Braden Looper started for the Cardinals, hoping for more offensive production than his teammates have been able to provide on a consistent basis of late. The Cards did score first, but had to provide some exciting defense first.
Braden Looper (9-5, 4.22) will try for his tenth win today as the St. Louis Cardinals attempt to win the rubber game of the second phase of the I-70 series in Kansas City. Looper will go head with the Royals’ Brian Bannister (7-6, 4.47), who all but stumped the Cardinals’ offense in mid-June at Busch Stadium, permitting only two runs in seven innings of work. Bannister has never lost to the Cardinals.
What might make the difference in this current set of games versus the Royals is that Albert Pujols has been available, Yadier Molina is healthier, and the Cardinals have made some breakthroughs on offense. Of note, Rick Ankiel has hit several home runs on this recent road trip. Also of note, is that utility infielder Aaron Miles has hit so well, overall, that he is currently the most successful interleague hitter, all-time.
The Cardinals can claim a winning road trip if they win today, as well as taking two out of three road series (won-Boston; lost-Detroit; ?-Kansas City).
It took a rookie pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals to “Show-Me” how it’s done, helping his teammates finally get a 5-1 win in the I-70 series. This victory upped his record to 3-0.
Boggs was matched against Kyle Davies, who beat the Cards in the previous I-70 series at Busch Stadium.
The difference in tonight’s game was slight, as Boggs did pitch a good game, but not too much better than the other starters who’d suffered losses versus the Royals this season. The difference in the offense was significant, apparent in the runs scored alone, scoring five, which at least doubles the scores in their losses to the Royals.
That offense came in several innings, another plus for the sputtering Cardinals’ offense, which hasn’t given either the starting or relief pitching staffs the support necessary for a reasonable chance at winning, and that applies regardless of which part of the staff is doing well and which isn’t.
The game remained scoreless until the fourth inning, and then the Cardinals only scored one run. But they would tack on at least one run in each of the next three innings as well, scoring two in the sixth. By the seventh, the Cards were up 5-0, and the Royals would score their only run in the bottom of the seventh.
Offensive highlights included a Ryan Ludwick double to center, followed by a Chris Duncan flare hit to center that scored a charging Ludwick. A lead-extending home run by Rick Ankiel with Skip Schumaker aboard helped Boggs pitch with a healthy lead, unlike the other starters, who although did well, had to pitch almost every inning either down in score or tied or up by only one run.
Defensively, Brendan Ryan was busy at shortstop, but making plays with the sort of movements that suggest an increased confidence. Earlier in the season, many plays Ryan made seemed to have him walking on eggshells, as if he couldn’t be too careful. These days, he looks like a seasoned infielder.
On one defensive gem for the Cards, left fielder Schumaker took a desperation dive for a ball over his head, missing, sliding through the warning track dirt, then popping up and scooping up the ball. Schumaker threw a strike to cutoff man Ryan as another Royals’ base runner headed for home. All of Cardinal Nation held its collective breath as Ryan threw a one-hop strike of his own to the awaiting Molina. But the gasp was not so much for the close play at the plate as it was for Molina, who spun away from the lowered shoulder of base runner Miguel Olivo. Molina made the tag while avoiding any serious contact, getting the putout and allowing said Cardinal Nation to sigh in relief.
Kyle McClellan, another rookie, came on in relief after Boggs walked one and gave up a hit in the seventh inning. Ross Gload doubled home Mark Teahen, this play described with Olivo getting thrown out at home.
Horacio Ramirez relieved Davies in the eighth, holding the Cards. McClellan held the Royals in the bottom half of the inning.
Robinson Tejeda took over for the ninth inning, also holding the Cards.
Russ Springer came on in the closer’s role, walking one, but allowing no runs.
The rubber game of the Kansas City phase of the I-70 series takes place tomorrow afternoon, the Cardinals pushing to take the series before coming home to Busch Stadium for a home stand featuring a four-game set against the New York Mets and a three-game series against NL Central Division leaders, the Chicago Cubs.
Mark Mulder has been activated by the St. Louis Cardinals. Mulder had been on the 15-day DL from shoulder surgery.
Mulder will be able to pitch against the Kansas City Royals if called upon by manager Tony La Russa.
To open a roster spot for Mulder, Mike Parisi was optioned to Triple-A Memphis.
The last time Mulder pitched was June 19 in Memphis.
The Kansas City Royals stunned the Cardinals and Cardinal Nation in their 4-1 afternoon victory today at Busch Stadium.
Brad Thompson pitched five solid innings, filling in for Anthony Reyes, who went on the DL with elbow problems. Thompson had just come off the DL, and gave up only two runs.
Jason Isringhausen pitched three innings in relief, a bit of a surprise, and held the Royals during his outs.
The only Cardinals hits came from Aaron Miles and Rick Ankiel, the latter hitting a solo home run.
Zack Greinke went seven innings for the Royals, picking up the victory.
The Royals put the game out of reach in the ninth, scoring two more off of Chris Perez, specifically, a two-run homer by M. Teahen, putting the Royals up 4-1.
