Aaron Miles hit a walk-off grand slam to break a ninth-inning 5-5 deadlock, giving the St. Louis Cardinals a 9-5 win and a four-game sweep of the San Diego Padres.
Some ninth inning strategy by Padres’ manager Bud Black backfired, times-4. With the game tied, Black brought on reliever Bryan Corey to attempt to hold so the Padres would get an extra-inning shot at winning. Things started out OK for Corey, getting Jason LaRue to ground out for the all-important first out an inning.
Corey pitched around Albert Pujols, walking him. While on first base, Brad Thompson was sent to the plate, La Russa’s bench short on hitters/position players since he had elected to go with one extra pitcher than the norm. Thompson pulled off an attempted bunt, the pitch a ball, and substitute catcher Luke Carlin threw wild to first base trying to pick off Pujols. The ball rolled far down the left field line, Pujols scampering all the way to third base.
With Pujols representing the winning run, Black intentionally walked pinch hitter Yadier Molina, then Skip Schumaker, loading the bases for either an easier force out at home plate or a chance at an inning-ending double play. The Padres’ outfielders pulled in shallow for a potential fly ball and tag-up situation versus Pujols at third. Miles would be the hitter.
A fly ball to any outfield of moderate depth would give the Cards a win, but Miles launched a fast ball into the Cardinals’ bullpen in right field, a walk-off grand slam that got him mobbed by teammates at home plate.
Brad Thompson (2-2) would pick up the winning, having come on in relief for Jason Isringhausen in the top of the ninth and allowing the Padres to tie it up at 5-all on a base runner for which Isringhausen was charged. Kevin Kouzmanoff had delivered the big blow then, a double over the head of center fielder Rick Ankiel to score the fifth Padres’ run.
The Cardinals’ recent call-up, pitcher Jaime Garcia, recorded a no decision in his first major league start. Garcia was greeted to the starting role with a leadoff home run by Scott Hairston. Garcia worked five innings, giving up three runs, all earned, scattering five hits, walking one and striking out four. All in all, a good outing for Garcia’s first start.
During Garcia’s five innings, the Cards could only muster one run when Ankiel drove home Miles with a double to deep right field.
Down 3-1 in the seventh, Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa called upon Albert Pujols to pinch hit with Glaus on third base. Glaus had singled, then advanced to second on a fly ball that Padres’ center fielder Hairston threw to first base trying to double off Glaus. No one was covering the bag, however, and by the time the Padres had recovered the ball, Glaus had tagged up and raced to second base. When LaRue singled Glaus over to third base, Pujols pinch hit for reliever Kelvin Jimenez, lofting a sacrifice fly to left field, Glaus scoring to bring the Cardinals within one at 3-2.
Randy Flores got a shot at relieving, securing two outs in the eighth, giving up one hit before La Russa called on Kyle McClellan, who intentionally walked pinch hitter Adrian Gonzalez, then getting Luis Rodriguez to ground out.
Down one run in the eighth, Schumaker led off with a single. La Russa called for a sacrifice bunt in an attempt to get the tying run into scoring position, but first baseman A. Gonzalez jumped all over Miles’s bunt, snapping a throw to second base to force out Schumaker. Ryan Ludwick singled, but with no base runner in scoring position, there was no chance to score. Ankiel had a shot at bringing home Miles from second base, but struck out. Glaus’s three-run shot made up for all of the failings in the inning, putting the Cardinals up 5-3 at the time.
Struggling reliever Jason Isringhausen got a shot at closing, but the Padres had other ideas. With one out, Hairston singled, followed by a double by Edgar Gonzalez that right fielder just missed cutting off running hard into the alley. Hairston sprinted three bases to score, bringing the Padres within one.
Brian Giles then singled, Gonzalez holding up at third base. That set up the aforementioned Kouzmanoff double that brought home the tying run.
Brad Thompson took over the mound from there, getting some big play help from Pujols and LaRue to get the Cards out of the last inning jam.
