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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

6 St. Louis Cardinals file for free agency

By Derrick Goold

Six Cardinals filed for free agency Thursday: shortstop Cesar Izturis, catcher Jason LaRue, righthander Braden Looper, infielder Felipe Lopez, righthander Russ Springer and lefthander Ron Villone.

Although filing is a formality, the players' return to the Cards likely will depend on the team's interest in keeping them.

The team has identified the middle infield as a place to improve offensively, and though open to Izturis' return will explore its options. Manager Tony La Russa has expressed in an interest in having Lopez back.

The Cardinals' interest in any starting pitcher, including Looper, will hinge on the health of Chris Carpenter. The team has five starters under contract already.

Springer recently told the Post-Dispatch he is leaning toward pitching again in 2009 and would prefer to return to the Cardinals. The team also will look at other lefthanded relievers on the market before deciding on Villone.

In Detroit on Thursday, the Tigers officially severed ties with shortstop Edgar Renteria, buying out his option for the 2009 season. That makes him a free agent after a relatively disappointing season with the Tigers in which he batted .270, after a .332 campaign in 2007.

Other intriguing or familiar players who filed for free agency on Thursday included:

* Shortstop David Eckstein, who will likely entertain offers to play second base.

* LHPs Will Ohman, Eddie Guardado, Brian Shouse, Jeremy Affeldt, Joe Beimel and Oliver Perez.

* OFs Jim Edmonds, Manny Ramirez, Bobby Abreu and Raul Ibanez.

* Cubs righthanders Ryan Dempster and Bob Howry.

* RHPs Derek Lowe, Ben Sheets and Jason Jennings.

* INFs Mark Loretta and Mark Grudzielanek.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Cardinals' upper management reminds me of those cheetahs on the Animal Planet.

Big deal seems unlikely as Birds protect prospects
Bernie Miklasz
Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz
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By Bernie Miklasz

Among my favorite channels is Animal Planet. I especially love those candid films, set in the wild, that give us a chance to observe the innate nature and survival instincts of assorted beasts.

The cheetah, for example, has a rough set of circumstances to deal with. That's something I learned while watching Animal Planet. To escape vicious predators, the cheetah must run fast, or climb trees, or hide in the thick brush.

The young cheetahs are really vulnerable. It is estimated that 90 percent of cheetah cubs are killed by lions, hyenas and more powerful stalkers. But at times the cheetah will be able to successfully fend off the predators. I was watching the Animal Planet one night and saw a cheetah chase off a lion. It was impressive.

OK, so what the heck does this have to do with sports?

I'll try to explain.

Cardinals' upper management reminds me of those cheetahs on the Animal Planet.

The bosses seem determined to keep the lions away.

Manager Tony La Russa and his staff and players are valiantly battling to stay in contention for a postseason spot. I would imagine that certain deals can be made to improve their chances. I mean, we've seen some big-name players get moved in recent weeks, from CC Sabathia to Rich Harden to Mark Teixeira and Pudge Rodriguez. To pull off a big deal, the Cardinals would have to sacrifice prime prospects.

Despite their spin to the contrary, team chairman Bill DeWitt and VP of player development Jeff Luhnow are resistant to trading away prospects. I know they insist otherwise, but frankly, I don't buy it.

And the likely reality is, unless Cardinals GM John Mozeliak picks up a lefthanded reliever for a nominal prospect before this afternoon's major-league trade deadline, the Cardinals will probably keep a safe distance, with DeWitt and Luhnow protecting their young cheetahs.
DeWitt and Luhnow have hidden top prospect Colby Rasmus in the thick brush, or placed him and other top prospects high up in that tree, where predators can't get to them.

This can't please La Russa.

Not that he's the enemy within, but La Russa sees all the baby cheetahs in Memphis, Springfield, Palm Beach, Quad Cities, etc. and wonders why the bosses are guarding them with such ferocity.

La Russa wants to win now. He's approaching senior-citizen age. His contract expires after 2009. And so far in 2008, La Russa has turned in one of the most resolute and impressive managing jobs of his distinguished career.

And La Russa has a feisty, undermanned team that won't curl up and fade to make it easy for Chicago, Milwaukee and other playoff hopefuls. But to complete this improbable journey, the Cardinals require some help from the outside and more than just a patch. At least some assistance appears to be arriving from the inside; Chris Carpenter's first start, Wednesday in Atlanta, was encouraging.

Do you think TLR is worrying about 2010, 2011, 2012 and how the young cheetahs will develop in St. Louis? Of course not. And why should he? TLR is on a different clock. His needs are more immediate, and pressing. His time is now. And I don't blame him; this is how La Russa is wired.

But look at it from the DeWitt-Luhnow view. They launched a major initiative to draft and develop players and have a legitimately good and deep farm system. They're only a couple of years into the project, so why plunder the system and then be left with little to build around in the not-distant future, after La Russa has moved on? Then again, we have to wonder if DeWitt and Luhnow have an inflated opinion of their prospects. I'm not sure other organizations — trade partners — are as keyed up.

If Mozeliak must pass up reasonable, non-crazy trades to protect the cheetah cubs that are tucked away in the thick brush, I just hope DeWitt and Luhnow are as smart as they think they are. I hope all of these STL prospects are as dynamic as advertised.

I don't know what the standings will look like in 2011.

I don't know if the Cardinals will have a chance to win in 2012.

But I can see the 2008 standings and I do know this: The Cardinals have a chance to win now.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Trade rumor updates: Bay, Sherrill, Ohman

It's been an interesting day of rumors. In a surprising twist, the Cardinals are back in discussions for Jason Bay, George Sherrill may be unavailable after all, and's Mark Bowman thinks Will Ohman will be a Cardinal. More after the jump.

First, the Bay news. The Tampa Bay Rays are having ongoing discussions for Jason Bay, with Reid Brignac as a critical piece. The Cardinals are going to have a tough time matching that package, but Pittsburgh writer Dejan Kovacevic says the Cards are still in it:

The Cardinals are interested in Bay, but not John Grabow (which surprised me to learn), according to a source there. They absolutely, positively will not give up outfielder Colby Rasmus, one of the best prospects in the game, but the Pirates probably would be able to pick off the list of pretty much any pitching prospect they have. But that is not nearly as enticing as it might sound: The Cardinals' system is basically Rasmus. Chris Perez, their No. 2 prospect, is a reliever in Class AAA Memphis. The top starter is the No. 4 prospect, Jaime Garcia, also in Class AAA. ... Be very sure that the Pirates would prefer to make a deal with Tampa, as it will be quality rather than quantity that they want in return for Bay, their biggest trading chip in years.

Remember, Jason Bay is signed for $7.5 million in 2009, so this wouldn't be a rental. It looks like the Tampa Bay discussions are going to dictate the Cardinals', but the Rays have been hard to deal with in the past and a Pittsburgh-Tampa deal is no sure thing. I could see this one going down to the wire. It'd be tough to give up Chris Perez and Jaime Garcia and, I'm assuming, someone else, but Bay is a bona fide bat. (Note: I take strong exception to the "system is basically Rasmus" comment, though. The Cardinals have certainly one of the top 15 systems in the MLB, with a plethora of outfield and pitching prospects.)

Joe Strauss has a related blip in his chat today:

That said, the Pirates may not be done making moves. The asking price for Jason Bay apparently has dropped within the last 48 hours. LH reliever John Grabow is also available. Colby Rasmus is not on the table for Bay.

The other surprising twist is the Cardinals are not interested in John Grabow, per Dejan. Either the asking price is too high or they have their sight set on another reliever, such as Will Ohman. Quoting Mark Bowman:

OK now back to the selling mode. Left-handed reliever Will Ohman will come to Turner Field as a member of a fourth-place team on Wednesday and find himself with a postseason contender by the time Thursday concludes. He will definitely be traded and the best guess now is that he'll land with the Cardinals.

The Braves might find a projectable starter like Tyler Herron attractive, but that's a guess. Signs are pointing towards a possible match here. The Braves are packing it in for the 2008 season, given Chipper's injury and the Teixeira sell-off. Ohman is definitely going somewhere.

The Orioles aren't finding the ML-ready shortstop they want, so it's looking like George Sherrill is off the market. They really have no reason to trade him other than selling high, but it's not selling high if you can't get players you value.

Finally, one last tidbit from the Joe Strauss chat:

Given the Atlanta Braves' looming purge, LH reliever Will Ohman will come cheaply. Asking prices for players can drop dramatically between now and tomorrow. I've already discussed Bay. The Colorado Rockies remain a major player if they come to their senses and position themselves as sellers. Fuentes fits what the Cardinals need and the Rockies are among the organizations who have appreciation for the Cardinal's minor-league system. Sherrill would be a nice contractual fit but I don't know if there's a fit there. The Orioles want a shortstop; I don't believe the Cardinals are going to kick T. Greene loose.

The Rockies like the Cardinals farm system and the Pirates are perpetually intrigued by some of our players, with the Braves having some outside interest too; three teams that could all match up well with the Cardinals. I think they are probably our best bets.

The Waiting Ends

All the talk today is going to be about Chris Carpenter. Before we get into that, let's look at last night's game.

Hero: Albert Pujols. Tied it up with a home run and then took the lead with more of his infamous baserunning. You may hate it when he risks and loses, but when he gets it right (which seems to be most of the time), it really is a wonderful thing.

I also want to single out Ryan Franklin. I've been on him pretty hard as a closer, and, honestly, he scared me even when he was in the setup role. But the numbers don't entirely lie. He did a good job before in that role and was great in it last night, even getting a win out of it.

Goat: He's as streaky as they come, isn't he? Troy Glaus had another hitless night while everyone around him was pounding the ball. Save them for when we need you, Troy.

Cubs win again, so the Cards are within one of Milwaukee (and the wild card) while staying four back of the Cubs. The hope going in was that the Brewers and Cubs would split while the Cards won in Atlanta. It'd be real nice to see the Brewers take a game tonight.

OK, so Carpenter. How hard is it to believe that when he last took the mound, the Cardinals were starting their defense of the World Series title? Some things have changed since he pitched for St. Louis last, haven't they. That'll happen when 485 days pass.

Some people think he needs more rehab starts. But it's obvious that he's already better than what we have in the back of the rotation. So what if he only goes five innings? That's all those pitchers are doing anyway, and hopefully he can do it with less damage. He's not having pain or anything, it's just a question of stamina and control. Besides, now that Teixeira's gone from Atlanta, the Braves are pretty darn close to a minor league team anyway.

