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On-deck: The St. Louis Cardinals will attempt to keep the Brewers from continuing their sweeping ways tonight at Busch Stadium, game time, 7:15 p.m., CDT.
With C.C. Sabathia slated as the starting pitcher, St. Louis fans will get a chance to see how trading vs. not trading works out for both teams.
Probables: MIL-C.C. Sabathia LHP (9-8, 3.51) vs. STL-Braden Looper RHP (9-7, 4.60)
Bird’s Perch: The Cards now hold a solid third place, not something they wanted to hear considering team they’ve lost to for the last couple of nights has put them in that position. The Cards are now a full two games behind the first place Cubs and one full game behind the second place Brewers.
Not good when considering two wins versus two losses over the course of the Brewers stay in St. Louis so far would’ve put the Brew-crew down and put the Cards in a tie for first place. Not bad when you consider how two heartbreaking losses can occur and the Cards are still only two out of first.
Barton starts rehab: Brian Barton comes off the DL and starts a 2-day rehab assignment today with the Memphis affiliate.
Whatcha done for me lately? The most productive Cardinal hitters in last night’s loss were:
Yadier Molina — 2-for-4 with a double and 1 RBI
Albert Pujols — 2-for-4 with a double and 1 run scored.
Ryan Ludwick — 1-for-4 with a home run, giving him the obvious 1 run scored and 1 RBI.
Troy Glaus — 0-for-3 with 1 walk and 1 run scored.
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
Ryan Howard hit a pair of line drives into the left field seats, accounting for three of the Philadelphia Phillies’ runs in a 4-1 win.
Next game: Today, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, 12:05 p.m. CDT.
Albert Pujols got his 300th home run Friday night the in first game of the Cards-Cubs series over the Independence Day weekend. The milestone round-tripper, however, wasn’t enough, the Cubs nipping the Cards 2-1.
Busch Stadium was packed and rocking for the holiday event, treated to a pitcher’s duel between Cubs’ starter Carlos Zambrano and the Cardinals’ Braden Looper.
The Cubs drew first blood, Kosuke Fukudome taking a Looper mistake pitch into the right field seats. Geovany Soto added a solo homer in the fourth, putting the Cubs up two but not out of reach by any means, except, that Zambrano was hyped up and throwing heat.
Just off the DL, Zambrano was overthrowing for several innings, using up a lot of pitches, but holding the Cardinals scoreless. His aggressiveness was unlike any the Cardinals have seen so far this season.
It wasn’t until the seventh, when Cubs’ manager Lou Piniella brought in Bob Howry, that the Cardinals had any chance. Yet the only Cardinal to pick on the reliever was Albert Pujols, and that wasn’t until the eighth inning, when Pujols hit his 300th. After the solo shot, the Cubs went with Neal Cotts to finish the eighth, then closer Kerry Wood to polish off the Cardinals in the ninth.
The first of the Cardinals hitters to go down was Troy Glaus, who was beside himself on a pitch he thought was ball four, the ball clearly outside. The home plate umpire, Ted Barrett, must’ve thought Glaus was showing him up, because the next pitch was far outside and Barrett called out Glaus on strikes. After Yadier Moline reached on a single, Barrett made a similar strike call on Ryan Ludwick. Without a whole lot of faith that he wouldn’t get called out on strikes outside the zone, Ludwick ended up grounding out to end the game.
Soto swung the hot Cubs’ bat, going 3-for-4 with that solo home run. Derrick Lee doubled in his 2-for-4 effort. Yadier Molina and Pujols both went 2-for-4.
Carlos Zambrano got the win, improving to 9-3 while Looper suffered the loss, his record flattening a little to 9-6. Kerry Wood notched his 22nd save.
photo by Barbara Moore
There aren’t many weekends bigger than this if you’re a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Or a Chicago Cubs fan, for that matter.
Cubs-Cards rivalry. NL Central lead on the line. Independence Day weekend. Jimmy Baseball’s return to Busch. Zambrano v Cards. Pujols v Cubs. Red state-Blue state.
However you look at the upcoming three-game set between these two longtime rivals, the hype of the games promise to make for some bigtime entertainment for fans everywhere.
Regardless of the status of the rivaly, however, there is still baseball to be played somewhere within the mayhem. And when that mayhem starts, the NL Central standings will be affected in some way. Down 2 1/2 games, the Redbirds have a chance to directly influence their position. The Cards are currently in second place, chasing the Cubs, and with the Milwaukee Brewers a couple behind. All three teams lost yesterday.
The Brewers are at MIller Park today hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates, throwing Ben Sheets against the semi-hapless Bucs. If they win, they will gain on somebody.
But the Cards cannot worry about that. They’ll have their hands (and hopefully their mitts) full with Carlos Zambrano (8-3, 3.13) and the rest of Lou Piniella’s Cubs. Chicago’s North-siders boast the best record in the NL at 51-35. The Cardinals are still trying to win #50, but are more than respectable at 49-38.
Today’s series opener will be Zambrano’s first game back off the DL, but he says he feels strong and ready to go. Piniella hopes his ace can go six innings, and has stated Zambrano is going to be watched carefully and limited to a pitch count of around 90 pitches. Reaching both limits would be considered a pretty good first outing coming off his shoulder injury.
Tony La Russa has matched Braden Looper (9-5, 4.26) against Zambrano. Looper has plenty of experience against Chicago. MLB.com reports that Looper has amassed 36 appearances against the Cubs, totally 64 2/3 innings, and maintained a 2.37 ERA.
Both teams are coming off splits of four-game series, Cards-Mets and Cubs-Giants. But it is doubtful either team is dwelling on those series. Not with such a big rivalry staring each squad in their collective faces.
The Cubs have regained hitting star Aramas Ramirez, who had been away due to personal reasons. Alfonso Soriano is returning to the field today, but not activated to play. Soriano will be taking batting practice off a tee only, recovering on the DL from a broken finger.
The Cubs have been reeling from recent injuries to Soriano and Zambrano, almost as if they were about to panic. The Cardinals, on the other hand, started the season with key players on the DL, and have had them coming and going so much that a good portion of the team knows the best places to eat in St. Louis and Memphis. (Memphis is the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate site.) The DL situation is something the Cards are used to dealing with. The Cubs are just now finding out what an impact injuries have to their current roster. The Cards have coped well with injuries; the Cubs have yet to figure that one out.
And then, amidst all the usually rivalry, you have Jimmy Baseball, Mr. Edmonds, who makes no bones about saying how much he liked St. Louis because he had put his heart and soul into the team and the city for years. Edmonds also has no problems playing for another team, even if it is the rival Cubs. Edmonds stated recently that he wasn’t about to sit home and go bankrupt just because the Cardinals no longer desired his services, adding that he still needed to work.
Odds are that the Busch Stadium crowd with greet Jimmy Baseball warmly, at least to start the series.