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Wednesday, April 30, 2008


By Cardinal 70

If there's one thing the Cards have figured out how to do this year, it's to come back from a loss and get a win. There have been six three-game series this month (counting the current one with the Reds) and three times they've lost the first game, only to come back and win the series. They are in position to do that for a fourth time with a win today after last night's big win.

When I first heard that Joel Pineiro through seven innings of one-hit ball, I didn't figure there was any way he wouldn't be the Hero of the Game. I'm still going to go that way, but a 4/3 K ratio isn't necessarily great. Then again, he wasn't looking for the strikeouts with a 7-0 lead. There were numerous others that could have been considered as well, including Skip Schumaker for his 4-5 and Rick Ankiel for his 3-5, 2 RBI day. Of course, you could also give a special Hero award to Cincinnati's base running and fielding, as well!

There are really only two considerations for Goat. Anthony Reyes gave up the two-run homer in the ninth, ruining the shutout. But, on a night when the team piled up 15 hits, only one starter went 0-4. It's a rare one, but we'll give the Goat to Albert Pujols. Glad to see he got his walk, though, and extended his on-base streak.

Reyes continues to be as frustrating as ever, though. Just when you think he is turning a corner, he blows up again. 14 hits and 8 earned runs in 11.2 innings is not what the Cardinals want to see. Then again, it's not like he's getting regular work.

The Cardinals get their work in early today with a 12:15 businessman's special. On paper, the pitching matchup isi pretty heavily tilted toward the Reds, as Aaron Harang takes on Braden Looper.

Since Harang's been an NL Central pitcher for some time now, he's faced all the Cardinals and had pretty good success against them. Pujols has done well against him, including a home run, but other than that, not much at all. Cesar Izturis is a nice 0-17 against him, which would tend to indicate Brendan Ryan should be playing shortstop today, especially since he's got a 1-2 mark against the Reds hurler.

Thankfully, the Reds haven't done much better against Looper. In fact, he's probably been harder on them than Harang has been on the Redbirds. Adam Dunn's two hits off of him are home runs, but he sports a .154 average. Not a lot of plate appearances against Looper by the Red hitters, but it's encouraging.

If Looper pitches like he did last time versus Houston, the Cards have a great chance. If he pitches like he did the time before against the Giants, they are sunk. Removing that Giants game, though, he has a 1.90 ERA, so it does look so far like that game was a hiccup.

Franchise Record 18 Wins For April

Not bad for this team huh? All we need is Carp back and Ankiel a permanent spot on the roster and we may have a post-season contendah .
Braden Looper worked six solid innings and Rick Ankiel had three hits and two RBIs, helping the St. Louis Cardinals hand Aaron Harang another tough luck loss with a 5-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday.

Aaron Miles had a pair of RBI singles and Jason Isringhausen earned his ninth save in 11 chances for the surprising Cardinals, who won a franchise-record 18 games the first month of the season. Last year's team needed 43 games to win No. 18, and the total surpassed the previous best set in 2000 and 2006.

A heavy early home schedule helped the Cardinals, who are 12-6 at 3-year-old Busch Stadium. They took two of three from the Reds and have won four of five overall.

The opening month also has been a good one for Looper (4-1), who allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings while throwing a career-high 114 pitches. Looper, who moved to the rotation last year after a long career as a closer and setup man, is 7-2 with a 2.88 in 11 career first-month starts.

Ankiel was 8-for-13 with a homer and five RBIs in the series and has the go-ahead RBI in six of St. Louis' victories.

Harang (1-4) has worked at least six innings in each of his seven starts and has little to show for his 2.98 ERA because the Reds have totaled 23 runs in his outings. He allowed three runs on seven hits in six innings.

Edwin Encarnacion hit his team-leading seventh home run for the Reds, who are 3-5 since Walt Jocketty was named general manager. Jocketty was the Cardinals' GM for 13 seasons prior to this year.

Encarnacion homered for the first time in seven games leading off the second. Left fielder Chris Duncan just missed a leaping attempt in the corner as the ball went slightly under his glove and bounced off the top of the wall. Joey Votto followed with a double and scored on Ryan Freel's two-out infield hit.

The Cardinals needed a wild pitch by Harang to score a run in the second on three hits and a walk, then took a 3-2 lead in the third with four straight hits, including RBI singles by Miles and Ankiel. Skip Schumaker was safe on a close play at the plate on Miles' single, ducking under catcher David Ross' sweeping tag as he slid.

Pineiro stifles Reds

Hurler notches second win, yielding one hit over seven frames
By Matthew Leach /
ST. LOUIS -- Skip Schumaker has come a long way in three years, since he was an overwhelmed rookie getting almost no playing time on an experienced 100-win team. He's also come a long way in a few months -- since the Cardinals left him off their list of names for this year's All-Star ballot.

That means that over the offseason, Schumaker didn't project as a regular in the club's estimation. Now he's one of St. Louis' most indispensable players. Coming back from a one-day rest, Schumaker went 4-for-5 and kick-started two big innings as the Cardinals beat the Reds, 7-2, at Busch Stadium on Tuesday night.

A 1-for-12 weekend slump knocked Schumaker out of the starting lineup for a day, as well as dropping his batting average below .300. Four hits in his return ensured that Schumaker won't see the bench again any time soon.

And that's fine with him. Schumaker isn't worried about the All-Star ballot.

"Me?" he asked incredulously when the topic was brought up. "No. No, man. I'm just trying to put some good at-bats together and track the lineup every day. That's the last thing I look forward to. ... I didn't even know about it."

The Cardinals jumped all over rookie sensation Johnny Cueto, who just a few weeks ago dominated the powerful Diamondbacks. They did it thanks in large part to Schumaker and new No. 2 hitter Adam Kennedy -- and with a rare quiet night by Albert Pujols. In fairness, they also did it with some help from a porous Reds defense.

Sporting a new lineup configuration, the Redbirds offense worked the way it's supposed to. The guys at the top of the order, Schumaker and Kennedy, got on base. The guys in the middle of the order, Rick Ankiel and Troy Glaus, drove them in. All on a night when Pujols went 0-for-4 -- though he extended his on-base streak to 28 games with an eighth-inning walk.

"What Skip and Adam did was quality," said manager Tony La Russa. "You want to put Albert's bat in his hand, put guys on base. Troy had a couple big hits. Those first two crooked numbers, that's a piece of work against that young man."

In recent weeks, stranded runners had been a big problem for St. Louis. The Redbirds again left 11 men on base on Tuesday, but when you score seven, it's not such a big deal.

The Cardinals tagged Cueto for three runs in the first and four in the second, each time following basically the same pattern.

Both times, Schumaker and Kennedy reached base consecutively, and both times, Ankiel and Glaus delivered run-scoring hits. The final three Cardinals runs scored when Glaus laced a two-run double to left-center and came all the way around to score when Adam Dunn muffed a throw on the play.

"Didn't look effortless to me," Schumaker said. "When he was down in the tunnel looking like he needed some oxygen, it didn't look effortless there either. We were laughing quite a bit."

It was more than enough for Pineiro (2-2), whose final line probably overstated how well he pitched. Pineiro allowed only one hit over seven scoreless innings, though he walked four against three strikeouts. He allowed quite a bit of hard contact, but again and again his defense helped him out.

"It was a case where he was throwing strikes," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "When you throw strikes, good things happen. We hit some balls hard, extremely hard, but they had us played perfectly."

A Cincinnati baserunning blunder also helped Pineiro out. With runners on second and third and one out in the first inning, Brandon Phillips grounded to third base. Corey Patterson, going on contact, was caught in a rundown.

Jeff Keppinger appeared to have a line on third base, but instead retreated and was caught in a second rundown that ended the inning.

"If you can make a pitch and get a ground ball to third, you've got a chance to get at least the out, and then the other guys were aggressive and we were able to double them off," La Russa said.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rebuilt Cards provide much more fun than the '07 model

With the calendar on the verge of flipping into the second month of this grueling six-month grind, every morning we scan the major-league standings and it's difficult to tell whether we're looking at ghastly misprints or the product of a dyslexic stat man's befuddled view of the baseball universe.

Are Baltimore and Tampa really sitting on top of the AL East? Do the woebegone Marlins really reign in the NL East? Could star-studded Detroit really be an 11-15 cellar dweller in the AL Central?

There's one other head-scratching puzzle that continues to glare out from those daily standings as we come to the end of April: your St. Louis Cardinals. With two games remaining in the season's surprising first month, the Redbirds are only one game behind the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs, and even the most bubbling Cardinal optimist never saw it coming.

The month began with this club coming out of spring training cloaked in gloomy preseason predictions and surrounded by so many question marks that you almost expected the team's uniform would be switched for the comic book villain Joker's wardrobe. Then the regular season started, and the temp-service pitching staff got hot, a few unpredictable bats got even hotter and the team burst out to an unlikely 12-5 start.

Yet even after Monday night's 4-3 loss to the visiting Cincinnati Reds — the Cards' sixth loss in their last 10 games — it might be more helpful to stop wondering whether the good times can last and instead appreciate what the good times really are. Even if this flawed ballclub does settle back toward the middle of the National League pack as so many preseason predictions promised, the April whirlwind of events has provided us with enough data to draw a few bold conclusions. This rebuilt '08 Cardinals model is already far more appealing and entertaining to watch than its creaking '07 predecessor.