So what do we expect out of Carpenter tonight? It seems to span the spectrum from "It's Chris Carpenter! Cy Young!" to "Another broken-down has been." I think we'll see some good stuff out of Carp tonight, while he's out there. I'm terrible at predicting numbers, but I'd guess five innings, four hits, three earned, three walks, four K. Something in that neighborhood. Leave your predictions in the comments and we'll see who is closest.

It's not like the Braves will know what's coming. Carp doesn't have a whole lot of history with the current makeup of the squad. Which is what the Cardinals have been having lately, facing three pitchers in a row that no one had ever seen. Tonight, the streak continues, but this is no last-minute callup or rotation filler that they'll be facing. Jair Jurrjens is a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year. He was able to shut out the Phillies for eight innings in their own pitcher-hating ballpark. You aren't likely to do that on a fluke. The only NL Central team he has faced is Pittsburgh and has split the two starts against them with a 4.36 ERA against them.

And in other ace news, Wainwright isn't quite ready for a rehab assignment. Whether that is due to his results in yesterday's side session or not is a matter of opinion. Unfortunately, this means he won't be ready for the Cub series in Wrigley next weekend. Carpenter should get to pitch the series finale, though, so at least one of the big guns will be in use.

Folks, the season is over 2/3rds over and the Cards are still in the race. No matter what happens from here, it's been a darn good run.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Who Was That Masked Team?

It was a game unlike many others this year. The Cardinals got out to an early lead and kept extending it. The starter pitched seven strong innings. And the bullpen--well, at least the lead was big enough to keep it from really worrying the fan base. (I'm not sure that everyone felt completely comfortable even with the nine-run lead.)

The Hero would have to be Joe Mather. Three for five, the two-run HR that put the Cards on the board, a double that drove in a run. Nice to see him finally get a breakout game in the majors, especially since Rick Ankiel's status is still up in the air. (My gut feeling is that they'll wind up putting him on the DL Wednesday when they activate Carpenter.)

I'm going to give the Goat to Troy Glaus for his 0-5, 4 LOB night. Ron Villone definitely was a consideration, but he wouldn't have been out there for that extended of an outing if the lead wasn't as big as it was. Villone really should be used for just one or two batters, something LaRussa's been good at doing but could be better.

Other stuff: Just a day after saying Ryan Franklin was the ninth inning guy, Jason Isringhausen has been reinstalled as closer. That's not a magical fix-it move--I was worried about Franklin even before he was the closer, this just may move the blowups to the eighth instead of the ninth--but I think that Izzy will cause less heartburn in that slot. He's had some good outings since he came off the DL. There will still be some bumps in the road, I'm sure. And that should mean that the Fuentes talk is probably dead.

Adam Wainwright's going on rehab. Sounds like it's going to be a short one so he can be ready for the trip to Wrigley. Whether that means he'll be a bullpen guy or not is not clear. I think, with this Izzy move, they'll probably put him back in the rotation. I'd rather have five good innings out of Wagonmaker than one every once in a while.

Cards catch a bit of a break in that Tim Hudson went on the DL yesterday, which means they don't have to face him tonight. Instead, they get Jorge Campillo. Which means it's another case of a pitcher the Cardinals have never seen before. If they treat him like they treated Morton last night, there's no worries there. Todd Wellemeyer goes for the Birds. The Braves haven't seen much of him either.

Cubs beat the Brewers, so the Cards stay four out in the divisional race but move to two out in the wild-card.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Reyes is dealt to Indians

By Derrick Goold

NEW YORK — As the Cardinals have turned this season over to the next generation of pitching prospects to groom and use, it became apparent to the organization's last best prospect that his time had probably passed.

Anthony Reyes sought a change. Saturday, he got it.

The Cardinals traded Reyes, once considered the top prospect in the minor-league system, to the Cleveland Indians for Class AA reliever Luis Perdomo and cash. The deal ended several seasons of tease and torment for both the club and Reyes.

"I'm excited," said Reyes, who had been in the rotation at Class AAA Memphis. "When you see everyone else go up (to the majors) except for you, it's a little frustrating. When you get overlooked and you feel you're pitching well, you want to go to a place that's a better fit.

"It's nice to get a fresh start."

Perdomo, 24, is a righthanded reliever who was a High-A Carolina League All-Star this season as a closer and was 2-0 with a 3.52 ERA after a promotion to Class AA. He has been assigned to Class AA Springfield and projects as a setup man.

"Obviously, we were getting to a point where we had to make a decision with Anthony and what his future with us is," general manager John Mozeliak said. "We were looking to add some depth to the minor-league system (in the bullpen) and we wanted to do something that would have some implication for next year."

Reyes, 26, peaked as a Cardinal with his Game 1 victory in the 2006 World Series. He opened the next season by losing 10 consecutive decisions and finished the year 2-14.

Reyes, who will report to Cleveland's Class AAA Buffalo affiliate, was 2-3 with a 3.25 ERA in 11 starts for Memphis. He always had been successful there, but transferring his approach to the majors caused troubles; Reyes was able to excel with a high fastball in the minors that wasn't as effective in the majors.

"I think he needs a change of scenery," outfielder and friend Skip Schumaker said. "I didn't think it was working out real well for him at the end."

Added manager Tony La Russa, "I regret some of the nonsense that has been a distraction — that his style of pitching didn't match. I regret the fact that people mentioned he was not a (pitching coach) Dave Duncan-style of pitcher."

While both the Cardinals and Reyes downplayed the notion of a disconnect between pitcher and coaches, La Russa felt the prominence of the topic became a "distraction" for the pitcher. He even alluded to the undermining of Reyes' confidence when asked why Reyes didn't get one of the recent opportunities to start, which were given to rookies.

"He was already up here and has not been ready," La Russa said. "Why keep punishing him? Why not let him get it right?"

Duncan has long believed that the hype that comes with the prospect rankings created unfair expectations for Reyes, as it does for a lot of young pitchers.

Even traded, Reyes is a cautionary tale for the Cardinals.

The pitchers who leapfrogged Reyes for major-league starts this season are all being billed in similar fashion. Mitchell Boggs, Mike Parisi and Jaime Garcia are highly regarded prospects like Reyes once was.

"When they come in as the organization's savior, a key to the future, it adds ... the pressure of distraction," La Russa said. "It's important ... not oversell them as organizations are prone to do."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Miles drills walk-off slam for Cardinals

Redbirds complete four-game sweep of Padres

ST. LOUIS -- Everything added up perfectly for the Cardinals on Sunday. They had a series win in hand before they even took the field. A definitively miserable St. Louis summer day sapped the energy of even the most dedicated players. A rookie pitcher put the Cards in a late-innings hole, and the club's deposed closer endured another disheartening day.

If ever a game were made to be mailed in, this was it. So, of course, the Redbirds rallied twice in the late innings for a thrilling 9-5 win over the Padres, capped by possibly the unlikeliest game-ending scenario of the year: an Aaron Miles walk-off grand slam.

Miles' homer gave St. Louis its fifth straight win and kept the Cardinals undefeated since the All-Star break. The shot capped a wild day in which the Redbirds rallied from two deficits, took an eighth-inning lead and gave away that lead in the top of the ninth. The Cardinals completed a series sweep of the Padres, their first four-game sweep of any opponent this season.

"Fantasy Island," manager Tony La Russa called the win.

Albert Pujols started the winning rally when he drew a one-out walk in the ninth. Padres catcher Luke Carlin's pickoff attempt sailed into right field, allowing Pujols to motor all the way to third base. The Padres issued intentional walks to Yadier Molina and Skip Schumaker, bringing up Miles, who delivered the game-ender.

It was his third home run of the year, the 15th of his career and his second Major League grand slam. Miles had never hit a walk-off shot in the Majors or, he said, at any other level. He became the 10th player in Cardinals history to hit a walk-off grand slam.

"That's a feeling I wasn't sure I was going to get to experience, that walk-off homer," Miles said. "But it happened to me. I'd never done it before, not in the Minor Leagues or anywhere, so it's a great feeling."

For whatever reason, the '08 Cardinals have seemed to make a habit of such games. Though their bullpen leads the Majors with 23 blown saves, St. Louis has 24 come-from-behind wins and 12 final-at-bat wins.

A team that has been discounted all year long reached the 100-game mark at a season-best 14 games over .500, and very much in contention. The Cardinals trail the first-place Cubs by two games in the National League Central and lead the Brewers by one game for the Wild Card berth.

"It's a gritty group," said Troy Glaus. "We've got a lot of guys trying to perform for more playing time, things like that. Everybody's trying to give their absolute best when they're on the field, and I think the result of that is they play a hard nine innings -- or 10 innings, or whatever it takes."

Glaus had put St. Louis ahead, 5-3, in the bottom of the eighth with a monstrous three-run homer. Glaus had two home runs as of the morning of May 31, and has ripped 16 since.

Jason Isringhausen, called on for what would have been his first save since May 5, retired the first batter of the ninth on a ground ball. But Scott Hairston singled and Edgar Gonzalez doubled, cutting the lead to a single run. After Brian Giles singled, Isringhausen was removed for Brad Thompson, who allowed a game-tying double to Kevin Kouzmanoff, but no further damage.

Isringhausen's struggles cast the only shadow on an otherwise encouraging day for the Cardinals.

"No matter how clutch a veteran he is, he's trying to do more, and today was less," said La Russa. "It's hard to stay in a groove. And he really wants it so bad."

Still, because he was removed with a lead, Isringhausen was not charged with a blown save. And his successor, Thompson, emerged as a hero and the winning pitcher -- with plenty of help from Pujols.

Thompson surrendered a game-tying double to Kouzmanoff, then walked Chase Headley intentionally. But Carlin's screaming chopper was right at Pujols, who threw home for the force play and the second out. Adrian Gonzalez hit the next ball even harder, but on a line at Pujols, and the inning was over.

Rookie Jaime Garcia held his own in his first Major League start but did not receive a decision. Garcia allowed three runs on five hits over five innings, striking out four and walking one. He permitted a two-run homer to opposing starter Cha Seung Baek, but otherwise pitched a fine game. Garcia retired 10 in a row at one point.