Besides winning the game and securing a sweep of the Padres, the Miles’ walk-off grand slam kept the Cardinals’ record perfect since the All-Star break.
Miles went 3-for-5 on the day, scoring three runs and tallying four RBIs. His batting average has risen to .323.
Miles photo by Iscan
Kouzamanoff photo by SD Dirk
After last night’s game, Cardinal Nation might prefer their next helping of “ribbies” done Molina-style. The Cards’ catcher so well-known throughout the majors for his reluctance to strike out proved the contact hitting produced by the skill can mean more than hitting into inning-ending double plays.
Indeed, Molina’s ability to put bat to ball can also have the effect of making things happen. For instance, a two-RBI single. Molina’s “ribbies” gave the Cardinals the go-ahead runs, breaking a 7-7 tie in the eighth inning.
The recently red hot bats of the St. Louis Cardinals overshadowed a weak outing by starter Braden Looper in a game that saw 18 runs on 29 hits, a slugfest which ended with the Padres outdone for the second night in a row.
Starting Padres’ pitcher Greg Maddux only lasted one inning longer than Looper at four, leaving the game when it was tied at 6-all. With both starters out early, each team used five relievers to get through the balance of the game. Kyle McClellan (2-4) would end up with the win, while the Padres’ Heath Bell was charged with the loss.
Looper was up on a lot of his pitches, becoming more inefficient with each inning he threw. The Padres did not score in the first, but got on the board in the second on a grapefruit pitch that the season-long struggling Khalil Greene drove to the opposite field, a first row shot in right, luckily, with no one on base.
With a 2-1 score, nothing was out of control, but Looper continued to struggle. To help himself along, he sacrifce bunted Cesar Izturis to second base in the second inning. Izturis took the next base on his own, stealing thrid. Brendan Ryan then got Izturis home on an infield ground out.
The 3-1 lead wouldn’t last long. In the next inning, Looper asked for trouble when he hit Edgar Gonzalez with a pitch. The Padres’ Brian Giles, Adrian Gonzalez, and Kevin Kouzmanoff then punished Looper and the Cards with back to back to back singles, the trio of basehits collectively producing a couple runs and tying the game at 3-each.
The Padres continued the hit parade in the fourth after Maddux held the Cards scoreless. On a play that saw two Cardinals known for their outstanding defensive skills each commit a throwing error, for those moments, the Busch Stadium crowd might’ve thought they were at a youth league game. With Padres’ Nick Hundley on second, Maddux laid down a bunt which Molina pounced upon and fired to Glaus at third. Except that Molina’s throw was nowhere near Glaus, shooting into left field where Skip Schumaker scooped it up and threw home in a belated attempt to get Hundley at the plate. Albert Pujols cut off Schumaker’s throw, however, spinning and firing to Cesar Izturis covering second when Maddux tried to advance on Schumaker’s throw home. Pujols’ throw went wide, the ball shooting into center field where Rick Ankiel scooped it up and fired to third base in an attempt to stop Maddux from advancing once more, another belated throw that Glaus had to block in order to halt the circus production. The Padres took a 4-3 lead on a play that had to have had the TV camera crew in a frenzy.
Looper’s problems didn’t end there, though. With Maddux on third base after laying down a sac-bunt, the Padres’ leadoff man, Jody Gerut, jacked one into the right field seats, stunning the haphazard Cardinals, the Padres taking full advantage of the Cardinals’ defensive miscues as well as Looper’s difficulties on the hill. Now up 6-3, the Padres were praying that Cards’ manager Tony La Russa would leave Looper on the mound.