They still have more than enough obvious flaws that this season could surely edge toward a predictable .500 crest by June or July. However, even if that happens, it won't look or feel as bad as last year, because this is the sort of ballclub that was made to order for Tony La Russa and his pedal-to-the-metal managerial style. "That's slam dunk stuff," said La Russa. "You just look at the people we have here. They're pushing each other for playing time. I still don't know how good we are, but I know how hard we're going to play."

Shedding former All-Stars on the downside of their careers and replacing them with inexperienced young guys trying to make a name for themselves is not exactly the worst way to go for a franchise in transition from champion-in-decline to youth-infused work-in-progress. As he sat at his desk scribbling pregame notes and glancing at his lineup card, La Russa began to scan the names that were not in that starting lineup.

"(Skip) Schumaker's not playing. Brian Barton's not playing. Brendan Ryan's not playing. Jason LaRue's not playing. Aaron Miles isn't playing," he said. "But with each of those five guys, I'm not thinking, oh man, if he's not playing, I'm worried that we're going to have a drop-off in intensity."

Every night, he surrounds his core of superstar Albert Pujols with all these interchangeable parts in the infield and outfield, and somehow it has worked because playing time is the ultimate motivation for any player who has a passion for the game.

"That's probably the most confident thing I can say about this team," La Russa said. "I know that we are going to play hard. These guys are willing to fight hard every night, we're going to give ourselves a chance. You knew that when we started because all of those guys knew coming in that there was an opportunity (to play) here. It wasn't like there were going to be guys who were frustrated because no matter what they did, they didn't have a chance (to play)."

La Russa peeked over his wire-rimmed glasses and smiled. "Things were set up right for guys to come in here and make an impression," he said.

The impression now is that it's fun to watch these rebuilding Cardinals, and that's something even the biggest optimist never saw coming.

Cardinals miss their chance

The Cardinals' early-inning magic disappeared Monday night, and it cost them and starting pitcher Todd Wellemeyer dearly in a 4-3 loss.

Used to playing from ahead, the Cardinals trailed 4-0 after 2½ innings at least partly because of a fly ball lost in the dusk and Wellemeyer's early inefficiency.

Given several opportunities at a comeback against Reds starter Bronson Arroyo, they failed to fully exploit a third-inning chance and did too little with 13 baserunners.

"It was a weird night. Stuff you might see happen once a month ... all happened in one game," said lefthanded reliever Randy Flores, who worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings despite allowing three hits and a walk in the same inning.

The Reds won a series opener for the first time in 10 tries this month. The Cardinals, who had surrendered four runs total before the third inning this season, allowed two in the second inning before a two-out pop fly fell in the third for an RBI double.

Wellemeyer (2-1) struck out five but couldn't overcome his own early inconsistencies and the third-inning break.

"After three innings I felt really good. I don't know what happened. I had trouble getting going," Wellemeyer said.

"He had trouble getting comfortable for some reason. He just looked uncomfortable to me," catcher Yadier Molina said. "Once he got past the third inning he was fine."

Wellemeyer finished with 97 pitches, including 63 strikes, and retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced.

The Cardinals handicapped themselves offensively as well, stranding double-digit (10) runners for the third time in five games, a span in which they have left 47 runners. Six of their nine hits came with two outs but only one came with runners in scoring position. The Cardinals have scored first in 17 of 27 games and fell to 4-6 when scored upon first.

"You look at the scoreboard: 4-3. It's a close game. We were down early, battled back, and unfortunately didn't push across the fourth run," right fielder and nouveau leadoff hitter Ryan Ludwick said.

The Reds' Edwin Encarnacion became a goalie at third base. He took an early-inning throwing error after making a diving stop against first baseman Albert Pujols but atoned with a diving stop and throw on Molina's one-hop smash to end a seventh-inning rally, then ended the game with a sprawling catch against the Reds dugout.

"He made some plays," manager Tony La Russa said.

The Reds took a 2-0 lead when second baseman Brandon Phillips and Encarnacion sandwiched doubles around left fielder Adam Dunn's infield single. Phillips stole third base with none out before scoring on Dunn's hit. A wild pitch advanced Dunn to score on Encarnacion's double.

The Reds hiked the lead to 4-0 in the third inning after Wellemeyer walked leadoff hitter Corey Patterson and allowed Ken Griffey Jr. a one-out single.

Phillips' sacrifice fly scored Patterson before Wellemeyer's second walk of the inning advanced Griffey into scoring position. Encarnacion doubled home the Reds' final run on a shallow fly ball that left fielder Chris Duncan never saw against the early-evening sky and center fielder Rick Ankiel, who found it late, failed to run down.

"That's baseball," Duncan said tersely afterward.

"Sometimes it's real tough," said Ludwick. "You can pick it up coming up through the stadium then once it goes into that sky, sometimes it can be real, real tough."

Wellemeyer left trailing 4-3 because the Cardinals did too little with a potential breakout before receiving Ankiel's fifth home run in the sixth inning that was good for his first RBI since April 13.

Shortstop Cesar Izturis' leadoff single, Ankiel's one-out double to right field and an all-but intentional walk of Pujols loaded the bases in the third inning. The cleanup hitter, Duncan, popped to third base before Arroyo forced home the inning's only run on a walk of third baseman Troy Glaus, who donned sunglasses in the first inning but ditched them in his second plate appearance.

"It wasn't a problem tonight," Glaus said about a condition that has caused his eyes to water in night games at Busch. "I had the glasses with me on-deck, but they weren't necessary tonight. I don't know why. I really don't care, as long as it's not a problem."

The loss came without outfielder and regular leadoff hitter Skip Schumaker, who did not appear for the first time this season after a one-for-12 series against the Houston Astros.

La Russa instead introduced Ludwick in the No. 1 spot, creating his 19th lineup in 27 games.

Ludwick, 29, had not worked the leadoff role since his rookie 2002 season with the Texas Rangers. Monday the role proved an uncomfortable fit. Ludwick grounded out and struck out four times, once in the sixth inning with two outs and the tying run in scoring position.

Schumaker back leading off as La Russa shuffles lineup

His club having lost six of its last 10 games, manager Tony La Russa will break out yet another new lineup tonight, with second baseman Adam Kennedy hitting second for the first time this season and left fielder Chris Duncan dropped to sixth. Manager Tony La Russa said it gave the lineup some better balance, with more power down the line in Duncan although La Russa indicated that he wasn’t necessarily going to stay long with this format.

"The ‘thump’ is spread out a little bit more," said La Russa, who said he still would prefer a power hitter batting second.

The experiment of Ryan Ludwick hitting leadoff may be over for a while after Ludwick fanned four times in five hitless at-bats on Monday.

"He took a lot of strikes for the type of hitter he is," said La Russa.

Ludwick concurred. "Last night, I was taking the good pitches to hit and I was swinging at the (tough) pitches," Ludwick said.

"It was one of the weirdest nights I ever had. I looked really good two weeks ago and to go from there to (Monday) night. . . it was almost like I had no clue. It’s one of those games you just flush down the toilet and get on with it.

"The worst thing is that we lose by one run and I do absolutely nothing. If I could drawn a walk or reach base on an error. . . "

Ludwick said the first thing he did when he got home was to call his brother, Eric, a former major league pitcher who was with the Cardinals in 1996-97. Ludwick said the advice his older brother gave him was that he had to be more selective when he swung.

Skip Schumaker will be at his normal leadoff spot again tonight and La Russa joked, "I thought it was the ultimate kind of teammate gesture (by Ludwick). Skip wasn’t playing and (Ludwick) did so poorly that I would never keep Skip out of there again."

Tonight's Lineups:

Schumaker rf
Kennedy 2b
Pujols 1b
Ankiel cf
Glaus 3b
Duncan lf
Molina c
Pineiro p
Izturis ss

Patterson cf
Keppinger ss
Griffey Jr. rf
Phillips 2b
Dunn lf
Encarnacion 3b
Votto 1b
Bako c
Cueto p

Cardinals place Thompson on DL

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals placed right-hander Brad Thompson on the 15-day disabled list Monday with elbow inflammation, five days after demoting him to the minors.

Thompson was placed on the DL retroactive to April 23, thus rescinding the move. He was 1-1 with a 4.58 ERA, making two starts before going to the bullpen when Joel Pineiro was activated from the disabled list.

Thompson allowed four runs in one inning in his last outing before being sent down on April 22 at Milwaukee.

Wasting Opportunities

By Cardinal 70

The Cardinals seem to be unable to get into a winning groove like they did the first week of the season. Every time they get a winning streak started, they seem to snap it quickly.

Mike on the Cards (note the new site, BTW) mentioned the Cardinals leaving runners on base. Seemed like a reasonable symptom of a struggling offense, not able to get the big hit. So I did some rough research and compared LOB for wins vs. LOB for losses.