Rick Ankiel hit an RBI double and Pujols drove in a run with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly before the fireworks really got going.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Wellemeyer, Cards bounce back

Starter shakes off rough first two innings to earn win
ST. LOUIS -- What looked like a favor for the Cardinals bullpen, at the expense of Todd Wellemeyer, turned into something very different on Saturday. By leaving Wellemeyer in after a rugged first two innings, it turns out that manager Tony La Russa actually did his starter a solid.

Wellemeyer righted the ship after the second, lasting 6 1/3 innings for a 6-5 Cardinals win over the Padres, Wellemeyer's first win since he sustained an elbow injury on June 5. He didn't permit another tally from the third until he was removed in the seventh, retiring 14 of the final 16 batters he faced.

That effort, combined with an eventful but ultimately successful showing by the bullpen, allowed Albert Pujols and the Cardinals offense to climb out of a 5-0 hole. St. Louis has won four straight and remains one game ahead of Milwaukee for the National League Wild Card lead.

"Down five runs in the first two innings is tough, but we've got a lot of outs left," Pujols said. "I think in the third inning, Todd really found himself out there and felt comfortable and started making some pitches, and gave us an opportunity to come back in the game and win."

Pujols had the game's two biggest hits -- a three-run double in the fifth that got St. Louis on the board, and an RBI infield single in the sixth that put the Redbirds ahead for the first time. But without Wellemeyer's recovery, and the bullpen's high-wire act, Pujols' efforts would have come in a loss.

Wellemeyer was drilled for five runs in the first two innings as he struggled mightily with his location. He left fastballs up, fell behind in counts and couldn't get swinging strikes with his slider.

"I wish I could have taken back those first two innings, because I figured it out after that," Wellemeyer said. "I wasn't getting through the pitches, leaving them up."

He knew, though, that whether he figured it out or not, he would be sticking around for a while. A night after Braden Looper lasted three-plus innings, Wellemeyer was going to have to soak up some innings. Even if the game got out of hand, it was Wellemeyer's job to take one for the team.

So he made the most of it.

"I made a huge adjustment," he said. "Last game, I was going too hard and then I had to back it down a little bit in Pittsburgh. This time, I went out there thinking, 'Nice and easy, hit my spots.' And it didn't really go that way the first two innings, so then I said, 'You know what? Here we go. Here it is, right here.' And that helped me. That got me right on track."

Even in the third and fourth, Wellemeyer was still yielding some hard contact. By about the fifth, though, he truly started settling in. He ended the sixth by striking out Nick Hundley on a slider, the pitch that has been inconsistent, at best, since his injury.

"The third inning through the seventh, [my slider] felt great," Wellemeyer said. "I was keeping all my fastballs down at the knees, in and out. And then you throw that slider. It helps out a ton if you keep the ball down."

Randy Wolf worked around three Cardinals singles in the first, a walk and a hit batter in the third and a leadoff double in the fourth, all the while keeping a shutout bid intact. In the fifth, though, he found himself in a pickle he couldn't escape -- bases loaded, one out, Pujols at the plate.

Pujols was first-pitch swinging, and he smoked a deep liner to center field to make it a 5-3 game. Rick Ankiel's RBI single later in the frame pulled the Cards to within a run. Skip Schumaker drove in a run with a groundout in the sixth to tie the game. Two batters later, Pujols poked a single deep in the hole at shortstop, and the Cardinals led.

The RBIs were Pujols' first since July 12, and with four runs driven in, he surpassed his previous total for the entire month of July. He hadn't had more than one RBI in a game since June 30, and had gone since April 14 since he had more than two.

"Albert's having a great year," manager La Russa said. "You just watch what he gets to hit every day and you'll understand why he gets his base hits but some of the other production drops off."

Friday, July 18, 2008

Solo blasts lift Lohse, Cards to victory

Glaus (two), Ankiel, Mather collect homers; righty wins No. 12
By Lee Hurwitz
ST. LOUIS -- The $4.25-million man and the fiery-hot third baseman struck gold again.

The Cardinals rejoiced in a 4-3 win on Thursday night at Busch Stadium, led by two of their hottest players. Behind the strong arm of Kyle Lohse and the power of Troy Glaus' lumber, the Cardinals' second half is off to as good a start as it gets.

They may have played the Padres, owners of the second-worst record in the Majors, but the Cardinals had to face two-time All-Star Jake Peavy after a three-day rest.

The Cardinals had their equalizer in Lohse -- unwanted at the beginning of the year by 29 teams due to his asking price, only to become arguably the best free-agent signing of the offseason.

Lohse (12-2) won his ninth straight decision while giving up two runs over seven innings. May 8 was the last time Lohse walked off the field a loser, and he has only lost two decisions in his past 32 starts, dating back to July 20, 2007.

"It's one of those years, I don't want to talk about it," Lohse said. "It's a good run."

While Lohse was not perfect, he was able to make the adjustments throughout the game -- adjustments he may not have made in past years.

Lohse's 4 1/2-month marriage to catcher Yadier Molina and pitching coach Dave Duncan has done wonders for him, as he is now using his entire arsenal and changing speeds frequently.

"I didn't really feel like I had the best control," Lohse said. "In years past, I would just keep pumping fastballs and sliders in there. Today, I topped some curveballs, changeups and kept them off balance, really."

With Lohse dominating like usual from the mound, the Cardinals turned to Glaus -- who has been on a torrid pace offensively.

Since June 25, Glaus has hit .366 and slugged .746. Don't forget his seven home runs, either, in that time frame -- two of which he tagged off Peavy on Thursday night.

"Phew," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's not just piling up the stats, he's piling up clutch at bats. He's getting hits when we've really needed them."

Down 1-0 in the second inning against one of the premier pitchers in the game, Glaus took a Peavy curveball and sent it 404 feet into left field. After Rick Ankiel knocked his 21st home run of the season in the bottom of the fourth, Glaus followed suit with one of his own.

Glaus' 17th home run gave the Cardinals back-to-back home runs for the second time this year, and handed Glaus his 27th multihomer game.

"You face a guy like that, you've got to take advantage of every opportunity you have," Glaus said. "He made some mistakes to guys with nobody on and we took advantage of a few of them."

But as well as Lohse and Glaus played, the game started out relatively slowly and not in the Cardinals' favor.

Edgar Gonzalez singled and scored in the first for the Padres. However, with runners on first and second and only one out in the third inning, Albert Pujols snagged a line drive and tagged out Kevin Kouzmanoff for an unassisted double play.

But in La Russa's eyes, down one run to Peavy, the Cardinals might as well have been dead in the water.

"As soon as they got one, you think, 'Man, this guy on the mound can beat us 1-0,'" La Russa said. "He doesn't make many mistakes."

Yet, uncharacteristically, Peavy did make his mistakes, and the Cardinals took advantage.

After the Padres opened up a 2-1 lead on Gonzalez's homer in the third, Ankiel and Glaus went back-to-back in the fourth. In the seventh inning, Joe Mather pinch-hit for Lohse and provided an all-important insurance run with a home run of his own.

It proved to be more than just an insurance run.

Ryan Franklin allowed back-to-back doubles to open the top of the ninth inning and trim the score to 4-3. But Franklin bore down to retire the next three batters in order.

"The guy's got great guts and that was a clutch recovery," La Russa said.

Winners in three of their past four games, and now only four games behind the first-place Cubs, the Cardinals are in the driver's seat for their destiny as the second half begins.

Whether they make something out of it remains to be seen.

"At this point, we just need to tally wins -- regardless who's on the other side," Glaus said. "Whether it's in our division, outside our division, whatever -- we just need to tally wins."

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cards' record this season defies logic

By Bernie Miklasz

In their final competition before the ever-so-late All-Star Game, the Cardinals won Sunday at Pittsburgh in an effort that defined their first-half character.

It was undoubtedly a challenge to rebound so quickly from Saturday night's disastrous loss, the worst of the season. Sunday, the Cardinals didn't always play well. They had to overcome turmoil. But they battled through and prevailed 11-6 despite blowing two leads.

The Cardinals salvaged a 3-3 record on the Pennsylvania trip. They made sure that they'd go into the break with a 53-43 record, or 10 games over .500. They gained ground on the first-place Cubs, and trail by 4 1/2 games. They warded off Milwaukee in the wild-card standings and lead the Brewers by a half-game.

Manager Tony La Russa has said often this season, probably because it's so true: He doesn't know if his team will be good enough to make it to the postseason, but he's convinced that it's tough enough.

This team has problems.

The bullpen has frequently imploded. The relievers have been shredded for the most blown saves (22) in the majors and have the second-highest loss total (20).

Because of injury issues — and more on that later — nine pitchers have started games.

Partly because of shortages, rookie Cardinals pitchers have been called upon to make 91 appearances, and start seven games.

The St. Louis offense is streaky. Its on-base percentage has suffered a 21-point drop since May 20, going from .371 to .350. The slugging percentage is rising, and that's good, except for the increasing dependence on homers to supply runs.

It is an offense that scores 5.2 runs a game on the road but only 4.1 a game at Busch Stadium, which wasn't much of a firewall in the late stages of the first half. The Cardinals have lost seven of their last 10 at Busch and must reverse that trend.
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The Cardinals are 31-31 since May 7, and their competitors have taken advantage. The Cubs are 15 games over .500 since May 9, and the Brewers are 13 games over .500 since May 20.

And unlike the Cardinals, the Cubs (Rich Harden) and Brewers (CC Sabathia) have reinforced their rosters.

Now, let's rewind, back to March.

How many among us would have honestly predicted that the Cardinals would be 10 games over .500 at the break and possess the NL's second-best record?

Or that the Cardinals could make these advances despite having to put 17 players on the disabled list, including team MVP Albert Pujols, No. 1 starter Adam Wainwright and all-time franchise saves leader Jason Isringhausen?

The rehabbing former Cy Young award winner, Chris Carpenter, hasn't thrown a pitch. Offseason signee Matt Clement (shoulder) hasn't surfaced because of decreased velocity. Mark Mulder sadly unraveled again.

And yet the Cardinals have defied the adversity and the forecasts to grind their way into postseason contention. And this was supposed to be a season of rebuilding, retooling, revamping, etc.


Several reasons, in no particular order:

1. Pitching coach Dave Duncan's rotation has surprisingly held up for a 40-23 record and a 4.13 ERA. Year after year, Duncan squeezes terrific results from makeshift rotations.

2. Kyle Lohse, who hasn't lost since May 8, is 11-2 with a 3.39 ERA.

3. Breakout power seasons from Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel, who have combined for 41 homers and 115 RBIs. Last season Cardinals outfielders produced 68 homers in 162 games. This year, through 96 games, the outfielders already have launched 53 homers.