La Russa had seen enough, however, having stuck with his starter as long as he could have under the circumstances. La Russa brought Brad Thompson from the bullpen, the called up and sent down pitcher that had proven himself on both the major league and Triple-A levels in recent weeks. Willing to take on any role La Russa had for him, Thompson had, out of circumstance, formulated into a middle relief specialist. He would fill that role last night, working two-and-a-third innings, giving up one run while striking out four. The lead may have swung back to the Padres during Thompson’s relief appearance, but only by one run at 7-6, keeping the Cardinals well within striking distance and getting them far enough into the game where La Russa could pick and choose his relievers in a more strategic and efficient manner.
What had also helped keep the Cardinals in the game was a three-run homer in the fourth by Ryan Ludwick. The three-RBI round-tripper was made possible by a couple of two-out singles, one by Brendan Ryan, followed by Schumaker.
In the seventh, Ankiel hit his 22nd homer of the season, a blast that cleared the right field bullpen by six or seven rows. The solo shot tied the game at 7-7.
The go-ahead hit came in the eighth, when Molina punched an outside pitch off the glove of Padres’ second baseman Edgar Gonzalez, the ball rolling on into right field. The bases were loaded at the time, due to a Pujols single, a Glaus walk, and an Ankiel infield single on which Padres’ pitcher Heath Bell failed to cover first base in time.
Ankiel was later thrown out at home on a disputed play in which Padres’ catcher Nick Hundley may missed the tag. Nonetheless, the called out stood. Chris Duncan supplied a pinch hit single, however, bringing home Molina to make it 10-7.
Aaron Miles provided another pitch hit, scoring Izturis and putting up an insurance run, the score 11-7, how the game would finish.
The bullpen held up much better last night, La Russa using, in order after pulling Looper: Thompson, Villone, Springer, McClellan, and Isringhausen. Villone worked from within an inning, two outs worth. The latter relievers each worked one full inning.
Regardless of who was in any particular spot in the lineup, the Cardinals got at least one hit out of every lineup position.
Izturis stole two bases, leading the team with 10.
Pujols went 3-for-4 with a walk, his only out a scortched line drive caught in center field. Pujols’ .354 average is tops on the team.
The defensive play of the game was Ron Villone’s falling, sprawling reception while covering first base to complete a double play.
The Cardinals now lead the four-game home series with the Padres, 2-0.
photo by SD Dirk
After the 4-2 loss to the Phillies, Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa said he felt worse for Mark Mulder than he did for the team. Mulder as much as took himself out of the game after calling medical personnel from the dugout after facing only three batters.
Mulder stated that he felt significant pain on a strikeout pitch to the Phil’s leadoff man, Jimmy Rollins. From that point, Mulder revealed that the pain lessened, but that he couldn’t get his arm up to where it needed to be to make an effective delivery. His description was evidenced by the eight straight balls he threw to the next two hitters. After only 16 pitches, Mulder’s night was over, and considering his past injuries, the possibility of a longer down-time becomes a major concern.
Brad Thompson would come on in the first inning with only one out and two Phillies’ base runners aboard. The middle infielders would help him out of the jam, Aaron Miles pivoting on a Ryan Howard ground ball, to Izturis, to Pujols for an inning-ending double play.
The game turned into a duel between Thompson and Phils’ starter, J. A. Happ.
The Phillies attempt to something going in the third was snuffed when Cards’ catcher Jason LaRue gunned down Victorino attempting to steal second. LaRue’s throw was perfectly spotted, a couple inches off the dirt on the first base side of second base.
The Cardinals wasted a LaRue double in the fourth.
Thompson pitched himself in and out of jam in the bottom of the fourth, the Phillies stranding a couple base runners.
Happ then took his turn at putting himself in a bind in the next inning, allowed two Cards’ base runners before pitching his way clear by striking out Ryan Ludwick, then, after intentionally walking Albert Pujols, getting Troy Glaus to fly out.
The Phils got to Thompson in the fifth, Carlos Ruiz singling, then scoring on a Rollins triple. A couple batters and a single later, Howard singled home Victorino to put the Phils up 2-0.
La Russa called upon Russ Springer, who struck out Pat Burrell to stop the bleeding.