What I found was a little surprising. In the Cardinals' 16 wins so far this season, they've stranded 133 batters, which works out to 8.3 batters per win. In their 11 losses, they've stranded 98, or 8.9 batters per loss. That's a little skewed by the 16 they left in the 12 inning loss to Milwaukee, so removing that would put the two categories just about even.

More recently, they are 4-4 in their last 8 games. In the wins, they strand 8.75. In the losses, 11.25. That counts that 16 LOB game as well, but the last few losses have been more frustrating in this regard than earlier ones.

Of course, not all LOB are created equal. Walking the seventh guy to load the bases for the pitcher leaves 3 on base if he strikes out, but we don't expect much in that situation. Runners on second and third, one out and no one scores, that's a different story. But right now I don't have time to go through the play-by-play data and figure out a weighting method.

Suffice it to say, the Cards haven't been all that efficient in scoring their baserunners, whether it's been a win or a loss. It might be interesting, though, to see if that's a product of most good offenses. Because more hits, more chances to leave runners on. For example, Houston only left 3 runners on in their 3-2 win over St. Louis on Friday, but that's because they went through a stretch where 16 batters were retired in a row. Can't leave 'em on if they don't get on in the first place.

Anyway, to the game. I wasn't able to see much of it. Sounds like if Wellemeyer had been able to get loose early, the results might have been different. That's the way it goes, of course. Some nights it takes longer than others.

The Hero award looks like it should go to Rick Ankiel, who got off of his homerless slide, plus had a double and was responsible for two of the Cardinals three runs. If he's going to be a streaky hitter, it looks like he might be going on another binge.

The Goat, in my mind, will go to Chris Duncan. I know he went two for five, which is good. But he cost the Cards what turned out to be the game-deciding run by losing a fly ball and then, with the tying run on first and two outs in the ninth, swung at the first pitch instead of having a little patience. Maybe he was expecting Cordero to challenge him, being that is what closers do, but he'd have had to get an extra-base hit to get Pujols around to score. Glaus was up behind him, so it's not like he was the last chance. Maybe it wasn't a bad play, but in my mind it seemed he should have been a little more patient.

And apparently TLR's selection of Ludwick as the leadoff man wasn't that inspired, since he went 0-5 with 4 K. Whether it was just a bad night or being in a different spot in the lineup, I don't know. Theoretically, where you bat shouldn't have that much of an impact on you, but it apparently does for some players.

Today, the Cards take on the rookie Johnny Cueto and they counter with Joel Pineiro. Obviously, the Cardinals have no history against Cueto, which can cause problems. One of my pet theories is TLR prepares the team so well statistically that when they don't have a baseline against a pitcher, they have trouble adjusting. Hopefully that'll be proven wrong tonight.

Cueto had an amazing debut, allowing one hit and striking out 10 in seven innings. Since then, though, he's been a little more hittable. In fact, twice in his last three outings he's allowed five runs and his road ERA is 5.11. If LaRussa looks at the stats, he may not put all his lefties out there, as Cueto has been limiting them to a .184 average.

Being that he spent most of his career in the American League, the Reds haven't seen much of Pineiro. What they have seen, though, they've liked. A team .357 average against him, though the player with the most AB, Scott Hatteburg, is only hitting .241 and only Corey Patterson has a home run against him.

Could be a low scoring affair tonight if both pitchers live up to their potential.

Also note that it has been one year since the tragic death of Josh Hancock. Derrick Goold takes a look at that and the changes that resulted from it. It was interesting to note that the Cards have basically designated 32 as "temporarily retired" for a few years.

Benjamin Linus Would Be Proud

By Cardinal John
was about to make the case that the Cardinals are losing a lot of close games and are thus better than their record shows. They are making silly errors (see: Duncan, last night), stranding more people than Oceanic Flight 815, getting line-drives caught like colds in January, and having overall simple bad luck. 7/11, no, not the store, of the Redbirds' losses are what I call winnable (winnable means that if one small thing had gone differently it could have easily been a W for the good guys). The Cardinals lead MLB with 231 LOB. Sure, that's partially due to the Cardinals ranked #1 OBP (tied with the Cubs at .367). This is actually good news, because it is just a matter of time before those base runners get home. The Cards, while having made a few very untimely errors, only have 12 errors on the season--good enough for a tie for 5th best. However, I started looking at the W's and there are a slew of single run wins as well. 6/16 were one run games. Add in a couple of losable games and we're lookin' at 50% of our wins. What's that mean? I think it means our record accurately reflects the team thus far. Perhaps we're a bit better than we appear in the standings.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Jocketty, in St. Louis, regrets 'vendetta' talk

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- While viewing Busch Stadium from the visitors' dugout for the first time, new Cincinnati Reds general manager Walt Jocketty backed off brash comments that he and manager Dusty Baker had vendettas to settle in the NL Central.

Jocketty agreed Monday before a three-game series against the Cardinals, for whom he had a highly successful 13-year run before getting fired last October, that beating his old team would be especially sweet. Just as it must be for Baker against the Chicago Cubs.

But Jocketty would like a do-over regarding his perhaps inflammatory choice of words at his introductory news conference last week.

"That's too harsh," Jocketty said. "I said afterwards that it was probably not the right word. What I meant is both Dusty and I want to win, especially being in the Central Division, and we think it's possible.

"I still have great admiration for a lot of people here and certainly the fans, and my family's still here."

It appears a bit of a rift remains, however, between Jocketty and new Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak. Mozeliak was the assistant GM for six seasons under Jocketty, but hurt his former boss when he said in his introductory news conference last October that he wasn't going to be "Walt Junior."

Jocketty bristled just a bit when asked whether it was difficult that Mozeliak took over his old office, although he attempted to lighten the mood by paraphrasing Mark McGwire's memorable no-comment from Congress' steroid hearings in 2005.

"I don't want to get into that, OK?" Jocketty said. "I'm happy for Mo, I thought he should be a general manager someday and I'm glad he is.

"What is it: I don't want to talk about the past?"

Jocketty slept in his own bed for only the fourth time in the past two months on Sunday night. He had to call to arrange parking before the series, and said he spoke only briefly to Cardinals manager and longtime compatriot Tony La Russa before leaving to work on an advance report.

The Cardinals won the 2006 World Series, won 100 games in consecutive seasons in 2004-05 and made it to the postseason seven times under Jocketty. He was let go with a year remaining on his contract not long after last year's 78-win season amid an organizational rift over Jocketty's old-school method vs. statistical analysis favored by vice president of player development Jeffrey Luhnow.

After only a few months off he landed with the Reds as a special adviser to owner Bob Castellini, and replaced Wayne Krivsky as the GM last Wednesday after Cincinnati's 9-12 start.

La Russa said it's old news, even if this is Jocketty's first time back in St. Louis.

"I've already gotten over that," La Russa said. "It was strange when it first happened, but not anymore."

Apparently, Jocketty hasn't quite gotten over the Cardinals. The first St. Louis team in recent memory that wasn't expected to contend for the division title was 16-10 and a half-game behind the first-place Cubs.

"A lot of the so-called experts didn't think they'd get off to that (start), but you have a nucleus here of a great team," Jocketty said. "The thing that has been the biggest part of their success has been their starting rotation, and the bullpen has been solid.

"When you've got Tony and Dave Duncan and the rest of the coaching staff, you know they're going to give you a competitive effort."

During his final season in St. Louis, Jocketty dismissed rumors that he would land in Cincinnati because of his relationship with Castellini, who had been a part of the Cardinals' ownership group before purchasing a controlling interest in the Reds in November 2005.

"Believe me, if I'd have known this I would have taken it a lot easier," Jocketty said. "I would have taken it a little bit differently, I think. This is something that has developed and it's been a great situation for me.

"I was ready for a change, and I'm rejuvenated and ready to go."

Batting McClellan Bottom 8th

By Cardinal John

It might be a little too early...but it's been two games that one might expect Izzy and TLR has avoided him. Sure, today was not a save situation (4 run lead), but McClellan was left in the game (with one out) to sacrifice with Molina at first. Doesn't seem to be a sign of a whole lot of confidence in our normal closer. Sure, you could say that TLR is simply giving Izzy some time to recover from the fiasco a couple of nights ago. But the night before TLR let a pitcher go all the way for the first time all year--which, btw, was a save situation. It's too early to come to any conclusions, but I wouldn't be surprised to see McClellan or another pitcher be groomed for the closer role in the near future.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Glaus gets first Cards HR in win over Backe, Astros

Astros starter Brandon Backe (right) looks over the shoulder of Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols after reaching first on a single in the third inning of Sunday's game at Busch Stadium. It was the first game since Backe and Pujols were involved in a verbal exchange in Houston earlier this month. The Cards won 5-1, winning two of three games in the weekend series.

Troy Glaus got his first homer and curtain call with St. Louis on Sunday. Not bad for someone getting over pink eye.

Glaus and Albert Pujols went deep to lead the Cardinals to a 5-1 victory over the Houston Astros.

Glaus, who was acquired in an offseason trade that sent Scott Rolen to Toronto, entered the game leading the major leagues with the most RBIs without a home run. Glaus went 87 at-bats before hitting a 1-1 offering from Brandon Backe (1-3) to center field for his 16th and 17th RBIs to cap a four-run fifth inning.