4. Third baseman Troy Glaus has 15 homers and 59 RBIs in 94 games played. Last season the Cardinals received only 12 homers and 77 RBIs from seven players who manned the third-base position over 162 games.

5. Dramatically improved defense.

Don't forget Aaron Miles, batting .317. Or Skip Schumaker, who has done a fine job as a leadoff man and is hitting .339 against righthanded pitching. Or catcher Yadier Molina's impressive development as a hitter; he's batting .339 since April 23.

Of course, La Russa is the fixed axis. All things Cardinal revolve around him. He gives this team its toughness, its personality.

At the break, the Cardinals should exhale and take a bow.

And then it's back to work.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cards Blank Bucs

Kyle Lohse is at it again. In game one of the final series before the All-Star break, Lohse shutout the Pirates for seven innings, allowing six hits and striking out three, before handing it over to the bullpen. Lohse now sports an 11-2 record, and lowered his ERA to 3.39, putting him neck and neck with the best pitchers in the National League. If he keeps this up, the Cardinals should look very seriously at a long-term extension for him.

Following Lohse was left-handed rookie Jamie Garcia, making his Major League debut. Garcia just turned 22 three days ago, and the kid made a nice first impression. He allowed just one hit and a walk in the final two innings. He also struck out a pair. The Cards have now had 10 players make their big league debut with them this season. As George Von Benko points out, that’s a staggering number for a team in contention.

Thanks to the stellar pitching, the Cardinals could have won with just a single run. Instead, they plated six, including home runs from Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick. Both Ankiel and Troy Glaus had three hits a piece, while Yadier Molina chipped in with a pair of RBI. The Redbirds had 13 hits in all.

So a well played game on both sides of the ball ends in a Cardinal victory. Here’s the complete box score. The win puts the Cards back at 10 games over .500, but still trailing the Cubs by 4.5 games. If Milwaukee can hang on to win tonight, they’ll remain a half game ahead of St. Louis.

In game two tomorrow night, the Cardinals will face yet another left-handed starter. Phil Dumatrait will start for the Bucs, making it the seventh consecutive game the opposing team started a lefty. The last right-hander the Cards faced was Carlos Zambrano, back on July 4. Todd Wellemeyer will start for the Redbirds tomorrow.

An interesting trade rumor popped up today. According to Jon Heyman of, both the Cardinals and Diamondbacks are looking at Pittsburgh outfielder Jason Bay. Apparently, top prospect Colby Rasmus is the target for the Pirates. Hat tip to Tim Dierkes from MLB Trade Rumors. I think Rasmus for Bay would be an asinine move, but luckily, I’m sure John Mozeliak does too.

The end seemed so sudden

By Bryan Burwell

The end is rarely pretty. For most of his or her competitive life, an athlete's pride hinges directly on the familiar sensation of playing a game at a level most of us only dream of. From the famous professional icon to the small-time local high school hero, they seek comfort in that extraordinary athletic awareness, which makes the fall from that narrow plateau all the more abrupt and intolerable.

So here was the perfect athletic metaphor for the apparent end of Mark Mulder's major-league career. On Wednesday night in the middle of Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, the once smooth and elegant superstar descended from the pitcher's mound as a mere mortal. The Cardinal lefthander fired a perfect first-inning pitch toward home plate, striking out Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins. And just like that, he could feel that awful electric shock of pain tingle in his left shoulder. The same left arm and shoulder that once produced some of baseball's most dominant lefthanded pitching, was now an empty sleeve.

The end seemed so sudden. One moment he was throwing hard and smooth, the next moment, he was pained and defeated. This was another uncomfortable farewell to arms for the Cardinals. On Thursday morning, Mulder was placed on the disabled list, a move that probably will prove to be the final indication to the club that its two-year gamble on Mulder's injured left shoulder is done.

That was strictly the cold and impersonal business side of this story that grumbling and insensitive hard heads will harp on. They will see this only in one-dimensional terms, that Mulder's time as a Cardinal was solely a failed baseball transaction.

I prefer a different take. I saw that look on Mulder's face as he came off the mound and realized his pitching arm was lifeless again and his athletic life was probably over. No one likes to face that moment when the last fumes of their athletic talent have dissipated, and Mulder's pained expression suggested that he was coming to grips with that reality.

It hurts under any condition when athletic talent runs out, whether it's a kid getting cut in little league or an aging veteran being forced into retirement. But imagine for just one moment what Mulder must be facing. He will be 31 on Aug. 5, and his professional career is probably over.

Mulder has spent the better part of the past three seasons searching for the physical and medical magic that would help him recapture the form that made him the third-winningest lefthander in baseball from 2001 through 2006. It has been highlighted by so many hopeful ups and depressing downs. It has been a lot of trips to doctors and frustrating teases when you saw glimpses that he had recaptured that elegant pitching motion.

Yet for every one of those teases, there was the predictable disappointment of another white hot-stab of nerve endings in his shoulder. I remember the annoyance in his voice every time he had to stand in front of media as they chronicled another aborted comeback. He wasn't mad at the questions. He was aggravated by the circumstances.

So for all the stupid and irrelevant angst the chat room grumblers and call-in nitpickers claim they are experiencing, none of it measures up to what Mulder has suffered. "I just keep getting let down. I don't know really what to do," Mulder told the Post-Dispatch's Joe Strauss after Wednesday's crash and burn.

I can't tell you how annoying it gets to read the narrow-minded stupidity of "fans" who claim some sort of victimization from Mulder's medical misfortune. Mulder didn't cheat anyone. He tried to come back repeatedly, but his shoulder wouldn't let him. He visited more doctors' offices than a pharmaceutical salesman. He tried to relocate that metronome pitching motion, and when he couldn't do it, he tried every sort of uncomfortable and unnatural new arm slot. He pitched when he probably had no business picking up a baseball.

He kept getting back on that mound even when he probably knew deep down inside awhile ago that he never could reclaim that extraordinary athletic awareness that used to make him so comfortable, but now only made him depressed.

The fact that he failed doesn't deserve our derision. The fact that he tried so hard does deserve our admiration.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Ankiel's walk-off single caps rally

Outfielder drills two-run hit off Cubs closer Wood in ninth
ST. LOUIS -- They were down two runs in the ninth against fireballer, Kerry Wood who does not cave in. They had no business beating their archrivals. But you know what? They did.

Rick Ankiel's remarkable climb continued Saturday afternoon, as the Cardinals stole Game 2 from the Cubs, 5-4. Relying on Ankiel's two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the ninth, the Cardinals moved within 2 1/2 games of the first-place Cubs. It was the eighth time in the last nine games of the series that two runs or less determined the score.

By the time Ankiel turned first base, his teammates mobbed him in a joyous celebration fit only for a victory seen on a day like this.

"I didn't like our chances once [Wood] retired the first two guys," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "He's got so many weapons. ... That was a hellacious comeback considering the quality of the pitcher."

"He throws so hard and I was really looking for a pitch to drive up the middle," Ankiel added. "It's unbelievable. It's a big series for us -- a big game. To come back like that, it's a lot of fun."

No matter how good Wood had been -- he'd converted his previous 12 save opportunities -- the Cardinals didn't care. They approached the inning as if they were never out of it, and the logic paid dividends.

Ryan Ludwick and Yadier Molina both walked to open the inning, and Adam Kennedy followed with a double. La Russa said he thought about bunting to advance the runners, but did not do so because "it wasn't the winning play."

He was right.

The winning play came four batters later, when Ankiel stepped up to the plate against Wood -- a pitcher he had only faced once before.

On a big stage, in an even bigger cathedral, the new Busch Stadium entertained the largest crowd in its brief history, as 46,865 fans witnessed Ankiel deliver and send the Cardinals into bliss.

"He's dangerous," La Russa said of Ankiel. "He comes to play defense every day, he gives you everything and never takes an at-bat off. ... Ankiel is a very talented guy and, as he adds more experience, he's going to get better."

It has been a long road for Ankiel, who struggled with injuries and command problems before he switched to making his Major League comeback as a hitter. Last year, the persistence paid off, and now Ankiel has become one of the Cardinals' offensive leaders.

"Certainly right now, it seems things are going well," Ankiel said. "Hopefully I can continue to get better."

It's hard to get much better than the way Ankiel has played the last couple of weeks. Since June 15, Ankiel is batting .284 with seven home runs and is slugging .649.

It was another win for the Cardinals, and they continue to play for the benefit of the team rather than the individual. Very few teams win 50 games by the All-Star break with one or two All-Stars. The Cardinals could be one of those exceptions.

Now, back to 11 games over .500, the Cardinals continue to impress and prove wrong those who wrote them off three months ago.

They impress with the likes of Ankiel, who also homered in the sixth inning and finished the day 3-for-4 with four RBIs. They do it with Kyle McClellan (1-3), a St. Louis native who gave up only a hit in the final two innings to earn his first career win.

They win with Ludwick, who was written off over the past few years, only to enjoy a career year. If not for Ludwick's strike of a throw to Molina in the eighth inning with the bases loaded, Jim Edmonds would have scored on a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-2.

But as they say, "Not in our house."

"I kind of double-clutched," Ludwick said. "I reached in and couldn't find the ball at first. After I double-clutched, I just let it fly. Thank God it was on target."

Asked why the Cardinals continue to win, Ludwick simply replied that they keep fighting. "We're always fighting, no matter how much we're down," he said.

Down, 2-0, until the sixth inning, the Cardinals kept fighting behind starter Kyle Lohse, who continued his dominance in his first year in St. Louis. Lohse pitched seven innings, gave up two runs, struck out five and never let the Cubs rally.

"It was tough," Lohse said. "I just knew I had to keep it close and hope for some heroics like we got."

He had to wait until the sixth and ninth innings, but Lohse saw those heroics. Ankiel's solo shot made the score 2-1, and Albert Pujols followed with a double. After stealing third, he scored when Ludwick doubled.

Though Ryan Franklin served up a two-run home run in the eighth to Aramis Ramirez, who broke out of an 0-for-28 slump, it set the stage for one of the Cardinals' more dramatic wins of the year.

"That's unbelievable," McClellan said. "But Fourth of July weekend against the Cubs, around here we come to expect that."