Joakim Soria, who had successfully shut down the Cardinals in the ninth inning of each of the first two games of the series, shut them down once more, his third save in as many days.
Just as the Royals executed good baseball offense in their one-run victory yesterday, the Cardinals showed off the same in the first frame of tonight’s game. After Braden Looper shut down the Royals in their first at bat, Skip Schumaker lead off with a single up the middle.
Thus started the offensive strategy and execution. Two-hole hitter, Aaron Miles, spelling Cesar Izturis tonight, stroked a single to right field on a hit-and-run, Schumaker stealing on the play, and, advancing to third. Schumaker then scored on a sacrifice fly deep to right field off the bat of Ryan Ludwick.
The inning sputtered after that, but the Cardinals desire to run was apparent, with Rick Ankiel at the plate, another hit-and-run was attempted, Miles stealing. Ankiel popped out, Miles hustling back to first base. Glaus then grounded out on an excuse-me swing, ending the inning. But the Cardinals intent to run was clear. The strategy might’ve been put into the works by manager Tony La Russa, as Royals catcher John Buck has not thrown a base runner out on a steal attempt yet.
In the bottom of the third inning, Adam Kennedy singled, and it appeared he was itching to steal second base, but before he had a chance, Schumaker grounded hard to the shortstop, the Royals pulling off a perfect 6-4-3 double play.
The fourth inning brought up a potential long-ball inning for the Redbirds with Ludwick, Ankiel, and Glaus due up. They faced the Royals starter, Brian Bannister, who had been rolling along okay. Ludwick grounded out, but Ankiel hit a drive up the middle for a single. Glaus then flew out, Ankiel still trying to advance from first base. Chris Duncan had a chance to improve his troubled swing, somehow pulling an outside pitch for a single to right field. Jason Larue cracked another pitch through the box, Bannister getting a piece of it, and when Royals’ second baseman M Grudzielanek couldn’t field the ball cleanly and step on second base for an easy force out to end the inning, a hustling Duncan slid into the bag safely. Ankiel scurried home with the go-ahead run, the Cardinals going up 2-0.
There was a slight scare in the top of the fifth inning when Looper deflected a hard hit ball off the bat of M Teahen. Looper fell away, backward, toward the rubber, almost down to mound dirt, throwing up his hands in self-defense more than anything. The ball deflected to the ground and Looper scrambled to make the putout, throwing to Duncan at first base.
At the end of five innings, both Looper and Bannister were sailing along, the two-run lead precarious at this juncture. The Cardinals made some noise in the sixth when a routine fly ball off the bat of Ludwick fell to the outfield turf untouched, Royals’ center fielder D. DeJesus losing the ball in the dusk sky. The advantage was squandered, however, when Ludwick was thrown out trying to tag up and advance to third base on an Ankiel fly ball, left fielder, Jose Guillen throwing him out with a strike from the warning track. The inning withered away.
Looper became frustrated in the seventh when the Royals scored their first run, a run that might have never happened if a close play at first base had been ruled an out.
Up 2-1 in the seventh, the Cardinals couldn’t quite take advantage of another miscue by the Royals. LaRue had singled, and when pinch-hitter Cesar Izturis lined to Bannister on the mound. Bannister had LaRue doubled off of first base on the hard hit ball, but overthrew, the ball bouncing off the rolled-up infield tarp. LaRue scampered to third base before a Royal player could recover the mis-thrown ball. The Cardinals, however, failed to get LaRue home, Kennedy lining out to left field.
Kyle McClellan came on in relief for Looper in the eighth, and the Royals proceeded to take the 23-year old deep, twice, D. DeJesus and Alex Gordon both hammering up-zone pitches for homers to right field. DeJesus’s home run barely made it over the wall, but Gordon’s was a no-doubt blast, the collective heart of Cardinal Nation sinking with the crack of the bat.
Royals’ skipper Trey Hillman sat down Bannister, putting in reliever Ramon Ramirez. Now down by a run, Schumaker singled to left field, giving the Cards yet another opportunity to build a rally from which to tie or take the lead. Miles kicked the potential rally into serious with a hard-hit single to right field, Schumaker wisely sticking to second base. Ludwick lined out to left fielder, the base runners unable to advance.
Hillman then gave the nod to left-handed reliever, R. Mahay, bringing him on to face the left-handed swinging Ankiel. Known to be tough on lefty hitters, Mahay struck out Ankiel, putting the pressure squarely back on the Cardinals, in the form of Glaus. With the count run full with two outs, Glaus grounded out t shortstop, the Cardinals wasting a good opportunity, leaving themselves with the job of hold and score, from one half-inning to the next, respectively.
Ryan Franklin and the Redbirds defense held the Royals in the ninth, giving them a shot at a comeback in their last at bats, reminiscent of the previous night.
Hillman went to their closer again, bringing in Joakim Soria.
Duncan lead off, continuing to struggle at the plate, his swing set up to pull only, and with this swing, grounded out to short for the first out. LaRue jumped on the first Soria pitch, flying out to center field. Izturis took a last-chance at bat, grounding out to short, the Cards going down on another one-run game, 3-2.