"It was a good feeling," said Glaus, who popped out of the dugout and doffed his cap to the crowd after receiving an extended ovation. "But more importantly we had a good win today and took the series."

Glaus left Friday night's game with watery eyes and blurred vision, and the team said he is suffering from allergic conjunctivitis, more commonly known as pink eye. He went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly Saturday.

Glaus' homer was the first in nine games for the Cardinals and scored Ryan Ludwick, who doubled in Rick Ankiel and Pujols to put St. Louis in front 2-1.

"That's a big, big hit for that part of the game," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "He's a power hitter, so sitting on zero, he wants a home run to come somewhere, and he got one."

For the second time in two days, both benches and bullpens cleared without any punches being thrown. After Yadier Molina called timeout during Backe's windup in the fifth, the Cardinals catcher took exception to Backe's next pitch, an up-and-in fastball. Molina immediately took several steps toward the mound, twice pushing his counterpart J.R. Towles in an attempt to get to Backe. After calm was quickly restored, umpire Jim Joyce warned both teams.

"I can understand him getting a little upset because it was so high," said Backe, who added he meant to throw inside but not as close to Molina's face as the pitch went. "I think he overreacted as far as causing such a big scene but I don't think he shouldn't have gotten mad at me for throwing the ball up around his head."

La Russa agreed with Backe's assessment and dismissed a second question about the situation.

Kyle Lohse (3-0) went six innings for St. Louis, giving up four hits and one earned run. He also struck out three. Kyle McClellan earned his first career save, striking out two in three perfect innings.

"They pitched good every game we played," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "You've got to give them some credit for pitching as well as they have."

Pujols hit a drive off Brian Moehler in the seventh for his fifth homer of the season and first since April 18 against San Francisco.

Lance Berkman singled to start the second and scored on Mark Loretta's base hit. It marked the only time an Astros runner got beyond second base.

Notes: Lohse and McClellan combined to retire the final 16 Houston batters.

Cards win series Glaus ends power drought vs. Astros

Slugger clubs his first home run of the season
ST. LOUIS -- Troy Glaus knew it would come, eventually. He's played baseball long enough to know that he would end his home run drought at some point. Even so, when Glaus did finally connect for his first homer since last September, it was a big deal.

Glaus didn't stand admiring the ball, but he kept his eyes open. And when home run No. 1 in a St. Louis uniform cleared the 400-foot sign at Busch Stadium, Glaus gave a fist pump. His big fly was the biggest hit in a four-run fifth inning, as the Cardinals beat the Astros, 5-1, at Busch Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

It had been 27 games, dating back to Sept. 7, 2007, since Glaus hit a home run.

"I'm not one to stand and watch anyway," Glaus said. "At that point, I was hoping it was going to get over [center fielder Michael Bourn's] head and that would score one run and put us up by two. It would have been 3-1 at that point."

Instead, it was 4-1, and Glaus was off the schneid.

He'd been contributing, so Glaus was able to keep from hanging his head. Glaus leads the National League in doubles, he's on pace for 100 RBIs, and he's drawn 13 walks in 25 games. But there was the matter of that zero in the home run column -- particularly notable for a man with 277 dingers in his career.

"There were a lot of good things that happened today," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, "but I'm not sure anybody feels better than Troy. ... He's a power hitter. Sitting on zero, we tell him to pay attention to the doubles, but he wants a home run somewhere, and he got one."

Coincidentally, Glaus' jack came on the same day as Scott Rolen hit his first home run as a Toronto Blue Jay, after missing the season's first three-plus weeks with an injury. Glaus and Rolen were traded for one another in January.

Albert Pujols added a solo home run for St. Louis, which had gone eight straight games without a homer. Ryan Ludwick drilled a two-run double.

Rick Ankiel and Pujols each walked with one out to start the fifth-inning rally against Astros starter Brandon Backe. Ludwick cranked a double to deep right-center, scoring both men and giving the Cardinals a 2-1 lead. Glaus followed with a long ball to center, ending his homerless streak. It was the second-longest such string of his career.

"I'm just happy for him," Pujols said. "Just watch out from now on. Now, he doesn't have to worry about it. He got that first one out of the way, and [to] do it here in our stadium is great. Hopefully, he can keep it going and help us to win."

Kyle Lohse pitched six excellent innings, allowing four hits and one walk while striking out three. Lohse is 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA in four starts at Busch Stadium this season. Kyle McClellan tossed three perfect innings of relief for the Redbirds, earning the first save of his Major League career.

"It's a good feeling," McClellan said. "That's what the team needed today, was three innings, so I'm glad I was able to get that done. We've got a guy [Jason Isringhausen] that's pretty good, so we'll let him take care of the saves. I just go in [the dugout] and wait for them to tell me if I'm going out or we've got somebody else coming in."

Both benches and bullpens emptied in the fifth when Yadier Molina took exception to a Backe pitch that came high and inside on the catcher. No punches were thrown, as the two teams argued but did not actually fight for the second straight day.

The Cardinals improved to 16-10 on the season, including 10-5 at Busch Stadium. They moved within one-half game of the first-place Cubs in the NL Central.

Wainwright proves he's a No. 1

Saturday's 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros may have confirmed more than it revealed for the Cardinals.

Allowed to carry a tie game through eight innings and then work out of his own ninth-inning jam, starting pitcher Adam Wainwright earned rare acknowledgement for a 26-year-old arm.

"He's a true No. 1," said catcher Jason LaRue, who in nine previous seasons handled pitchers for the Cincinnati Reds and Kansas City Royals. "I've only caught one legit No. 1 before, (Aaron) Harang in Cincinnati. But Adam's right there with him. He's got the stuff. He's got the intelligence and he's got the confidence. It's there."

Wainwright earned the recognition of his clubhouse after right fielder Skip Schumaker

rewarded his perseverance with a game-winning, one-out single against Astros lefthander Wesley Wright. Schumaker's third game-winning hit this season lifted the Cardinals to 15-10 in a game rife with messages.

The Astros reached Wainwright for three solo home runs, two by first baseman Lance Berkman after second baseman Kaz Matsui provided a fleeting 1-0 lead in the first inning.

The Cardinals replied against Astros ace Roy Oswalt by scoring three times in the third inning on first baseman Albert Pujols' two-run double and third baseman Troy Glaus' sacrifice fly.

Oswalt, the National League's winningest pitcher since 2004, lasted six innings before handing off after 117 pitches. Wainwright gave his bullpen the day off.

"That's all the guts you want to see. And it matches his talent," manager Tony La Russa said.

With 2005 Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter recovering from ligament transplant surgery, Wainwright essentially became the staff ace when appointed opening-day starter. Carpenter will reclaim the label around the All-Star break but at no cost to Wainwright's worth.

La Russa is reluctant to hang the label of "ace" or "No. 1" on pitchers, especially young ones. Pressed Saturday, the manager suggested anyone seeking the answer scrutinize Wainwright's innings pitched, the trust he is shown and the match-ups he receives.

"The answer's there," La Russa said.

Wainwright threw 126 pitches Saturday, most by a Cardinals starter since Jason Marquis threw 132 in a loss to San Diego on June 27, 2005. Saturday's win was also the Cardinals' first complete game since Wainwright suffered a 2-1 loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers last Aug. 10. Only six pitchers in either league threw more pitches in a start last year. None has this season. Wainwright exited with a 3-1 record, 2.79 ERA and 21 quality starts in his last 29 appearances.

"To get that deep into it, it shows you not just what he's capable of, but the way he's been pitching ever since he's been on the team," La Russa said.

Wainwright returned to the ninth inning of a 3-3 game to face Matsui, shortstop Miguel Tejada and Berkman. He got two outs before pitching around Berkman and then also walking left fielder Carlos Lee. Wainwright threatened a third consecutive walk but escaped by getting right fielder Hunter Pence to strike out on a breaking pitch.

"Berkman had already beaten me twice today, and it just wasn't going to happen again," Wainwright said.

Wainwright's five starts cover 38 2/3 innings, with each outing lasting at least seven innings and two extending at least eight.

"I think they do have confidence in me," said Wainwright, who threw a staff-high 202 innings last season. "I'd like to think I've given them reason to do that. They have a lot of faith in me, and I have a lot of faith in them."

An early-inning exchange involved Wainwright after Oswalt brushed back Pujols in the first inning and grazed LaRue with a pitch in the second.

Benches and bullpens emptied after Wainwright threw behind Astros catcher Brad Ausmus leading off the third inning. Wainwright shook off LaRue several times before the pitch.

Ausmus started toward the mound before Astros manager Cecil Cooper interceded. The back-and-forth involved La Russa. LaRue later called it "just baseball." Wainwright's actions made it clear that any intimidation would be reciprocated.

"That's just two guys out there competing," Wainwright said. "You're trying to run the ball in, and maybe I ran it in a little too far."

"He's a great pitcher, but he's a warrior, too," catcher Yadier Molina said.

"He's always had talent. Anyone who watched him could see that," said Schumaker, the pitcher's teammate in Memphis in 2005 when Wainwright was 10-10 with a 4.40 ERA in a league-high 182 innings. "But you didn't see as much of the bulldog in him then as you do now. He's extremely confident out there. Anybody playing behind him sees it. In that way he's matured a lot."