Pujols' power not enough vs. Cubs

Slugger's 300th homer accounts for Cards' only run
ST. LOUIS -- Troy Glaus dug in on a 3-1 count while leading off the bottom of the ninth. Kerry Wood's 98-mph fastball sat just a bit outside and Glaus trotted to first base.

"Strike two."

Clearly disagreeing with the call, Glaus settled back in for another try. When the ball sailed slightly outside, Glaus made a stride to first before home-plate umpire Ted Barrett spoke up again.

"Strike three."

It was that kind of night for the Cardinals, who lost to the Cubs, 2-1, at Busch Stadium in a pivotal midseason series. Catching the outside corner throughout the ninth inning, Wood shut down the Cardinals and prevented any sort of late-inning heroics.

"I was having a good at-bat in the ninth inning, and the at-bat was taken out of my hands," Glaus said. "That's really all I can say about it."

Manager Tony La Russa questioned the consistency of Barrett's calls during the postgame press conference, saying the Cardinals had a legitimate reason to complain. After Glaus' at-bat, catcher Yadier Molina and pinch-hitter Ryan Ludwick also had some strikes called on the outside corner that La Russa disagreed with.

"Check the tape," La Russa said. "I think they'll see there's a legitimate gripe."

La Russa quickly added he was not blaming the result of the game on the umpire, just wondering "what if?"

So, on a night when Jim Edmonds made his first return to Busch Stadium as a member of the Cubs, and when Albert Pujols hit his 300th career home run, the Cardinals' Independence Day joy was squashed by the team they love to hate.

And for a second straight night, they were dominated by an opposing pitcher who threw gas all night long.

Carlos Zambrano, coming off the disabled list on Friday, threw 87 pitches, and only four of them resulted in hits for the Cardinals. Zambrano iced the Cardinals, who only scored after he left the game.

"He's been throwing the ball outstanding all year," Pujols said. "We weren't facing a piece-of-cake pitcher. Zambrano's one of the best pitchers in the league, and he's got our number."

The loss spoiled a superb effort from starter Braden Looper, who was hurt by two mistake pitches. In the first inning, Cubs right fielder Kosuke Fukudome worked the count to 3-2 before taking Looper's fastball and sending it over the right-field wall.

Three innings later, Cubs catcher Geovany Soto took a changeup that was left out over the middle of the plate for the second solo home run of the night.

"I made a couple of other mistakes, but those were the two that cost me," Looper said. "I'm not saying I was perfect for the rest of the game, but those cost me."

Looper threw 120 pitches over his seven innings of work. Allowing just four hits, Looper battled a tough Cubs lineup only to see his effort spoiled.

Also spoiled was Aaron Miles' 15-game hitting streak. Having hit safely for the past two weeks, Miles went 0-for-4 and was unable to extend what was a career-high streak.

"You're thinking about getting on any way you can," Miles said. "This is a big series. It's fun to have a 15-gamer, but you turn the page and go ready to go at it tomorrow."

Pujols ended the Cardinals' scoreless streak when he homered in the bottom of the eighth inning off Bob Howry. The milestone home run was a laser to left field that energized the Cardinals briefly.

For Pujols, the joy from hitting home run No. 300 quickly escaped him following the loss.

"To me, it's just another homer that goes out of the park," Pujols said. "I'm happy to do it in front of our fans -- they were waiting for it."

While the Cardinals were battling their archrival, a former Cardinal sat in the opposing dugout admittedly nervous. Edmonds' return to St. Louis was marred by the misunderstanding he wanted to distance himself from his former team.

Still, Edmonds received a standing ovation in his first at-bat. And though he battled through his first plate appearance, he did not have the grandiose return he would have liked, striking out three times. The support the fans gave Edmonds early ultimately changed to boos in his final at-bats.

Now 3 1/2 games behind the Cubs, the Cardinals will have the opportunity to win their 10th series of the year after losing the opening game.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Boggs falls for first time in loss to Mets

Despite tough outing, Cards rookie goes six to save 'pen
ST. LOUIS -- Mitchell Boggs' ERA won't look too pretty in the morning after jumping more than two runs: from 4.37 to 6.59.

For that, he can thank the New York Mets.

Boggs came into Thursday night's game with a 3-0 record in four starts since he joined the rotation to fill in for an injured Adam Wainwright. But against the Mets in the series finale at Busch Stadium, Boggs looked more like a rookie than a candidate for the Rookie of the Month.

Losing 11-1 at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals suffered one of their worst losses of the year and at an incredibly inopportune time. While the Cardinals split their four-game series with New York, they now play host to the Cubs, who come into St. Louis with a 2 1/2 game lead in the National League Central Division.

"My take is I'm disappointed," Boggs said. "I didn't pitch well. I let it get away from us early. Anytime you go out there and put your teammates in a hole like that, it's tough to come back from.

"I'll be all right, but the biggest problem was I let my teammates down. I didn't give us a chance."

It was easily the worst start of Boggs' young career. In his first four starts in the Majors, Boggs showed electrifying stuff and fared well against several tough lineups. What Boggs lacked on Thursday, however, was anything resembling command.

Through six innings, Boggs gave up six walks. Five of them lead to runs. He threw two wild pitches and left balls out over the middle of the plate for the Mets to tee off.

"You walk guys anywhere they're going to score," Boggs said. "You walk guys in Little League, and they're going to score. You can't do that here. You can't do it anywhere."

Rather than pull Boggs after a forgettable third inning -- one which saw him give up six runs and the Mets take a 9-0 lead -- manager Tony La Russa left his young pitcher in to spare the bullpen from what would have been six innings of relief.

La Russa wasn't thinking of Boggs' ERA, with the Cubs coming to town on Friday.

"I would have rather saved him the beating, because it's not his night," La Russa said.

On the other side of the diamond, the Cardinals faced Mike Pelfrey, a pitcher only Jason LaRue had seen before. He walked in his one at-bat. Even though Pedro Martinez pitched the night before, Pelfrey did his best to imitate a young Pedro and dominated the Cardinals' lineup from top to bottom.

Through his seven innings, Pelfrey scattered six hits and gave up one run, which came long after the game was decided.

"His ball, when he throws it in the middle of the plate, it has a lot of run and sink to it on a righty," outfielder Ryan Ludwick said.

The sinker baffled the righties and the fastball kept everyone honest. Averaging more than six runs entering the game, the Cardinals put up a doughnut until the sixth inning.

Even though the Mets took a big lead early, Pelfrey never let down his guard.

"You get out to a big lead, and he wasn't going to let him beat himself," said infielder Aaron Miles, who extended his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games. "That was the key. He threw well."

With Boggs never settling in, the Mets were able to establish an insurmountable lead starting in the first inning.

Boggs loaded the bases on a single and two walks, gave up a sacrifice fly and an RBI single. The final run came when Boggs misplayed a ground ball that rolled in between the mound and third base.

After getting shut down in order in the second, the Mets erupted in the third and batted around to plate six. Boggs gave up two walks, two singles, a double and a triple in the frame.

"When you create that kind of situation, you're asking for trouble," La Russa said.

Once again the Cardinals passed up on an opportunity to cut into the Cubs' first-place lead, making the upcoming three-game set that much more important.

"It was just bad all around game," Ludwick said. "It was just one of those games. We've had a couple this year, but fortunately for us, we haven't had a ton of them. We just have to throw it away like we have in the past and be ready to play tomorrow."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Carpenter encouraged by progress

Recovering Cards righty taking it slow to avoid another setback
ST. LOUIS -- When he prepared to throw a simulated game on Monday, Chris Carpenter had a problem -- he didn't have any hitters to face.

So Derek Lilliquist, the Cardinals' rehab pitching coordinator, ran over to the Marlins and borrowed a couple of the younger players for the session.

"It was a fun morning," Carpenter said. "I enjoyed it, and I know that they did, too. It was more game-like than a normal simulated game."

Carpenter threw another session on Wednesday, this time out of the St. Louis bullpen before the Cards' game against the Mets. With manager Tony La Russa, pitching coach Dave Duncan and others watching, Carpenter threw roughly 60 pitches and used his full arsenal.

It was the best he has felt since he had Tommy John reconstructive surgery on his right elbow last July.

"It's exciting, because I feel good," Carpenter said. "But I try not to get too excited, because I've already gone through what I went through a few weeks ago, where I was feeling good and had some issues."

With Carpenter having had a setback already, the Cardinals will be cautious in bringing him back. Whether he will pitch out of the bullpen, ala Mark Mulder, or simply rejoin the starting rotation is still up in the air.

Carpenter's itch to get back to full health and pitch during games has nagged him lately, but he said he can't get ahead of himself.

"It's hard," Carpenter said. "That's one thing that's hard. With the way that I threw on Monday and the way that I feel today, I feel like I'm close. But you don't want to get ahead of yourself, because you don't want to get sore and send yourself back."

Glaus' long ball a walk-off winner

Homer in ninth gives Cards thrilling victory over Mets
ST. LOUIS -- Just when it looked as if they were dead in the water, the Cardinals found a way.

Then again, that has been their mantra all year long -- never quit and keep a short-term memory.

By beating the Mets, 8-7, on Wednesday night, the Cardinals escaped from what could have been their second straight loss at home. And with the National League Central-leading Cubs coming to town over the weekend, keeping close to their rivals becomes that much more important.

Troy Glaus became the latest hero for the Cardinals, a list that has grown to include someone new nearly every day. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Glaus capped off another fantasy-driven ending when he hit his fifth career walk-off home run.

Even as an 11-year veteran, games like this never get old for Glaus.

"It's been awhile for me to be on the receiving end," Glaus said. "After that, it all feels good."

It was an odd night for the Cardinals. They sat through a 47-minute rain delay in the third inning -- the game lasted three hours and 21 minutes -- took an early lead only to see the bullpen blow it and knocked around one of the all-time great pitchers.

Whatever the case, they'll take it.

"A win is a win," as they say, but boy do the Cardinals like to keep it close. Now 18-14 in one-run games, 37 percent of the club's first-half contests have been decided by a lone run.

"I'm getting too old for this," manager Tony La Russa said.

Compounding the level of strangeness, St. Louis faced Pedro Martinez -- a pitcher known for dominating every single player that plays for the home team at Busch. Coming into Wednesday night, the Cardinals had batted a combined .182 with one home run against Martinez.

The one home run was by Glaus, hit when they both played in the American League. It took five batters into the game for him to add home run No. 2.

