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
The Cards took the Padres series a game early, starter Todd Wellemeyer getting plenty of help from the offense; including his own contribution, a single and a run scored. Wellemeyer’s record improves to 8-4. Ryan Franklin, one of four relief pitchers, earned his 14th, save. Ron Villone was credited with a hold.
Down 5-0 early in the second inning, Wellemeyer struggled, then settled down, then battled, trying to make certain manager Tony La Russa didn’t have to go to his bullpen early. At the same time, La Russa sent a clear message to Wellemeyer that he was going to have to pitch deeper into the game by leaving him in to bat leadoff in the bottom of the fifth.
Wellemeyer delivered at the plate, too, with a single to right. After a Brendan Ryan strikeout, Skip Schumaker walked, and the Cards had a change to chip off some of the Padres’ five-run lead. Ryan Ludwick singled, third base coach Jose Oquendo holding up Wellemeyer at third, the bases now loaded with Cardinals.
Albert Pujols delivered, scorching a Randy Wolf pitch to the wall in left-center field, clearing the bases and bringing the Cards within two runs at 5-3. With two outs, Rick Ankiel singled home Pujols to make it 5-4.
An inning later, Wellemeyer took part in the next phase of the Cardinals comeback, sacrfice bunting Cesar Izturis into scoring position after he’d reached on an infield single. Padres’ third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff helped out the cause, throwing a Brendan Ryan ground ball over the head of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Izturis advancing to third and Ryan scampering on to second.
Schumaker brought Izturis home with a ground ball to tie up the game at 5-5. After Ryan advanced to third base on a wild pitch, Ludwick walked. Pujols then collected his fourth RBI on the day, singling home Ryan with the go-ahead run.
La Russa called on his bullpen after Wellemeyer had secured one out in the seventh, a strikeout of pinch-hitter Scott Hairston. The move was questionable, with Wellemeyer only in the 80s on pitch count (he’d gone 120 two games earlier) and showing no signs of considerable fatigue. Randy Flores got the call, however, specifically to face lefthanded swinger, Jody Gerut. Flores walked Gerut, though a couple of the ball-strike calls seemed to favor the Padres’ regular leadoff man.
La Russa went to Russ Springer, who gave up back to back singles to Edgar Gonzalez and Brian Giles, respectively. On came reliever number three, Ron Villone, especially to face Adrian Gonzalez. Villone fared better than Flores on his lefty-lefty matchup, striking out A. Gonzalez by spotting a fast ball on the outside corner, getting the Padres’ three-hole hitter looking. Villone then got cleanup hitter Kevin Kouzmanoff to fly out to Ankiel in center.
Ryan Franklin took over to start the eighth, La Russa sticking with him instead of going with Jason Isringhausen in a closer’s role in the ninth. The top of the Padres’ order went down one-two-three, the Cardinals securing a 6-5 win.
Now that the All-Star break is just about over, and our All-Star representatives–Ryan Ludwick and Albert Pujols–have returned home, Cardinal Nation can look forward to an eight-game homestand.
The first series (four games) brings a west coast team into St. Louis, the San Diego Padres (37-58). The next series (four games) matches the Cardinals against some hard-nosed NL Central competitors, the Milwaukee Brewers.
The probable pitchers for the San Diego series follow:
Thursday, July 17, Busch Stadium, 7:15 p.m. CDT
San Diego Padres: Jake Peavy RHP (7-5, 2.47)
St. Louis Cardinals: Kyle Lohse RHP (11-2, 3.39)
Friday, July 18, Busch Stadium, 7:15 p.m. CDT
San Diego Padres: Greg Maddux RHP (3-8, 3.90)
St. Louis Cardinals: Braden Looper RHP (9-7, 4.25)
Saturday, July 19, Busch Stadium, 2:55 p.m. CDT
San Diego Padres: Randy Wolf LHP (6-9, 4.66)
St. Louis Cardinals: Todd Wellemeyer RHP (7-4, 4.04)
Sunday, July 20, Busch Stadium, 1:15 p.m. CDT
San Diego Padres: Cha Seung Baek RHP (2-5, 5.25)
St. Louis Cardinals: Jaime Garcia LHP (0-0, 0.00)
photo by SD Dirk