Heated rivalry nears boiling point

Houston's interpretation of Adam Wainwright's message fastball thrown behind the back of catcher Brad Ausmus on Saturday was about as subtle as the pitch itself.

"I thought it was intentional, yes," Ausmus said. "Wainwright shook (off signs from catcher Jason LaRue) four times to get to the pitch. So, if I were betting my life's savings, I'd say he did it intentionally."

In the third inning of the Cardinals' 4-3 victory at Busch Stadium and the fifth game of an increasingly chippy rivalry, Wainwright fired a first-pitch fastball that went behind the Astros' catcher. That pitch came one inning after Houston starter Roy Oswalt clipped LaRue with an inside pitch and two after Oswalt skirted the inside edge on Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols. Ausmus was furious with the pitching, shouting long enough at Wainwright that both dugouts emptied and both bullpens ran onto the field.

Ausmus jawed with Wainwright and manager Tony La Russa before teammates corralled him and umpires defused the brouhaha.

Both benches received warnings from ump Tim Tschida.

"It applied to us, but I don't know if it should have," Houston manager Cecil Cooper said. "I don't think it was called for. I'll say that. ... We're not throwing at anyone. Theirs looked deliberate to me. ... The ball was actually behind (Ausmus). Now don't tell me that's not deliberate."

Said La Russa: "Everybody looks at it a different way. They throw the ball inside, they're playing the game. We throw the ball inside, there's some intent. ... We're not going to mess around, that's not our style. But we do pitch inside just like they do."

Oswalt and Wainwright echoed each other after Saturday's game, saying they both were trying to pitch inside to "move the batter's feet." Twice during Pujols' first at-bat, Oswalt threw inside and off the plate.

The timing of LaRue being hit made any intent questionable.

With two outs in the second inning and an .048-hitting LaRue at the plate, Oswalt fired a 2-2 fastball inside. LaRue said the pitch "grazed" him. The Astros maintained that no retaliation was mandated.

"Not only wasn't it called for," Ausmus said, "it's not even good baseball."

Oswalt called it "bad baseball" if La Russa called for the purpose pitch and "terrible baseball" if Wainwright threw with intent. The righthander then repeated several times: "Hopefully it was a wild pitch."

"It is what is. It's competing," Wainwright said when told of the Astros' comments. "I'm working inside. I'm moving guys' feet. I'm trying to do what he does. They should know I'm not a malicious kind of guy. ... If they want to read something into it that's not there, I'm going to pitch against them many more times. I'm sure, at some point down the road, feelings are going to get hurt."

After only five games this season, the rivalry has already had some caustic skirmishes. In the series in Houston, a slide by Pujols that upended catcher J.R. Towles at home plate led to a pregame spat between the Cardinals first baseman and Brandon Backe, who starts Sunday's game. Backe had to be restrained by Cooper and removed from the field.

The Cardinals came out of Pittsburgh sensitive to a couple of pitches that thumped Pujols, and on guard for Houston after the series in Texas.

"The intensity is high — I know the intensity on our end is higher when we play the Cardinals," Houston's Lance Berkman said. "Brandon is a competitor. Pujols is a competitor. Things can sometimes get out of hand. Sometimes they can escalate. This is an emotional game. You put three or four bulls in a pen together and you're going to have some fights."

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mulder wild in rehab start

Cardinals lefty Mark Mulder nosed his way toward the target of 90 pitches but didn't have the finished-product control Friday in a rehab start with Class AA Springfield.

Mulder, who is on the trek back from a second shoulder operation in as many seasons, needed 84 pitches to get through five innings against the Tulsa Drillers, a Colorado affiliate. Of those 84 pitches, just 49 were strikes, and the lefty walked four batters against five strikeouts. Tulsa reached him for three runs in the first inning — when three of the first four hitters he faced walked — and a bases-empty homer in the fifth. The start was Mulder's third on a rehab assignment that can, by rule, last 30 days.


Shortstop Cesar Izturis, who was hit near the right elbow by a pitch on Tuesday, took regular batting practice for the first time and, as far as his return to duty, he said, "I think we're almost there."


Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, one of the best in the league when it comes to curtailing base-stealers, has been taken for eight bases on 10 attempts, which is considerably short of his usual numbers. "There have been times when we haven't defended it as well; it's not on (Molina)," manager Tony La Russa said. "Sometimes to defend the running game, you slow it down, and we've kept our pace going (for the good of the pitcher). And somebody sneaked a steal or two."

Baseball's leader in steals, Michael Bourn, is in town with Houston. The speedy center fielder has 13 steals in 13 attempts, and he could return from a groin injury today to test Molina's arm — and the Cardinals pitchers.

"We defend it aggressively," La Russa said. "But sometimes it's more important for us to focus on the hitter."


The three games here with Houston will be followed by three with Cincinnati and, after an off day, three with Chicago. This will be the longest home stand of the season for the Cardinals.

All the games will be against Central Division rivals, but La Russa does not attach extra importance to them — just yet.

"The reality is that you've got to accumulate wins over six months," La Russa said. "So what's the difference between these nine at home vs. whether the West was here or the East? It's nine chances to get wins. When you get to the last couple of months, then I think the divisional play has more significance.

"Right now, it's just three, three-game series."


La Russa, discussing whether it was harder being a manager or being a defense counsel, which he also is trained to do, said, "It's not hard to be a manager when you've got good players. And it's probably not too hard being a defense lawyer — if you've got a really good client."

Glaus’ difficulty seeing at Busch

DOWNTOWN — Turns out, there may be more than meets the eye about new Cardinals third baseman Troy Glaus’ apparent trouble hitting at Busch Stadium.

Glaus left Friday night’s game after his second strikeout of the evening, a bases-loaded whiff in the second inning of the eventual loss to Houston. The Cardinals said Glaus left because watery eyes made it difficult for him to see. After the 3-2 loss, manager Tony La Russa elaborated on why the third baseman left the game.

He’s having trouble seeing. At the plate. At night. At Busch.

“His eye’s are watering at night,” La Russa said. “Only here. Something about the dampness and cold.”

On Saturday morning, Glaus explained on how only at night and at home has he had trouble stopping his eyes from watering at the plate. During his at-bats Friday it got to a point where “there were a couple pitches I did not see. That’s just not safe.” The numbers support his difficulty seeing at night games at home — as he’s 3-for-24 with eight strikeouts. (There is a detailed breakdown of his numbers in Comment #2 below.)

Glaus had already met with an eye doctor about the problems, and allergies, so far, are being pegged as the reason. Glaus said he has never had allergies before, and he’s wondering if there might be another cause. By Monday, he hopes to have a pair of clear glasses — like sunglasses with clear lenses — to wear at the plate.

After Houston starter Shawn Chacon struck Glaus out with the bases loaded in the second — one of several chances to add on to a 2-0 lead that the Cardinals flubbed — the Cardinals infielder was met at the dugout rail by trainer Barry Weinberg. The two had an extended conversation as Glaus’ teammates took the field. He took several steps away from Weinberg before walking back and taking the stairs into the dugout, not to return to the game.

La Russa said Glaus would be back in the lineup Saturday.

“It’s a day game,” he explained.

Glaus brought a .275 batting average into Friday’s game, but most of that was built on the road. The third baseman, acquired from Toronto this offseason in the swap of All-Star third basemen, was hitting just .237 at Busch before Friday’s game. He has dismissed questions about “pushing” or “stressing” or “trying to impress” at his new home.

“Who isn’t trying too hard?” Glaus said during the previous home stand. “What does that mean? I just don’t think it works that way.”

A 7-for-18 surge on the recent road trip swept Glaus’ road average this season to .310 and he was hitting .343 in the 10 games before Friday. His road/home splits are profound:

HOME – 13 games, 42 AB, 3 R, 9 H, 4 RBI, 7 BB, 10 K … .214/.320/.310

ROAD — 11 games, 42 AB, 4 R, 13 H, 10 RBI, 6 BB, 7 K … .310/.396/.476

La Russa said the watery eyes only bother Glaus at the plate, and that he hasn’t had the trouble anywhere but the plate.

Wainwright goes the distance for win

Schumaker delivers game-winning RBI single in the ninth
ST. LOUIS -- After 8 2/3 innings and 119 pitches, with two men on base and a dangerous hitter at the plate, Adam Wainwright finally found his pitch. It's probably one you've seen before.

For the crowning moment in what turned out to be the first complete-game win of his career, Adam Wainwright threw seven straight sliders to Hunter Pence in the top of the ninth inning on Saturday. The last one finally finished Pence off, and half an inning later, Skip Schumaker's one-out single brought home the decisive run in a 4-3 Cardinals win over the Astros.

Wainwright, establishing himself more clearly every week as the Cardinals' pro tempore ace, pitched his second Major League complete game. He saw a new high with 126 pitches thrown, but still finished it off in style. The at-bat recalled the final out of the 2006 World Series, when Wainwright dusted off Detroit's Brandon Inge with an all-slider at-bat to cinch the title.