Glaus, who went 2-for-4 with two home runs and four RBIs, took a 3-2 pitch and sent it 411 feet over the center-field wall for a three-run homer. Martinez, who once averaged sub-3.00 ERAs and 18-plus wins a year, still had Glaus paying homage.

"He knows how to pitch, he knows what he's doing," Glaus said, "He's changing speeds, working the ball in and out. The velocity wasn't as high as probably the last time that I faced him, but he's still Pedro."

Up, 4-0, after the first inning, all St. Louis needed was a solid outing from Joel Pineiro.

But when Pineiro left the game in the fifth, the score was tied at 4 after the Mets knocked 11 hits off the Cardinals' starter.

"It was just one of those nights where I missed 50 percent of my spots," Pineiro said.

Rick Ankiel bailed out Pineiro, who is now winless in his past nine starts, with a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth.

But with a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning, the St. Louis bullpen faltered. Inheriting a runner, Mark Mulder gave up two singles and a sacrifice fly in his second appearance since returning from the disabled list.

"That was really a tough bloop to give up," La Russa said of the go-ahead run. "The seventh run was another one. ... But we gave up some tough runs on less than good contact."

With most of the fans having left due to the rain and needing a jolt to get the Cardinals back in the game, La Russa called on Chris Duncan to pinch-hit in the eighth.

Duncan, who appears to have turned around his struggles from the beginning of the year, hit a line-drive home run to right field to tie the game.

"That was the game-changing at-bat, more than anything else," Glaus said. "That was a lift. First pitch, boom."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wellemeyer struggles in loss to Mets

Righty yields 12 hits over five frames; Ankiel hits 16th homer
ST. LOUIS -- Ever since he was named May's Pitcher of the Month, Todd Wellemeyer has endured some trying times.

Against the Mets on Tuesday night, his fourth start since winning the award, Wellemeyer struggled through five innings on a tranquil night at Busch Stadium in a game the Cardinals lost, 7-4, to the visiting Mets.

Wellemeyer faced a myriad of problems, though he believed he pitched well enough to win. The Mets benefited from good placement on most of their ground balls.

"It was a battle tonight," Wellemeyer said. "Nights like tonight, you hope those ground balls find an infielder. Seven or eight times, they didn't find anybody. They hit some good pitches tonight, they really did."

By the end of the night, Wellemeyer's line read five innings, 12 hits, six earned runs and 98 pitches. Not exactly the type type of outing he had consistently over the first two months of the season.

Since returning from soreness in his right elbow, Wellemeyer has not been the same pitcher. In his last two starts at Busch Stadium, he has allowed 14 runs over 8 1/3 innings, for a 15.12 ERA. Going 1-3 since he was awarded for his domination of hitters, Wellemeyer admitted something is up.

"I don't want to say it, but I could probably use a couple of more bullpen sessions and get back to where I need to be," Wellemeyer said.

"I don't know if it's the fact that I haven't pitched enough. But I'm not going to have all three pitches working every single start."

Wellemeyer managed to get ahead of hitters and had Mets batters facing two-strike counts on a regular basis. But he couldn't put them away when it counted, as hitters fought off tough pitches for seeing-eye singles.

After falling behind early, the ground balls started to roll through holes and spur rallies for the Mets. Even though the Cardinals knocked Tony Armas around early, they couldn't strike a deadly blow, let alone touch him, for the rest of his outing.

Armas, who was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans on Monday, is 3-0 at the new Busch Stadium in his career. Asked why Armas is so good in St. Louis, second baseman Aaron Miles struggled to find a reason.

"I can't put a finger on it, no," Miles said. "I don't have an answer for that."

While no team takes solace in a loss, Miles' hitting streak has to be the silver lining. For 13 straight games, Miles has hit safely and is one game short of tying a career high.

In the first inning, Miles doubled to the right-field corner -- his lone hit of the night. Two batters later, Rick Ankiel gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead when he hit his 16th home run of the year.

Picking up a run in the second on a Skip Schumaker double, the Cardinals gave Wellemeyer a sufficient 3-1 lead, which he surrendered in the fourth inning.

Then the hits started falling for the Mets.

In the fourth, Carlos Delgado and Damion Easley singled to open the frame off Wellemeyer. Ramon Castro then hit a double deep into the gap in left-center field, scoring both runners easily.

An inning later, the Mets took advantage of Wellemeyer again. Endy Chavez singled and David Wright doubled to start the inning. Chavez scored on a sacrifice and Wright scored on a double from Ryan Church, who later crossed the plate on a single from Castro.

Brad Thompson entered in the sixth and gave up a solo home run to Wright, but it was his only blemish on the score sheet. Making his first appearance since he was recalled on Monday, Thompson gave up only two hits in four innings.

"He kept us in the game," manager Tony La Russa said. "Four innings, one run --- he gave everybody in the bullpen a break."

Monday, June 30, 2008

Lohse beats Mets, picks up 10th victory

Cards righty tosses seven stellar frames; Duncan goes deep
ST. LOUIS -- Behind a few gifts from the visiting Mets on Monday night, the Cardinals took advantage early to win their first game at home in two weeks, 7-1.

The Cardinals scored at least one run in each of the first five innings. Aided by three errors -- two led to runs -- St. Louis rattled John Maine early and never trailed.

Coming off a poor start in which he only lasted four innings, Kyle Lohse shined through seven innings to win his 10th game of the year. Lohse struck out four batters and walked two.

Albert Pujols, who went 2-for-4, singled in Skip Schumaker in the first and later scored on a double play. That was enough breathing room for the Cardinals the rest of the way. Chris Duncan, who had not homered since May 16, hit a two-run shot to right field in the fifth inning.

The Cardinals have now won at least 15 games in June for the past four years and five of the last six.

LaRue, Pujols power Redbirds to victory

Catcher, designated hitter team up for two homers, six RBIs
KANSAS CITY -- In the first inning on Sunday, Royals outfielder David DeJesus barrelled toward home plate, trying to score on Jose Guillen's single to left field. DeJesus lowered his right shoulder and plowed into Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue, who had caught Skip Schumaker's laser-beam throw.

The impact revealed plenty about LaRue, who relishes such confrontations. The aftermath, even more.

LaRue held on to the ball and tagged DeJesus out, helping Braden Looper escape from the inning without allowing a run. An inning later, LaRue hit a 399-foot home run to right field, sending the Cardinals on their way to a 9-6 win over the Royals in the final game of a grueling nine-game Interleague road trip. LaRue also added a two-run triple for his finest game as a Cardinal.

"My goodness," marveled manager Tony La Russa. "What more can you do? Big hits, big collision at the plate, and he got another couple balls that he hit well that were outs. He just had a terrific day."

La Russa speculated that the collision got LaRue going, and the catcher didn't deny it.

"It's part of the game," LaRue said. "It's my job to block the plate. In a situation like that, I'm going to take the plate away if I know I have a chance to get the guy out."

Looper struggled on a difficult day for pitchers, allowing six hits, four walks and three runs -- two earned -- in 3 1/3 innings. The manager had a quick hook with his starter, seeing that Looper simply wasn't sharp. The stiff wind out to right field didn't help any, but Looper had far from his best game.

"It was tough for a lot of different reasons," Looper said. "[The weather conditions] were part of it, but it's still not an excuse. When the team gives you a lead like that, you've got to be able to pitch six or seven innings. I didn't do that today, so I'm just glad the guys could pick me up."

Chris Perez relieved Looper and escaped from a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fourth, keeping a two-run Cardinals lead intact. Overall, St. Louis' bullpen bent but didn't break. Perez was credited with the win, though he ran into trouble in his second inning. Jason Isringhausen struck out four in 1 2/3 innings but also permitted a run. The story for the club's relievers was consistent, with impressive escapes followed by difficult second innings.

LaRue got the Cardinals on the board in the second, launching his wind-aided, opposite-field home run into the Royals' bullpen. It was his third homer of the year, all of them coming in the past 19 days.

After Kansas City cut a five-run lead down to two, LaRue lashed a line drive into center field with two on in the fifth. The ball hooked hard to center fielder Joey Gathright's right and rolled all the way to the wall for a two-run triple.

The two extra-base hits just continued a hot streak for LaRue, who has been raking for more than a month and a half. On the morning of May 11, he was batting .067 with no extra-base hits. Since then, he's batting .333 and slugging .579.

"I haven't changed anything from Day 1," he said. "Going into it, when, obviously, I didn't have much of an average, it never bothered me. I never did anything different, never changed anything. My goal is to go up and have a good at-bat."

Albert Pujols added a double and a two-run homer for the Cardinals. Pujols came about a foot from a second home run as he kept up a career-long trend of hitting well in Kansas City.

The Cardinals went 5-4 on a trip to three American League cities, winning two of their three series. They've now enjoyed three consecutive winning trips, and have endured just one losing trip all season.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Boggs, Cards down Royals

Right-hander superb in start, picks up third win of season
KANSAS CITY -- All consolation prizes should shine so brightly.

Mitchell Boggs, the Cardinals' second choice to start on Saturday, pitched the finest game of his young career en route to a 5-1 St. Louis win over Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium. Boggs struck out a career-high six over six-plus innings, allowing a single run on four hits.

As recently as Wednesday, the Cardinals held out hope that Mark Mulder might be their starting pitcher on Saturday. On Thursday, Boggs was listed as an available reliever for an afternoon game in Detroit. Had he been needed in that game, Boggs might even have been sent to the Minor Leagues the next day -- never mind actually starting in Kansas City on Saturday.

But Mulder was not sharp enough in a Thursday bullpen session to convince the club he was ready to start. And Boggs didn't have to pitch in relief later that afternoon. In his fourth career big league start, the University of Georgia product showed that he was a superb choice. He pushed aside the uncertainty, and turned in the kind of start that likely will earn him more chances.

"It's not hard," Boggs said of the unusual week. "I'm in the big leagues right now, and they've showed a lot of confidence in me to keep sending me out there. I'll show up every day and do whatever they ask me to do. It doesn't matter."

Odds are, the next thing they'll ask is for him to start again in five days.

Boggs got off to a bit of a rocky start, walking three of the first eight batters he faced. A double play got him out of a two-on, one-out situation in the first. Around two walks in the second, he picked up a strikeout and two ground balls, surviving if not exactly thriving.

In the third inning, though, he began to pick up steam. Boggs allowed a single, but struck out the side in the third, and he got two Ks and a grounder in the fourth.

