MIAMI -- The Cardinals didn't need any late-inning heroics Tuesday night; they made sure to take care of business early.
Backed by a five-run first inning and a stellar outing from righty Kyle Lohse, the Cardinals clinched a series victory in their three-game set against the Marlins with a 5-2 win, extending their season-long winning streak to five games.
"It's nice when these guys come out with that kind of aggressiveness in the zone," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Fortunately that was enough, because that's really all we had."
Rafael Furcal led off the game with a single and then advanced to third two batters later on a throwing error by Carlos Zambrano. Matt Holliday hit a grounder back to Zambrano, who turned to throw to second in an attempt to get the double play, but the throw went wide of Jose Reyes, who was running to cover the bag, and past second baseman Omar Infante, who was a few feet behind the base.
Carlos Beltran made the Marlins pay, driving in Furcal with a single. Another error, this time a fielding one by Reyes with Allen Craig at the plate, allowed Holliday to score and put two aboard for one of Monday's heroes, Yadier Molina.
"He hit it hard, but that is in front of me," Reyes said. "A tough play."
Molina, who hit a two-run homer to tie the game in the ninth inning Monday, launched a three-run shot off Zambrano to cap the five-run frame. It was the third straight game Molina hit a round-tripper, the first time he has done that since July 22-25 last season.
All five runs in the inning were unearned.
"The other team made a couple mistakes, and we made them pay," Molina said. "Jumping [Zambrano] for five runs, that's huge. We got that confidence back."
The five-run cushion was plenty for Lohse, who wasn't quite able to duplicate his Opening Night performance at Marlins Park -- when he carried a no-hitter into the seventh -- but kept the Marlins in check through 7 1/3 innings, matching his long opening outing.
Lohse gave back a run to Miami in the bottom of the first when Giancarlo Stanton crushed his 17th home run of the year 454 feet to straightaway center. After Stanton's two-out blast, Lohse settled in, retiring 13 of the next 15 hitters he faced, twice retiring six straight.
Greg Dobbs' sacrifice fly in the fourth allowed Stanton to score again and cut the lead to three runs, but that's all the Marlins would be able to get against Lohse. Miami had the tying run at the plate with no outs against the righty in the sixth, but Stanton flied out to the warning track in right and Logan Morrison grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Morrison hit a sharp grounder up the middle to Furcal, who shaded over toward second and made an off-balance grab to his left to snag the ball. The shortstop stepped on second and then fired the ball over to first.
"That changed the game right there," Lohse said. "I got myself in trouble kind of nibbling around, and for him to come up with a big play like that was a pretty big momentum changer."
Said Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, who was ejected for arguing the strike zone in the seventh: "The reason I got released from the Atlanta Braves was because of him. They released me so Furcal can get a chance.
"Furcal is a tremendous shortstop. He came out to be a great player. That play, it meant a lot in the game. If that's a base hit, maybe it's a different ballgame. That's one of the better shortstops in the game."
Lohse finished his night after giving up a one-out walk to Justin Ruggiano in the eighth. In two starts at Marlins Park, the righty is 2-0 with a 1.84 ERA in 14 2/3 innings.
"It's one of those things," Lohse said. "It's only two starts, but you have certain parks where you feel comfortable in, and this happens to be one so far."
Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte closed out the game and made sure the Cardinals' starter remained comfortable after his outing finished. Following a Reyes single to put the tying run at the plate with one out in the eighth, Boggs got Hanley Ramirez and Stanton to pop up to end the inning. Motte then pitched a perfect ninth for his 16th save of the season.
"It's been a nice run for [Lohse]," Matheny said. "That guy gets out there every day, and I think it gets overlooked a lot. ... People forget he led the team in wins and ERA last year as a starter. It shouldn't be a surprise, but for some reason, they just kind of overlook him a little bit."
Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.