"In that situation, I'm making him hit my pitch," Wainwright said. "I'm not giving in right there, trying to throw a strike, and all of a sudden he hits a gapper and two guys score. [I] can't take that chance. I was just going to make him hit my pitch, my location. And if he did it, tip my hat."

By his own admission, Wainwright was never quite right on Saturday. His command was shaky within the strike zone, a dangerous proposition for any pitcher, and it led to three home runs. Yet he didn't issue a walk until the ninth inning, and never allowed a hit with a runner on base.

He entered the ninth inning of a tie game already past the 100-pitch mark, but Wainwright seemed to be gaining some steam at that point. He got Kaz Matsui to fly out in a two-pitch plate appearance. He battled Miguel Tejada to a full count before Tejada grounded out for the second out.

With the middle of the order coming up, though, Wainwright decided that discretion was the better part of valor. He walked Lance Berkman on five pitches, choosing not to give in rather than to allow a third homer to the switch-hitter. He issued another walk to Carlos Lee, again staying well out of the hitting zone.

"Those are their two guys that can go deep in any situation -- Tejada also, if you think about it, but you can't walk all three of them," Wainwright said. "I was just trying to pitch them really tough, trying to make them hit my pitches. I didn't quite throw my pitches. I was kind of all over the place, but I missed out of the zone. Those two guys were not going to beat me in that situation. Berkman had already beaten me twice today, and it just wasn't going to happen again."

He was willing to walk Pence as well, but his sliders were good enough and close enough that the outfielder swung and missed at three of them. And with the tie preserved, the Cardinals offense got to the business of making sure their man got a win.

Brian Barton led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk against Dave Borkowski. Wainwright was unable to advance him with a bunt attempt, reaching first base on a force play instead. Brendan Ryan singled, putting men on first and second, and Schumaker's first hit of the game scored pinch-runner Cesar Izturis.

"I'm looking for a pitch to drive," Schumaker said. "I put a good swing on it. I'd been rolling over some balls lately and wearing [second baseman] Matsui out. I didn't want to hit it to him again, that's for sure. I was just trying to get a pitch out over the plate and it worked out for me."

Wainwright pitched the first Cardinals complete game of the year, allowing three runs and five hits while striking out six. The right-hander didn't issue a walk until Berkman and Lee drew free passes in the ninth. Wainwright outlasted Houston ace Roy Oswalt, who permitted three runs over six innings.

It was the second time in Wainwright's career that he gave up three home runs in a game. He also allowed three on June 7, 2007, against the Reds. More impressively, the game marked only the third time in Wainwright's career that he allowed even two homers in the same game.

St. Louis took an early lead with a three-run third inning. Albert Pujols hit a two-run double off Oswalt, and Troy Glaus added a sacrifice fly that gave the Cardinals a 3-1 advantage.

The game was briefly delayed in the top of the third inning when both benches and bullpens cleared. Half an inning after Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue was hit by a pitch, Wainwright threw behind Astros catcher Brad Ausmus with the first pitch of the third inning. Ausmus was clearly irritated and had words for the Cardinals. The exchange never escalated from verbal to physical, however.

Izzy can't hold on in loss to Astros

Veteran closer tagged for three runs in the ninth inning
ST. LOUIS -- For six-plus seasons in a Cardinals uniform, Jason Isringhausen has either been effective or injured. Sometimes both. Perplexingly, it appears that right now he is neither.

Isringhausen sank deeper into a slump on Friday night, allowing three ninth-inning runs, as the Cardinals lost to the Astros, 3-2, at Busch Stadium. Isringhausen has been scored upon in four of his past six outings, allowing eight earned runs in five innings in that span. He did not allow a run in any of his first six appearances.

"You figure it out," Isringhausen said. "Tell me. I don't know what I'm doing different. No idea. So I'll just have to go back to the drawing board, start from scratch and claw my way back."

After Isringhausen struck out leadoff man Kaz Matsui, he permitted a single to Darin Erstad. Miguel Tejada, who has repeatedly tormented the Cardinals already this season, tripled into the gap in right-center to get Houston on the board. Lance Berkman's sacrifice fly tied the game, and Carlos Lee hit a two-out solo homer for the game-winner for the visitors.

The collapse ruined a brilliant outing from Braden Looper, who pitched seven exceptional innings. Looper allowed two hits and one walk, handing a 2-0 lead to the St. Louis bullpen. Ryan Franklin pitched an uneventful eighth before Isringhausen ran into trouble in the ninth.

The rally began innocently when Isringhausen threw a backdoor cut fastball to Erstad, and the outfielder poked a single under third baseman Aaron Miles' glove. Isringhausen fell behind Tejada, 3-0, before working the count full. He left the 3-2 pitch right in Tejada's preferred hitting zone, on the outside part of the plate and thigh-high. Tejada drove it deep into the outfield, scoring Erstad.

"I made a couple good pitches, made a couple bad pitches," Isringhausen said. "I made a good pitch, I thought, to Erstad, and he got it through the infield. And then Tejada battled me well. I threw a pitch away and he was able to go with it, hit it in the gap."

With the lead cut to 2-1, Isringhausen tried to stay out of any reasonable hitting zone for Berkman. But on a 2-2 pitch, he left a fastball up and over the plate, and Berkman was able to connect for a sacrifice fly that tied the game.

The next pitch was the worst one Isringhausen threw. He left a cut fastball over the plate and up to the dangerous Lee, and Lee drilled it to left field for the game-winner.

"It's just tough," Isringhausen said. "I feel bad for Looper. He pitched such a great game. It's my job to preserve a win, and I just didn't do it. When you let down 25 guys, it's not a fun job."

What's puzzling is that nothing seems to be particularly amiss with Isringhausen. His velocity was good, as was his movement, for the most part. He was simply missing with location, a deadly sin against a dangerous offense like the Astros'.

"For me, he's probably as tough as any pitcher in the league on me, so I have a tremendous respect for him," Berkman said. "Anybody's hittable. Very rarely are you going to catch a guy that's just unhittable. That doesn't happen very often. Let me say he doesn't blow very many saves. He's very capable."

Only a small fraction of the announced crowd of 41,193 was still around for Isringhausen's struggles, or for the Cardinals' attempt to come back in the bottom of the ninth. Heavy rain delayed the start for two hours, so the game didn't end until 12:02 a.m. CT.

The Cards did get a chance to bail Isringhausen out, though. Brendan Ryan managed an infield single to open the ninth, then stole a base and took third on Skip Schumaker's groundout. But Rick Ankiel struck out, Albert Pujols was walked intentionally, and Chris Duncan popped up to end the game. The Cardinals stranded 11 baserunners and went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

"You get the feeling if you add a little something here or there, it makes it a heck of a lot tougher for them to come back," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "So you're vulnerable to what happens in the ninth. But we also hit quite a few balls hard that were right at outfielders. So it wasn't like we didn't keep taking our at-bats."

It would have been nice to let Isringhausen off the hook, but they were unable to do so. His strikeout of Matsui was his first in five appearances. Isringhausen has only walked one batter during his recent slump, and Lee's homer was the first he's allowed all year. But he's having a hard time just the same.

"Izzy's saved a lot of games for me, and I've been over there in that chair a lot myself," Looper said. "I've blown a lot of games in my day as a closer. He's going out there and giving 100 percent. He's our guy. We're going to win with Izzy, that's for sure."

Joel Pineiro kick save

Amazing play that Pineiro had for the Cardinals when they played the Pirates on 4/24/08

Lee Elia Tirade - Chicago Cubs - 4/29/83

On April 29, 1983, during Lee Elia's tenure as the Cubs' manager, the Cubs suffered a one-run home loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. After the game, he lashed out at Cubs fans for their fair weather support of the team. (Their consistent booing and heckling at Wrigley completely unnerved Elia.) A member of the press secretly recorded this "off-the-record" session with reporters.

For Love of the Cardinals

y Cardinal John

Dear Cardinals Admin,

I'm not the only one. Sure, I've brought it up before, but I'm saying it again now. Pujols is in the prime of his career and you all didn't sign him to that big contract to watch him get walked 1/3 of his AB. Even worse, he isn't on this team so that he can get waked 50%+ with MoB. I'm not saying Pujols isn't a team player, but you have to think that he may get the itch to play with a team that will give him chances.

But, even if you don't do it for the team or for Pujols, you should do it for me. I don't want to watch Skip stretch a single into a double only to watch someone fly out and then 1b is glaringly open. With Pujols 3rd, 9,1, and 2 are not gettin' on base enough. EVERYONE knows that's why the pitcher hits 8th on this team. But I'm gettin' off topic.

I'm not even saying that you have to go out and get Barry Bonds. But, if you care for Pujols, who obviously cares for this franchise (look how cheaply you got him for many years), if you care for his legacy (and thus the future legacy of the Cardinals), if you care for releasing a quality product for your fans, then by any and all means necessary GET SOME FREAKING PROTECTION FOR THE MAN! Ortiz has Manny, A-Rod has an entire team, and Vlad has half a team. I'm not saying that the Cards go out like the American league Warbuckses. But this team needs another superstar. Rolen filled the roll nicely for a couple of years, but the time has come for protecting YOUR INVESTMENT. Your money will be better spent if a fearsome hitter is acquired. Glaus is solid, but not even close to your answer.

