon enough. Lohse's four-year, $41 million contract will end with this season, setting Lohse up for a big payday in the open market.
Though it seems to have gone largely unrecognized, Lohse is having one of the best seasons by a National League starter this year. No one has a better winning percentage than Lohse's .857 mark. He ranks second in the league with a 2.79 ERA and third with 148 1/3 innings pitched.
This all comes one year after he led the Cardinals in wins (14) and topped the rotation in ERA (3.39).
"It's been good to prove that I'm durable and healthy and maturing as a pitcher," Lohse said. "I'm figuring out how to be successful and consistent. I know I've put myself in a good spot so far, but I know we have two months left in the season at least. My main goal is to help us make a playoff run here. That's the biggest issue. If we take care of that, it must mean I did all right. And if I do all right, I'll be taken care of next year."
Whether he'll be taken care of by the Cardinals or another team will step in to lure him elsewhere is the unknown. Lohse has been here before. He became a free agent for the first time after the '07 season and eventually signed with St. Louis.
Lohse and the Cardinals then negotiated his current contract near the end of the 2008 season. That kept Lohse from testing his value on the open market a second time.
Lohse said he would be open to talking about another in-season extension, though the Cardinals have not yet approached him to open such conversations. What there also hasn't been -- and won't be, Lohse insists -- is any distraction.
"I've been through it before, and I'm pretty good at separating the business side from the personal side," Lohse said. "It's something that I think about at home, but it's not something where I am worried about it when I sit and think about it at home. I know whatever happens, it's going to be all right.
"From a personal standpoint, I've had a great time here. If I reach free agency, there are a lot of other teams out there that I'm sure wouldn't mind having me fit in there. If it comes to that, we'll see with what matches up my wants with theirs."
His wants, he added, do mesh well with the direction the Cardinals are going.
"Every year the focus is on winning," Lohse said. "We're not trying to develop something. We're trying to win. With my situation, that's what I'm looking for. If I do go to free agency, they will still be in the mix, I'm sure. But there will be other places to look, too."
Boggs riding impressive scoreless streak
ST. LOUIS -- The game was already getting out of hand when Mitchell Boggs served up a first-pitch, two-run homer to White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. It was the second time Boggs had been scored upon in a five-game span.
That was on June 12.
Boggs has not allowed another run since.
One of the most significant contributors to the Cardinals' season so far, Boggs extended his string of scoreless appearances to 23 with another one Sunday night. That streak covers 20 1/3 innings, giving Boggs the longest active scoreless-innings streak in the National League.
In a historical context, the near two-month stretch is even more impressive. Boggs is the first Cardinals right-hander since 1918 to have a scoreless-game streak of this length.
"I don't know what it means," Boggs said, when asked about the significance. "I think what it means to me is that I've been doing a good job of showing up and being consistent and executing pitches. I'm going to continue to do that, whether I have a runless-whatever streak in a row or I give up runs in three games. I'm going to show up the next day and be prepared for the night. That's been my focus and it's worked for me."
It's also worked Boggs' ERA down to 1.51. Only two NL relievers with at least 40 innings pitched have a lower mark. Both -- Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel and Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman -- are closers.
Boggs, on the other hand, has taken the reins on the eighth-inning setup job. His season-long success is one reason why the Cardinals are 53-2 in games where they take a lead into the eighth.
"He's doing a nice job, exactly what we had hoped for," manager Mike Matheny said. "His stuff was always there. Now he's believing in it."
Rafael Furcal and Jon Jay -- both of whom are often regulars near the top of the Cardinals' lineup -- were moved to the bottom third Monday in an effort to help each get his swings right. Jay hit seventh, with Furcal one spot lower. While back problems do appear to be affecting Furcal's swing, his offensive numbers have taken a dip for much longer. Since the start of June, Furcal is hitting .200.
"That's part of taking a little bit of the pressure off of him in the leadoff spot and giving him time to get right," Matheny said.
Interestingly, the three NL teams with the best home winning percentage are the three fighting for the NL Central title. Pittsburgh (.674) has the best, followed by Cincinnati (.643) and then St. Louis (.604).
The Cardinals have won 11 of their last 12 games played at Busch Stadium.
Entering Monday, Allen Craig had moved into the league lead in batting with runners in scoring position. After his RBI single with a runner on second in Sunday's win, Craig was 28-for-72 (.389) with a runner on second or third. With less than two outs, Craig was batting .531 with runners in scoring position.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.