"I was a little erratic there in the first couple of innings," he said. "I was fortunate to get out of that unscathed. Any time you walk guys to start innings, you're playing with fire. But the guys behind me made great plays, and that allowed me to get into a little bit of rhythm."

Boggs had an exceptional curveball against the Royals, using it both to get ahead and to finish batters off. But in the eyes of one of his mentors, the key was simpler. Boggs got his power sinker down in the strike zone, opening up the rest of his repertoire.

"I thought he did a better job trying to get the ball down," said Braden Looper, who has fielded plenty of questions from the rookie as Boggs learns to pitch in the Majors. "I think he went into the game with that mind-set. I've been talking to him a lot about that. He's got a good enough fastball that if he just has fastball command, the rest is going to be there."

After six nearly spotless innings, Boggs did get into a little trouble in the seventh. He walked the leadoff man and then permitted a single, and that was all for his evening. Kyle McClellan surrendered a double that brought home one of the runs, but Miguel Olivo was thrown out trying to score on the play. Kansas City did not score again.

Boggs and the bullpen received offensive support from Rick Ankiel, who hit a two-run homer, and Chris Duncan, who struck an RBI single. Two Cardinals runs scored as the result of Kansas City errors.

But even without the help from the Royals defense, Boggs pitched plenty well enough to get his third Major League win.

"He's nasty," said outfielder Skip Schumaker. "He really is nasty. He throws 95 mph with sink and cut, and a big curveball. [Adam] Wainwright told me to watch out for this guy, because he's known him for a bit. I had no idea who he was, but he said this guy's got really good stuff, watch out for him.

"Boggs impresses me more and more every time he steps on the mound."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mulder activated from disabled list

Veteran pitcher will return to Cardinals as a reliever
KANSAS CITY -- The never-ending Mark Mulder saga took another twist on Friday. A day after it was clear that the left-hander would not be ready to start for the Cardinals this weekend, he was activated -- to pitch in relief.

Mulder, who has never made a relief appearance in his career, will pitch out of the bullpen for an indeterminate amount of time. The Cardinals were down a left-handed reliever because Randy Flores is on the disabled list.

"I think we'll see how it goes," Mulder said. "I've never done this before, so let's go give it a shot."

Mulder has not pitched in the Major Leagues this season and has scarcely pitched in the big leagues since the first half of 2006. He underwent shoulder operations in September of that year and again in September '07. Mike Parisi was optioned to Triple-A Memphis to make room for Mulder on the roster.

"You might be able to get something to work in a shorter period of time than trying to stretch it out," said general manager John Mozeliak. "Just getting him back in a competitive environment and seeing where he's at makes a lot of sense for us right now."

Early this year, all indications for Mulder were positive as he tried to come back from the second operation. He threw well in Spring Training and gave the club reasons for optimism early in his Minor League rehab. But as the rehab went on, he didn't progress the way he hoped.

Mulder went back on the DL with shoulder trouble, and he began using a different arm slot. With the new delivery, he made one start on a second rehab assignment, and though the results were subpar, the reports were that he pitched well.

That led the Cardinals to hope for a start for Mulder this weekend in Kansas City, preceded by a short outing on Monday night at Memphis. But a minor back injury intervened, and Mulder did not make that appearance. He threw a bullpen session in Detroit on Thursday, with mixed results.

"I probably hoped for a little better," he said, "but it wasn't. That's kind of the way this whole process has gone."

On Friday, the decision was made to try a different tack.

"I would say it's open-ended, but my hope is that it's viewed as a step forward, and one that would be one that can grow," Mozeliak said. "And if it evolves to where he gets back in the rotation, I think that's great."

Mulder is just happy to be on a Major League roster in any capacity. He has made five big league appearances since late June '06.

"I'm definitely excited," he said. "Obviously there's a need for it, with Flo going down. I always liked facing lefties. We'll see what happens."

Isringhausen could be placed on DL

Cardinals reliever felt 'pop' in right knee while stretching
KANSAS CITY -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa wrote Jason Isringhausen's name on the lineup card Friday, but he did so belatedly and hesitantly.

Isringhausen is dealing with a right knee injury and could be placed on the disabled list this weekend. He felt something "pop" in the joint on Thursday, in between innings of his 2 1/3-inning stint against the Tigers.

"They said it's a strained ligament, a strained tendon and a strained capsule," Isringhausen said.

The right-hander underwent an MRI exam in Kansas City on Friday. However, the Cardinals are waiting on their own head team physician, Dr. George Paletta, to review the results before they decide whether to make a roster move.

"There's clearly some reason for concern at this point," general manager John Mozeliak said.

Isringhausen felt something when he was trying to stretch between innings on Thursday. He retired Gary Sheffield to end the sixth, and as he was trying to stretch out his hips, he evidently knocked something in his knee out of place. He pitched two more innings, however, and, in fact, turned in some of his best pitching of the year after sustaining the injury.

"I'm not a doctor, but to me, I'm like, if I was able to pitch two innings on it, then it's a pain issue," Isringhausen said. "If they can get rid of the pain, I can pitch. Now, they might say if I go out there and try to pitch on it, it could tear it. I don't know. I'm going to talk to the doctor about it."

Cards drop opener to Royals

Glaus' two RBIs provide only runs; St. Louis loses third straight
By Matthew Leach
KANSAS CITY -- The Cardinals limped to the halfway point of the season on Friday night, dropping game No. 81 of the 2008 season to the Royals, 7-2, at Kauffman Stadium.

The Redbirds' 45-36 record, still second best in the National League, nonetheless, carries as many questions as answers even at this late date. It's unclear whether they should receive extra credit for making the most of an injury-decimated roster, and thus potentially becoming a force when everyone is healthy. Or, on the flip side, whether they're hanging on by the slimmest margin, taking on water as fast as they can bail.

It's ultimately a question of perception. In March, a 45-36 halfway record would have looked great. But after the Cardinals reached 13 games over .500 twice, plus-nine has a little less luster.

"I look at nine, when we were 13," manager Tony La Russa said. "We've got to reverse this, get a win tomorrow and have a chance to win the series."

Friday night's defeat certainly presented evidence for the cracks-in-the-foundation side of the argument. An offense that has sputtered for much of June was held down once again. A starter who has pitched better than his record turned in his rockiest showing in nearly two months, while taking one for the team. And a bullpen that has been sorely overtaxed simply wasn't called upon until it could no longer be avoided.

And yet ... take away one hit from Kansas City and give one hit to St. Louis, and it's a drastically different game. Alex Gordon's three-run double with two outs in the second inning was a game-changer, giving the Royals a 4-0 lead. Meanwhile Troy Glaus, who laced three hits later in the evening, popped up with runners on second and third to end the first inning.

Gordon, whose double was part of a four-run Kansas City second inning, then added a solo homer in the fifth. That was enough against Joel Pineiro, who was reached for a good bit of hard contact, but avoided serious trouble in most innings. Pineiro earned plaudits for leaving only one out to the Cardinals' stretched-to-the-limit bullpen.

"He got deep in the game, but he made a couple mistakes," La Russa said. "Two of them to the third baseman [equaled] four runs. You compliment him for staying after it and almost completing the game, but those early mistakes gave them a lot of momentum."

Pineiro is winless in eight straight starts, despite pitching well enough to get a "W" on several occasions. He's gone seven or more innings in three consecutive games, but hasn't won since April 29.

"You can't go out there and expect the guys to get 10 runs every time," Pineiro said. "They're out there battling the same way I'm battling on the mound. So you've just got to keep on pitching, and hopefully good things will happen for us."

Glaus stroked a solo homer in the seventh inning, but it was otherwise a quiet night for the Cardinals' offense. Royals starter Gil Meche worked around some early danger to take control of the game in the middle innings. St. Louis has averaged under four runs per game over the past 14 games.

The Cards lost their third straight game to remain 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Cubs in the National League Central, but they still lead the Brewers by a game for the NL Wild Card. St. Louis must win the final two games of its series in Kansas City to avoid having its second losing road trip of the season.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Momentum mounts under Mozeliak

By Bernie Miklasz
When John Mozeliak took over for the deposed Walt Jocketty last October, he inherited something of a mess: a tired, worn and aging ballclub that needed a transfusion after sputtering to the end of an era in 2007.

Moreover, Mozeliak was replacing a popular general manager who mapped out the plans that landed the Cardinals in the postseason seven times from 1996-2006.

Mozeliak would be working with manager Tony La Russa, a Jocketty loyalist.

And Mozeliak would have to find a way to solder an organizational split that aligned director of player development Jeff Luhnow's sabermetric-based approach against hardened old-school philosophies.

Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt insists that the GM post was offered to no outside candidates. Mozeliak was promoted from inside the organization.

But this wasn't a coveted job, because of the perplexing roster issues and hazardous political minefield that awaited the new GM.

As it turns out, the Cardinals found the right guy, anyway. He was there all along. Mozeliak has done a fine job so far as a rookie GM, deliberately steering the Cardinals to a new direction. And as the season nears the break for the All-Star Game, the Cardinals are outperforming predictions and expectations.

The stale roster was pepped up by the appearance of nine rookies, including Rule V draftee Brian Barton. Unproven veterans who longed for a shot — Ryan Ludwick, Skip Schumaker and Rick Ankiel — were plugged in for their career opportunities. Unhappy, unhealthy and/or disruptive players — including Scott Spiezio, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen and David Eckstein — were moved out or set free.

Veterans such as third baseman Troy Glaus, starting pitcher Kyle Lohse and shortstop Cesar Izturis were presented with fresh starts in baseball's most supportive environment.

The disconsolate Rolen, who despised La Russa, was traded for Glaus in a swap of third basemen. Glaus has played outstanding defensively, is a positive clubhouse influence, and is on a pace to drive in 100 runs. Izturis has upgraded the defense at shortstop. And though Lohse got smacked around by the Tigers on Wednesday night, he entered the game with a 9-2 record and 3.63 ERA. Where would the Cardinals be without him?

Mozeliak signed Lohse at the bargain, one-year rate of $4.25 million in March, after many other GMs passed.

Mozeliak was criticized in some circles for giving starting pitcher Joel Pineiro a two-year $13 million contract extension, but given the limited options (and absurd cost) of available starting pitching, the deal made sense. Mozeliak also signed lefty reliever Ron Villone. While Villone's overall ERA is poor (5.65), lefthanded hitters are batting only .159 against him. And that's the role Villone was recruited for; to suppress LH batters.