I am thrilled for the potential of Ankiel, Ludwick, Ryan,, but they are not the answers either--at least not that I can see now.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Cards, but this is a glaring weakness and problem. Pujols is one of those players that will be legendary. He's one of those guys who is willing to get paid less than others of lesser talent just for the team. Let's make sure this continues to be a place where the relationship is mutually beneficial. Ask not what your Pujols can do for you! Ask what can you do for your Pujols!

Friday, April 25, 2008


By Cardinal 70

The Cards have been doing a lot of .500 ball playing lately. They are 5-5 in their last 10, with a pattern of win two, lose one, win one, lose two, win one, lose two, win one. It's a roller-coaster ride after the smooth winning pattern of the first couple of weeks.

They got back on the horse last night with patience and strong pitching. While I wanted to go Hero-wise with Brian Barton, who was 2-4 with a walk and got the scoring started with a two-run double (on the first hit of the game), it's tough to argue with the numbers Joel Pineiro put up last night. Seven innings of one-run ball, four hits, six strikeouts and bonus points for the kick-save out that will on highlight reels for years to come. I think that's the second time this year that Pineiro has done a kick move like that, but the first time it's actually worked. Besides Barton, honorable mention goes to Yadier Molina for three hits, including two doubles, and Albert Pujols for reaching base five times (though once was when he was thrown out going for a double).

Goat-wise, I guess you have to go with Ryan Ludwick for his 0-5 night. He wasn't even able to coax a walk out of Tom Gorzelanny, something that just about everyone was able to do. I really like the patience that the team is showing so far. Especially with the weaker hitters. If they are able to get on base, that just makes the offense that much more potent.

The Cardinals go home and get to match up with the streaking Houston Astros, who have won five in a row. The Cardinals beat them two out of three in Houston earlier in the year, but the Cards will only face one pitcher they saw in that matchup.

That pitcher is Shawn Chacon, who goes tonight against Braden Looper. The Cards were able to beat him last time, 5-3, but historically they've had their troubles against him. Chris Duncan has had success in limited action against him, so you figure to see him out there tonight. Then again, since it's a right hander on the mound, you figure all the lefties will be in the lineup. Which is too bad for Brian Barton, after his strong game, but if Ludwick got benched after hitting home runs in three straight games because a righty was on the mound, Barton has little room to argue.

Looper has done all right against the Astros and hopefully will continue that this evening. He wasn't anything special last time out, allowing three runs in 5.2 innings, but he did get the win. Which is what counts the most, right?

The biggest key to this series will be getting the guys out in front of Lance Berkman. Berkman always seems to kill the Cardinals, so the pitchers are going to have to do their best to limit the damage. To a lesser degree, Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejada are also threats, but I personally will always breath easier when Berkman is retired.

And Saturday's matchup should be a lot of fun, with Adam Wainwright against Roy Oswalt. If Oswalt's on his game (something that's eluded him a lot in 2008), that could be a pitcher's duel that ranks right up there with another Saturday afternoon game against the 'Stros.

Cards address Ankiel's slide

PITTSBURGH — For manager Tony La Russa, there is nothing alarming about Rick Ankiel's sudden offensive fade because when the outfielder swings the only thing he's missing is hits.

"Rick is making good contact. He just can't get a hit," La Russa said. "When he busts loose, a lot of hits are coming. He's getting the barrel on the ball a lot."

Ankiel's batting average has plummeted from .304 to .244 in the span of 25 at-bats, and the Cardinals' starting center fielder has hit .211 over the previous 10 games. In his first April as a major-league outfielder, Ankiel surged at the start, hitting three home runs in the season-opening home stand and providing needed pop for an offense craving production. That made him a regular in the middle of the order and a catalyst for rallies.

His skid, by contrast, has La Russa employing his tricks to prime a slumping hitter: Ankiel hit in front of Albert Pujols on Wednesday and got the night off Thursday.

"A guy gets hot, you ride him out," La Russa said Thursday. "He cools a little bit, and you save him some at-bats. You give him the at-bats he needs to get right but not to get (frustrated). Rick is not getting beat at the plate. He's just not getting hits."

To support that statement, La Russa points to the limited number of strikeouts in Ankiel's 25 at-bat decline. Ankiel has had two three-strikeout games this season, and a week ago he had as many strikeouts as the Cardinals had games played. But as he has gone three for 25 in the previous seven games, he has struck out only five times. Hitting in front of Pujols against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Ankiel went 0 for four but stung three flyouts and grounded out.

La Russa chose Thursday to give him a second night off on this road trip and plans to play him against Houston's three scheduled righthanded starters this weekend. That day off came despite Ankiel's going three for three with a homer against Pirates starter Tom Gorzelanny. But that was last year.

Ankiel said this is not last year.

"I don't think I'm the same hitter that I was last year," he said. "I think that's apparent. ... I'm using the other way more and up the middle more. I think you go up there with a plan, and you try to stick to that plan."

Though he has been with the Cardinals longer than any other member of the roster — he debuted in 1999 — Ankiel remains a greenhorn hitter. Not yet 300 at-bats into his career as a big-league outfielder, he's only now seeing opponents for a second or third time. He said he's learning the pitchers, learning how they approach them, but he's not "making an assumption of what they're going to do." He has refined his approach at the plate — becoming less of a free swinger, not looking to pull so many of the pitches.

And he is more willing to drive the outside pitches he is so often getting, like he did in his 0 for four Wednesday.

"I don't think he has a hole," La Russa said. "He's still learning, but I don't think he has an obvious hole he has to fix. It's just a question of executing. All he can do is hit. He can't place the ball out there."

Irony all around in Jocketty's hiring

It was last June 29 that Al Hrabosky let slip during a Cardinals-Reds game that Walt Jocketty's friendship with Reds owner Bob Castellini might translate into Jocko succeeding Wayne Krivsky as Reds general manager.

The Slightly Irritable Hungarian received a quick trip to the broadcast woodshed, where he was admonished for saying something so speculative, so irresponsible and, as events have proven, so absolutely true.

Krivsky may well have been the only person in Cincinnati surprised by Jocketty succeeding him Wednesday. After all, in baseball oftentimes the only thing stronger than two confirmations of a rumor is 10 denials. Jocketty's sudden installation didn't represent a beginning as much as an end to six months of intrigue.

Jocketty responded last June to Hrabosky's comments by downplaying his relationship with Castellini, insisting he only planned to return as Cardinals general manager since the club had picked up the option on his contract for 2008.

"I was told that, but it's not accurate," Jocketty said one day after Hrabosky's double sin of not just reporting edgy news, but making it.

"I haven't spoken to Castellini in over a year. I don't know how people are making that connection."

Here's how: Hrabosky and the entire baseball universe knew Jocketty was unhappy about the club's fiscal constraints and a new front-office model imposed by ownership.

After word reached Bill DeWitt that Jocketty had laid his angst on the street, the October "hit" carried out at the chairman's Clayton residence became inevitable. Jocketty realized he was a goner when he entered an open front door to find team president Mark Lamping seated in the living room.

The three-time major league executive of the year later confided he had perhaps made mistakes of his own, experienced relief from his Oct. 3 ouster and was unsure he wanted a similar position with another club.

Still, friends who commiserated with Jocketty at his West County home that night (his son Joe's birthday) saw a proud man crushed by his first firing. They were not surprised when Jocketty spoke at Wednesday's press conference of a "vendetta" against his former employer.

Castellini, a minority partner with the Cardinals before heading a group that purchased the Reds, considered Jocketty largely responsible for the franchise's turnaround from a neglected brewery toy to an industry gem.

All sides denied a report in December that Castellini had approached Jocketty about a position. Of course, on Jan. 11 the Reds announced Jocketty's hiring as special assistant to the owner, an "extra set of eyes" and not a challenger to Krivsky's job. Those listening knew better when Castellini referred to his GM as "a plugger."

Barely scratch the surface and there is irony all around.

Krivsky, a former assistant to Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan who regularly scouted the Cardinals, increasingly isolated himself, according to some of those around him. Jocketty's arrival initiated a self-fulfilling prophecy Krivsky recognized but was powerless to avoid.

In his final year in St. Louis, Jocketty likewise grew more irritable to some, even paranoid, while fulminating over Jeff Luhnow's rise and perceived lack of accountability. Left to dangle for several months without a contract after the 2004 World Series, the situation cemented Jocketty's sense that he was little appreciated by higher-ups smitten with new-wave scouting, quantitative analysis and Ivy League outsiders.

Krivsky, a personable baseball man as assistant general manager, tried to control so tightly his first chance as a GM that it squirted from his grasp.

The imminently qualified Jocketty now holds a position he insisted last July was irrelevant. His break from the Cardinals and its aftermath strained or severed numerous once fast relationships. His current manager, Dusty Baker, in September 2003 glared across Wrigley Field, pointed at Jocketty ally Tony La Russa and promised to "(mess) you up."

The Reds and their new general manager hit town Monday for a three-game series at new Busch. One only wonders what Hungo says next.

Pineiro has a hand — and leg — in victory

PITTSBURGH — Two starts after returning to the Cardinals' rotation from a rehab assignment, Joel Pineiro finally arrived.

