And for good reason, as the Cards were suffering their twelfth ninth-inning loss of the season at Chase Field in Arizona.
Two of the three pitchers in mind didn’t exactly have a great game that day, but have proven themselves over time. Those two would be Kyle McClellan and Chris Perez. The other fellow, the guy who had Diamondbacks’ hitters shaking their heads and muscling up for more bat speed, well, he had Redbirds’ fans agasp with heat that exceeded that of Perez.
The last fireballer was Jason Motte, pitching in his major league debut, in a situation that counted for something. Motte gave the Cardinals four critical outs at the time, but MPH and minor league stats aside, the man gave the Cardinals a presence on that mound, as if he was saying: This is my mound, now get in the (bleeping) box so I can strike you out. Next. Next. Inning over? Not enough, still hungry, more batters, NOW!
Potential roles then, would be: McClellan in mid-relief; Perez as set-up man (8th inning); Motte as closer. This scenario gives you all kinds of configuration possibilities with the rest of the “more experienced” crew. But regardless of how you would set things up if you were in charge, with the recent re-appearance of the new and improved Perez, plus the sonic entrance of Motte, you suddenly have a chance at refurbishing a bullpen that has had a down year.
And in case you haven’t noticed, all three of the praised pitchers are rookies.
In McClellan’s case (and we’ve printed this before), it’s difficult to think of him as a rookie, with his bevy of appearances and solid performances, with only a few short-term rough patches which he worked through like any other seasoned pitcher would. So it might be hard to get real excited about McClellan right now, but that’s because we’ve taken him for granted already. That’s how well he has done this year.
Presently, McClellan’s dilemma is more than likely that he is in first big league year, and he has a bit too much season on him right now. In fact, you wouldn’t be out of line if you’ve been wondering if he hasn’t been overused a bit, and would like to see a reduction in his innings, if possible.
But while McClellan had arrived, and stayed, Perez has been down and up, re-tooling, and has re-appeared with not only better mechanics and a workable slider, but an aggressive attitude that found Wednesday come out as his only blown save. A young man like Perez can learn as much form that experience as he can from a notched save. When you step back, the ordeal in Arizona shows as just another small dent in a season riddled with dings and dangs and bents and by-gollies, for replacement of words and phrases heard closer to the actual playing field.
An atmosphere of hope, more than miles per hour, is what the Cardinals’ bullpen got when Motte toed the rubber, his swagger surely soon to be hated by the fans of opposing teams. It’s something like the Valverde exposition of confidence, only without the It’s all about me impression.
And as for Motte’s heater, one can only describe it by twisting an old tale (that may have had Nolan Ryan as the subject pitcher), supposing, in our case, Motte, that if you’re in a barrel of (let’s say, poop) poop, then, and Jason Motte throws a fast ball at your head, what do you do?
Duck? Or let it hit you?
photos by Barbara Moore
Home runs contributed by Ryan Ludwick, Aaron Miles, and Troy Glaus accounted for five of the Cardinals’ 11 runs in a first half finale versus the Pittsburgh Pirates today.
It has been over two months since the last time Joel Pineiro recorded a victory. Tonight, however, was his turn–finally.
Certainly, he was taking nothing for granted as he sat on the bench after being lifted after 6 1/3 innings pitched. Not that he doesn’t trust the bullpen, that has seen its share of blown saves this year, but the fact that the Cardinals were clinging to a two-run lead would’ve made any starter nervous.
Pineiro’s match-up, the Phillies’ Cole Hamels, was stingy with the hits in his seven full innings on the hill, giving up only three hits. Hamels walked no one while striking out eight. In most other games, Hamels’ performance would’ve been plenty good enough for a win.
Two out of the three hits given up by Hamels, however, were home runs, one from Rick Ankiel and the other from All-Star Ryan Ludwick. Both shots were of the solo variety, but they were all that was needed to help Pineiro improve his record to 3-4.
The Cards’ bullpen did its share as well, RonVillone coming on the the seventh and getting a double play to get out of the inning. Kyle McClellan came on to work the eighth, allowing no one to reach base. Manager Tony La Russa then called upon closer Ryan Franklin, who gave up a one-out single to Ryan Howard. The Phillies’ slugger died on first base, however, and Franklin picked up his 12th save in the shutout victory.
Pineiro’s outing was as good as he’s had all year, his defense helping him out with a couple double plays, Villone picking up a third off of base runners Pineiro had let on. Pineiro helped himself and catcher Yadier Molina immensely when he picked off Shane Victorino. Usually it’s Molina that helps out the pitchers with pesky base runners.