Happ sailed through his half of the sixth, but the Cardinals went to their fourth pitcher of the night with Jason Isringhausen. The former Cards’ closer walked one batter, but picked on Happ for the last out.
Cesar Izturis and Skip Schumaker would finally chase Happ in the seventh, hitting a single and a double, respectively. Chad Durbin relieved Happ, but ended up walking Ludwick. Pujols hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Izturis to bring the Cards within one at 2-1. Glaus then singled to center, Schumaker scoring the tying run. Ankiel was then walked intentionally to load the bases. Joe Mather pinch-hit for Isringhausen, but struck out to end the Cardinals’ chances for a much bigger inning.
With the game tied at 2-2, La Russa called in the fifth pitcher in the form of Kyle McClellan, who cruised through the seventh.
Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel brought on Clay Condrey to start the eighth inning, striking out LaRue, Brendan Ryan, and Izturis, the lot of them swinging.
McClellan had the Phils’ eighth inning leadoff man, Howard, down 0-2 before throwing a mistake pitch, Howard depositing the ball in the right field stands, the Phils reclaiming the lead at 3-2. La Russa went to his fifth reliever, sixth pitcher overall, calling in Chris Perez. For two batters, it appeared as if Perez would give the Cards a shot at a one-run chase to tie when he struck out Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth. Pedro Feliz would have none of Perez’s ideas of striking out the side, however, taking the rookie deep to left, increasing the Phillies’ lead to 4-2.
The Cardinals would face Brad Lidge in the ninth, the closer opening the door by walking the leadoff man, Schumaker, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Ludwick. Lidge would get the two Cards’ All-Stars, however, striking out Ludwick on a perfect low and away pitch, then getting Pujols to lift a low pitch for an easy fly out to right field.
Still, Lidge couldn’t stand prosperity, walking Glaus after having him down in the count. Ankiel had a chance to play hero once more, but it was not to be, Lidge getting him down 0-2 and then getting him to swing over a low pitch and strike out to end the game, the Cards going down 4-2.
The loss will force a rubber game tomorrow afternoon, with the bullpen usage already on the verge of out of hand. La Russa will field a time, all right, and won’t have a problem until the rotation brings the Cards around to Mulder’s spot once more.
At this point, there is no telling what the Mulder situation will be, but you might imagine how much Mozeliak’s wheels are turning now, with the trade deadline getting closer every day.
Yesterday, Mark Mulder got a standing ovation. Today, David Wright would’ve gotten one, if the Mets were in New York. Or maybe the whole Mets’ team, for scrapping inning after inning until they finally busted out to a lead of three or more, then holding on to win 7-4. Tony Armas pitched a rocky handful of innings, but his team kept things in order long enough to get their big inning against Cards’ starter Todd Wellemeyer, lighting him up for three runs in the fifth and adding another later, outlasting the Cardinals through the last half of the game.
Wellemeyer got roughed up in the first couple of innings, the Mets able to tally one run on four hits, adding a walk help prove the obvious, that the Redbirds’ starter was not on in command of his pitches. In the dugout, pitching coach Dave Duncan made open displays that suggested he was coaching the right-hander on his his arm angle.
The Cardinals provided some breathing room for Wellemeyer early, scoring two in the first inning. Aaron Miles doubled, then was driven home as half of a two-RBI home run into the right field seats by Rick Ankiel. Mets’ starter Tony Armas wasn’t in much more command than Wellemeyer, giving up the third Cardinals’ run in the second. Yadier Molina singled, was sacrificed over to second by Wellemeyer, scoring later on a Skip Schumaker double.
The two run lead wouldn’t last, however, Wellemeyer unable to get his off-speed pitches under control. The Mets started sitting on his fast balls, driving even his lower zone stuff for basehits, mounting enough of a rally to tie up the game in the fourth.