If you want to harangue Mozeliak for taking one gamble that blew up — spending $1.5 million on rehabbing pitcher Matt Clement — then go right ahead. But it's inconsequential.

Mozeliak had a plan. To shed old layers, stimulate energy and growth and clear the way for younger, rising talent. The strategy was endorsed by La Russa, who recognized the advantage of having a hungry, eager mix of players who must compete with each other for playing time.

In all, Mozeliak has moved the Cardinals into a surprising position: that of a contender. But to get the team into a postseason, he has some work to do:

— Acquire a lefthanded reliever.

— Search for an effective starting pitcher. And let's be fair here; that's probably unrealistic.

— Put an end to the Mark Mulder farce. Mozeliak didn't sign Mulder to this bad deal; that was Jocketty's doing. Unless Mulder can prove soon that he's capable of pitching respectably at the big-league level, it's foolish to block the path of the organization's younger starters (or Brad Thompson) in a stubborn attempt to squeeze something from the Mulder investment.

— Assume tighter control of the roster. Players who aren't producing shouldn't be on the roster at the expense of others who are more deserving of a chance. Example: If Chris Duncan continues to be lost at the plate, he needs to find his swing in the minors. The majors aren't the place for remedial training. As La Russa always is quick to remind us: these games count in the standings.

And so far, Mozeliak has the winning touch.

Flores goes on DL

DETROIT — Lefthander Randy Flores has given up six runs and six walks over five innings in his past 10 appearances and hasn't retired a hitter in his last two outings. And to make room for the return of first baseman Albert Pujols, who served as the DH Thursday, Flores was placed on the disabled list with what the club called peroneal tendinitis in his left ankle.

Flores said he had been bothered by the ankle for several days after he had been running and that it had swelled on Wednesday. But he said that had nothing to do with how he has pitched lately.

"The few games I was ineffective, I was pitching a little too careful for the situation. It had nothing to do with my leg," said Flores, who has a 5.12 earned run average. "I just wasn't getting the job done."
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But pitching coach Dave Duncan said, "It's his push-off leg, and he said he was having trouble pushing off the rubber."

Manager Tony La Russa said Flores would have been out five to seven days anyway, but the club decided to put him on the DL even though he'll miss series against Kansas City and the New York Mets, both of which have lefthanded power in their lineup. Ron Villone is the only lefthander on the team's roster.


After the two talked before the game, La Russa and Pujols decided that Pujols, recovered from a left calf strain, should be the designated hitter in his first game back from the disabled list. Pujols had four hits and an intentional walk in five plate appearances in that role.

"It was a decision that he made, and I went with it," said Pujols, whose preference had been to come back as a full-time first baseman. "Either way he went, it was fine."

Pujols said he hoped to play in the field in Kansas City this weekend, but that depended on if his legs felt as good as he said they did after Thursday's game.

"If I have to DH again, then I'll do it," he said. "No need to rush when you have the advantage of being the DH."


After watching a bullpen throwing session of lefthander Mark Mulder, who has had back spasms on top of his long recovery from two shoulder surgeries, La Russa has determined that rookie Mitchell Boggs will be the starter Saturday in Kansas City.

"He's not ready yet," La Russa said. "He made some good pitches and some that were up. Boggs will pitch."


The Cardinals were two for 11 with men in scoring position Thursday with Troy Glaus and Ryan Ludwick, the Nos. 4 and 5 hitters, 0 for six in those spots, with each going 0 for three. Glaus twice failed to get a runner home from third with under two out, and he hit into a double play to quell a ninth-inning rally.

"Opportunities abounded," Glaus said. "I'd rather have the opportunities than not. However, today was one of those days. We couldn't get that hit to drive in the guy in. We just couldn't get it done."


Righthander Todd Wellemeyer, making his first start in 13 days after suffering some renewed elbow inflammation, worked five shutout innings, giving up four hits among 76 pitches.

"It was good to get my elbow back where it needs to be," Wellemeyer said. "My arm was dropping, and everything was flat."

Cards can't get relief in Pujols' return

Slugger goes 4-for-4 after coming off DL; bullpen slips late
DETROIT -- The operation was an unqualified success. As for the patient, well, he didn't die, but he's not feeling too good.

Two welcome additions gave the Cardinals a huge boost on Thursday afternoon, but they weren't enough to deliver a win in the finale of a three-game Interleague series at Comerica Park. The Cardinals fell to the Tigers, 3-2, when Mike Parisi walked in the winning run in the 10th inning.

Still, Albert Pujols and Todd Wellemeyer thrived in their returns from injury, giving the club reasons for optimism even in the wake of their second road series loss of the year.

"Those are two big positives," said Aaron Miles, who had three hits. "You can't not look at them. Albert looked good; that was great. And of course Welly was lights-out. So that's a big plus."

Still, Parisi's second extra-innings loss in five days underscored a truth about the Cardinals. Even with 12 pitchers currently on the roster, they could use some relief help.

A bullpen that held together well in the early going has frayed at the edges in recent weeks, and it could surely use a boost on the order of what Pujols gave the offense and Wellemeyer gave the starting rotation.

Parisi walked Clete Thomas after the Cardinals chose to go after the rookie rather than struggling superstar Miguel Cabrera. Curtis Granderson led off the inning with a single and took second on a sacrifice bunt.

Carlos Guillen was intentionally walked and Magglio Ordonez flied out, with Granderson taking third base. Cabrera was intentionally walked, loading the bases and bringing up Thomas -- who had drawn an RBI walk off Ron Villone in the sixth.

"You have Cabrera and you have the rookie," manager Tony La Russa said. "And you have to walk in the clubhouse if you get beat. Which one are you going to get beat [by]? And I picked the rookie, even though it's loading the bases."

Pujols, activated from the disabled list prior to the game, rapped four base hits, including a go-ahead RBI single in the top of the ninth. He had been out 15 days due to a strained left calf, and though the slugger appeared to move carefully on the bases, he did not look to be suffering any lingering effects from the injury.

"It's tough when you come off the DL," he said. "You don't see too many live pitches. The worst thing when you come off the DL is to go out there and hack at every pitch you see. I was pretty patient at the plate, just getting a good pitch to hit."

Wellemeyer, who started just once in the previous three weeks, also looked like he'd never been gone. He shut out the potent Tigers for five innings, allowing four hits, striking out three and not issuing a walk. The right-hander had been battling elbow discomfort since a brilliant outing on June 5 in Washington.

He might have pitched longer if he weren't coming back from injury. Wellemeyer needed only 76 pitches to get through five innings, but the Cardinals elected not to push the recuperating righty.

"I felt good," Wellemeyer said. "[My] fastball felt good. I got a hold of my slider in about the fifth inning. I still need to work on the changeup. ... I felt like I was rushing on a few. I'm still working on getting my delivery back to where I want it. But my arm and my elbow felt fine."

Still, their showings weren't quite enough to overcome a gutsy game by Nate Robertson and another bullpen slipup. Robertson allowed 11 hits over 6 1/3 innings, but just one run, as the Cards repeatedly threatened, but rarely converted.

"We had them on the ropes a bunch, but we couldn't push it across like we'd like to," Miles said. "It was a tough game for both sides, after last night, coming in early for the early game. We banged out 14, but we couldn't string them together. Just not enough."

Ron Villone walked Thomas for the first Detroit run in the sixth inning, and Ryan Franklin was charged with a blown save when Gary Sheffield hit a game-tying solo homer in the ninth. Four of St. Louis' past five losses have been charged to relievers.

Rain puts more of a damper on loss

Following lengthy delay, McClellan allows game-winner
DETROIT -- The Cardinals tied a club record and likely at least threatened another on Wednesday night, but neither was the type you want to commemorate. St. Louis relievers equaled an all-time franchise high with two blown saves on the night, and the Cardinals let a total of four leads get away en route to an 8-7 loss to the Tigers at Comerica Park.

Gary Sheffield's ninth-inning RBI single off Kyle McClellan ended the marathon game, sending the Cardinals to a frustrating defeat on Wednesday night -- or, more accurately, Thursday morning. The game didn't finish until nearly 1 a.m. local time.

Clete Thomas doubled to right field to open the ninth against McClellan, who had surrendered a game-tying single one inning earlier. The next batter, Sheffield, lined a 3-2 pitch into center field to end the game. McClellan fell behind Thomas, 3-0, before working a 3-2 count, and was behind Sheffield, 3-1 before getting to a full count.

"You can't fall behind hitters in that situation," said McClellan. "Then you've got to make pitches after that. You've got to let them put the ball in play. It's tough to pitch from behind. I got back to 3-2 and it was kind of the same thing. It's tough to pitch around leadoff doubles."

Rick Ankiel hit a pair of homers and Skip Schumaker also went deep, but time and again the Cardinals could not make a lead stick. They were up 2-0, 4-2, 6-5 and 7-6, but every time, Detroit came back to tie or lead.

Kyle Lohse was hit hard and often over four innings, as he saw a six-start winning streak come to an end. Lohse allowed five runs on 11 hits, four of them for extra bases. Lohse, long of the Minnesota Twins, has a 5.95 lifetime ERA against the Tigers.

"I was all over the place tonight," Lohse said. "I was leaving a lot of balls out over the middle. They were down a lot of times, but you can't throw it down the middle and miss the corners. I never got anything going. It seemed like I was constantly pitching from behind and with guys on base. It makes for a long night. I almost got out of it a couple times, but bottom line, I just didn't make good enough pitches."

Chris Perez tossed two shutout innings, but the Tigers rallied repeatedly against the remainder of the St. Louis bullpen.

Jason Isringhausen allowed a run on a bases-loaded double play in the seventh, letting a 6-5 lead get away. After Aaron Miles' RBI single delivered a 7-6 advantage in the eighth, Magglio Ordonez singled off McClellan to tie it once again. The run was charged to Randy Flores, who had allowed the leadoff man to reach base.

Though the visitors scored seven runs, they still left plenty on the table. St. Louis went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left the bases loaded in a pivotal top of the seventh.

A game that was plenty lengthy without help from Mother Nature nonetheless got some help. Play was stopped for two hours and 25 minutes in the fifth inning due to heavy rain in downtown Detroit.

"We had a chance to get the runner from third a couple times and didn't do it, no doubt about it," manager Tony La Russa said. "We also made some mistakes. Lohse threw a ball [numbers-high] for a three-run homer. We did good things, and we made mistakes -- exactly the way the Tigers played."