Of concern is that Albert Pujols went 0-for-3 and Troy Glaus, 0-for-4. Ludwick and Ankiel have enjoyed the fruits of batting, let’s say, near Pujols, getting many better pitches than they might if a weaker hitter was in the three-hole. Lately, Glaus hasn’t just cooled off, but downright chilled down to 0-for-his-last-19 ABs. You might look for La Russa to push Ludwick into the cleanup slot and Glaus to fifth.
The victory finds the Cardinals maintaining the NL’s best road record as well as giving them their 51st win.
photo by Barbara Moore
The Cardinals best pitcher to date, Kyle Lohse, was called upon to hold the Cubs down while his own team’s offense tried to wake up.
The Cubs sent a lefhander to the hill, Ted Lilly, to make sure the Cardinals’ offense remained sleepy.
Much like last night’s game, but with a lot less hype, both pitcher’s commenced to duel. The Cubs struck with the long ball, Mark DeRosa reaching a full-count breaking ball low and away, getting enough barrel to loft it into the right-center field bleachers for a 1-0 lead.
Two innings later, in the fifth, DeRosa hammered Lohse again, this time a triple. DeRosa then scored the Cubs second run off of Ryan Theriot’s RBI-basehit.
Lilly continued to cruise, offering tons of off-speed and spotting everything in the known weak areas of each Cardinals’ hitter.
Rick Ankiel broke the ice of the Cardinals, driving a Lilly fastball (one of the few he’d thrown) that zone into Ankiel’s wheelhouse. The homer was Ankiel’s 17th, tying him for the club lead with Albert Pujols, who followed up the homer with a long fly ball that got to the left-center field wall before either DeRosa or Jim Edmonds could catch up. With Pujols in scoring position on second base, Lilly then struck out Troy Glaus for the third time. Pujols caught Lilly sleeping as Ryan Ludwick fell behind in the count, stealing third base when the Cubs’ pitcher seemed to forget all about him leading off second base. Ludwick pulled a two-strike pitch down the third base line for a double, Pujols making sure Aramis Ramirez didn’t glove the ball shooting past before he took off for home.
Now a tie ball game at 2-apiece, Neal Cotts came on in relief for Lilly to start the seventh inning, allowing no Cardinals base runners
Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa countered with reliever Ryan Franklin, who had been closing games during the last several weeks when Jason Isringhausen had difficulties with the rigors of the job. Derrek Lee jumped Franklin, doubling to deep left field. Ramirez then cranked one out to left, and just like that, the Cubs had their two-run lead back.
The lead would have been three, save for a semi-rainbow out of right field by Ludwick to an awaiting Molina a home plate. With no sign of fearing an oncoming base runner, Moline blocked off a sliding Edmonds, slapping a tag on his helmet as he slid past.
Cubs’ manager Lou Piniella called upon his closer, Kerry Wood, to shut down the Cardinals in the bottom of the ninth.
The Cardinals did something they’ve had a tremendously hard time doing so far in the series; they got their leadoff man of an inning on base. In this case, it came in form of Ryan Ludwick. Molina wasn’t in any hurry to help Wood, who was having a bit of trouble finding the zone with his mid-90s fastballs. Molina drew a walk, becoming the potential tying run.
Representing the potential winning run, Adam Kennedy might’ve fooled everyone in the park when he took a cut at the first Wood offering, a unlikely move considering Wood had just walked two batters. Kennedy’s drive shot past Lee at first base, who earlier had made two sliding catches. Ludwick scrambled in easily from second base, but third base coach Jose Oquendo wisely held up Molina at third base.
Piniella had pinch-hitter Chris Duncan intentionally walked to load the bases. Skip Schumaker hit a grounder to Ramirez at third, who fired home to force out Molina. The pivot and throw to first base was nowhere near quick enough to double up the fleet Schumaker. There was only one out, with the bases yet loaded, but this left the Cubs with a chance for a double play to end the game.
Pinch-hitter Aaron Miles popped out to Theriot, and the Cards were down to their last out.
Ankiel found a hittable pitch, up and bit away, and instead of trying to pull hard, his usual swing, he drove the ball more toward the middle, accomplished a walk-off single when Kennedy and Duncan scored the tying and winning runs, respectively.
Kyle McClellan picked up the victory, improving his record to 1-3.
The thrilling 5-4 victory for the Busch Stadium crowd and Cardinal Nation evened the series and proved the Cardinals could compete with the NL Central’s and leagues best team.
photo by Barbara Moore
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.