By the fifth inning, the Mets showed how they could put together a rally on pitcher that was off his game. Endy Chaves led off with a single. David Wright doubled, sending Chavez to third, and the Mets were in prime postition to rally. Carlos Beltran came up next, a batter that has hit .500 and change when it comes to the Cardinals, penalized the Redbirds again, executing a “move ’em in, move ’em over,” ground ball to the right side of the infield, breaking the tie and putting his team up by one at 4-3. Ryan Church punished the Cards further, doubling to right, Wright scoring. La Russa ordered Carlos Delgado walked, putting the double play in order. But Damion Easley gave up only one on a pop out to Ryan at short. Ramon Castro helped push in another run from his eighth spot in the lineup, singling home Church. The rally ended with an Armas line out, but the damage had been done, the Mets exploiting Wellemeyer’s inability to keep them off his fast ball when he couldn’t deliver on the off-speed stuff.
Brad Thompson took over for Wellemeyer to start the sixth, and did well except for one mistake pitch up to David Wright, who took him deep to left, making up for a weak previous night.
The Cardinals were able to chip one off the Mets 7-3 lead, Troy Glaus scoring on a Molina sacrifice fly into foul territory on the right field side.
Aaron Heilman relieved Armas in the seventh, getting a couple ground outs before Albert Pujols doubled. Mets’ manager Jerry Manuel pulled Heilman on the spot, calling in Pedro Feliciano, who secured the third out to get out of the jam.
Thompson sailed through the eighth, and the Mets countered with another reliever, Duaner Sanchez, who took down Glaus, Duncan, and Molina in order.
Once more Thompson held, and once more Manuel made a pitching change, going with closer Billy Wagner, who also pitched down the Cardinals, one-two-three.
The Mets did tonight exactly what the Cardinals needed to do, and that was exploit the weaknesses of the other team. Wellemeyer happened to be that weakness for the Cardinals, the Mets catching him on a night in which he was well off his game and seemed to have trouble with his mechanics, either an arm angle issue or opening up too soon as analyst and one-time pitching great Ricky Horton pointed out in a post-game TV segment.
The game may have hinged on a fourth inning decision to let a struggling Wellemeyer bat instead of pinch-hitting him with the game tied. La Russa played the odds that Wellemeyer would settle down, and that did not happen. Though it could have, as there appeared to be nothing wrong with Wellemeyer’s stamina.
The Mets tuned in to Wellemeyer’s fast ball so well, it became obvious they were setting up for only that pitch, letting everything else go and coming out okay on count, until they finally would get the fast ball that didn’t have the movement pitching coach Dave Duncan would’ve liked to have seen. That is how the Mets could drive even the hard stuff that was down or on the corners, as they were looking for that speed all the way, and needed only set up their swing, the more difficult part, the timing, no longer an issue.
With the exception of Wright’s homer, Thompson was steady, recording a few one-two-three innings and sailing along, giving the Cardinals bullpen all the rest they should need to be at full capacity starting tomorrow.
The Mets did burn some pen tonight, but victories are well worth that trade-off. They may be in the same boat tomorrow night that the Cardinals were in tonight. But kudos to the Mets pitching staff for grinding one out, hanging tough through mid-game, then working hard to make certain no rally got out of hand.
These two teams should make for good, competitive baseball during the last two games of the four-game series.
(photo by Barbara Moore)
The Cardinals’ highest draft pick, Brett Wallace, taken in the thirteenth round, is close to signing, according to general manager John Mozeliak.
Wallace could be signed sometime during the Cards’ current home stand versus the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs. Reportedly, a signing bonus of nearly $2-million has been offered. No other details of the contract have been released.
Contrary to rumor that Wallace might go directly to St. Louis, the Cardinals plan to send Wallace to Class A Quad Cities.
Manager Tony La Russa is re-calling pitcher Brad Thompson from Triple-A Memphis due to the Cardinals’ serious need of relief pitching going into the current homestand. Nick Stavinoha will be as much as trading roster spots with Thompson, returning to Memphis in order to make room for Thompson.