In a win that hinged offensively on his unexpected walk and peaked defensively by a ballet-like kick of a lined shot that is destined for highlight immortality, Pineiro also did a little of what he's paid for Thursday night.

"The pitching," manager Tony La Russa said. "Don't forget about the pitching. Of all of them, the pitching was the most important."

The righthander worked a superb seven innings, held Pittsburgh to one run and threw the Cardinals to a 6-2 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Though he came two innings shy of qualifying statistically, Pineiro — by arm, by kick and by not swinging his bat — defined his own complete game.

Pity more people didn't see it in person.

The victory split the series at Pittsburgh, which attracted a two-day total of 20,031 fans to PNC Park, sinking the Pirates below attendance sea level (aka the Florida Marlins) and making them now the lowest draw in baseball. Few were there to see several firsts for the Cardinals and more of the same from Albert Pujols.

Pujols reached base in all five of his plate appearances and drove in what would prove to be the game-winning run with a single in the fifth. He raised his major-league-leading on-base percentage to a gaudy .525, but he also had help. In his first game since returning from a rehab assignment, shortstop Brendan Ryan scored twice and singled twice. In his first start in right field, rookie Brian Barton drove in the Cardinals first runs.

All those firsts took second to Pineiro's first win.

The righthander was not only able to pitch deeper into the game than he had this season, but he also pitched better throughout the game than he had this season. Pineiro (1-2) missed most of spring training with shoulder soreness. When he surfaced quickly from a minor-league rehab assignment, he pitched like he needed refinement somewhere other than the majors.

On Thursday, his performance caught up to his level.

"I think it was just a matter of getting out there and pitching," said pitching coach Dave Duncan. "He had to get in the rhythm of pitching. I think physically he was fine, he just wasn't sharp."

Pineiro did not strike out a batter in his previous two starts, and he walked only one. Even if he got ahead of hitters, he didn't have the feel or the strength to put the at-bat away. Too often his pitch would veer up or over the middle of the plate. Or both. Against the Pirates, Pineiro was able to tap his full complement of pitches. He threw his fastball to both sides of the plate, and his breaking pitch set up six strikeouts.

Of the 26 batters Pineiro faced, 11 took a called Strike 1.

"Especially when I had them 0-1, 1-2 (in the count), I had a better pitch to finish them off," Pineiro said. "Whereas in the starts before they'd stay in the middle of the plate and they hurt me."

Said Pirates manager John Russell: "He wasn't missing."

After Adam LaRoche belted a run-scoring double to the left-center gap in the fourth inning, Pineiro retired 10 of the 11 batters he faced. That includes the one he did with cleat-kicking panache.

Freddy Sanchez led off the sixth inning with a line drive back at Pineiro. The righthander often kicks at grounders as if to make a lucky play, and this time … he did. The ball glanced off his right calf, arched into the air and dropped a few strides from the mound. Pineiro scampered to it, caught it on the fly and his throw beat Sanchez to first.

"The key was the luck," Pineiro said.

For style, he had the kick save. For substance, there was the pitching. Don't forget the pitching.

For surprise, he had the walk.

Pirates starter Tom Gorzelanny went twice through the Cardinals batting order and into the fifth inning without allowing a hit. Pineiro had pitched far more effectively, even allowed fewer base runners and, yet, was trailing 1-0 to a four-inning no-hitter. Karma had his back.

Pineiro was the fifth batter of the game Gorzelanny (1-3) walked, and the most inexcusable. Pineiro had struck out in five previous at-bats this season. Gorzelanny walked him on four pitches. The lefty then walked Ryan and Skip Schumaker to load the bases. Barton then stung a line drive over a leaping second baseman to score two runs and give Pineiro the deserved lead.

Pujols followed with his RBI single and the Cardinals did what they couldn't do in Wednesday's loss — add to their lead. The first of two doubles by Yadier Molina led to a couple runs in the sixth.

Throughout the mini series against Pittsburgh the Cardinals had failed to capitalize with runners on base. After taking a 4-0 lead in the first inning Wednesday, the Cardinals stranded eight base runners, four in scoring position. Gorzelanny's seven walks were the most by a Pirate pitcher since 2006, and he tiptoed out of trouble until Pineiro's walk. The Cardinals did leave the bases loaded in the seventh inning. But that was because Pineiro pitched well enough to stay in the game and take that at-bat.

He struck out, No. 6 in seven plate appearances.

He did enough to compensate.

"I've got to work on a lot of hitting out there, a lot of tee work that I need in the cage or something," Pineiro said. "My job is to go out there and pitch. My job is out on the mound."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cards capitalize on walks, beat Pirates

- St. Louis had 12 hits, yet needed only two to put away the Pittsburgh Pirates. Tom Gorzelanny's wildness gave the Cardinals all the offense they needed on a night their patience was as important as their production.

Brian Barton's two-run single in the fifth inning gave St. Louis the lead on its first hit off the erratic Gorzelanny, and the Cardinals beat the Pirates 6-2 on Thursday night behind Joel Pineiro's seven effective innings.

The Cardinals avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season, putting nine runners on base -- seven on walks from Gorzelanny -- before finally getting a hit.

Albert Pujols followed Barton's single with an RBI single that made it 3-1, and Brendan Ryan and Skip Schumaker drove in runs against Phil Dumatrait during a two-run sixth.

Gorzelanny walked at least four in each of his last three starts, so the Cardinals talked about the importance of not swinging at bad pitches.

"When the guy doesn't have the control he may normally have, it works to your advantage to get a good pitch. If you don't get it, you're still on base," Barton said. "In my case, I felt if I didn't get something right down the plate, let it go."

The ever-patient Pujols went 2-for-2 and reached base in all five plate appearances, walking twice and getting hit with a pitch. He has reached base in all 23 games and has an on-base percentage of .525.

Gorzelanny (1-3) took a no-hitter and a 1-0 lead into the fifth despite allowing baserunners in all but one inning, only to walk the bases full ahead of Barton's single. Gorzelanny threw only 49 of 94 pitches for strikes, with the wildness forcing him out of the game even though he gave up only the two singles in five innings.

"I couldn't find the zone. ... I don't know what it is," said Gorzelanny, a 14-game winner last season. "The ball's not doing what I want it to do. I'm not happy with what's going on."

Gorzelanny has walked 22 in five starts -- compared to 13 strikeouts -- and has an 8.46 ERA.

"When he gets his pitches over the plate, guys have a tough time hitting it," catcher Ryan Doumit said. "Walks just killed him."

Pineiro (1-2), winning for the first time since beating the New York Mets 3-0 on Sept. 27, was the opposite. He came into the game with an opponents' batting average of .391 and an 8.10 ERA, only to limit Pittsburgh to one run and four hits, striking out six and walking one. He is 3-0 with a 1.74 ERA in four career appearances against the Pirates.

Pineiro didn't have a strikeout while allowing nine runs in 10 innings during his previous two starts this season.

"I don't go out looking for strikeouts, I'm a guy who wants to make them put it in play in the first three or four pitches," he said. "The strikeouts will come when you make good pitches down in the zone 0-and-2 and 1-and-2."

Yadier Molina doubled twice for the Cardinals among his three hits and scored, while Barton had two hits and reached base four times. The three Pirates pitchers gave up 12 hits and walked eight, although the Cardinals stranded 11 runners.

Pineiro stayed in the game despite being struck in the back of the left thigh by Freddy Sanchez's hard-hit ball up the middle in the sixth. The pitcher grabbed the ball in midair after it struck him and, turning sharply while throwing, retired Sanchez at first. Pineiro was checked by a trainer before staying in the game.

"Once it hit my leg and I was able to look up, I just happened to see the ball," Pineiro said. "I grabbed it and turned around and threw it, but the luck was I found the ball right away."

Jason Isringhausen got the final two outs for his eighth save in nine opportunities after the Pirates scored once against reliever Russ Springer.

Notes: Pirates RF Xavier Nady singled in the ninth to extend his hitting streak to 12 games (17-for-46, .370). ... St. Louis had lost four of five. ... The Pirates lost their seventh in nine games despite winning their previous two. ... The Cardinals are 42-18 in PNC Park. ... The attendance was 9,544, the Pirates' fourth consecutive home game with a crowd of less than 11,000. ... Pirates CF Nate McLouth is 0-for-10 in three games since ending a 19-game hitting streak. ... Pirates 1B Adam LaRoche, 2-for-21 in his previous six games, had an RBI double among two hits.

Glaus seeing doubles

PITTSBURGH • Troy Glaus is still looking for his first home run as a Cardinal, but it’s not for a lack of power. The new third baseman ripped a two-run double in the first inning Wednesday, giving him four doubles in four games and a share of the league lead with 10 doubles this season.

"He’s not hitting the home runs yet, so you look at the doubles," manager Tony La Russa said. "He’s making good contact. One just hasn’t left the park yet."

After taking a .218 average into the Cardinals’ home series against San Francisco, Glaus had eight hits in his next 20 at-bats, and five of those hits were doubles. A couple landed in the deepest gaps of the ballparks — a sign that as his timing has returned, so has his gap power.

Glaus has five seasons with at least 25 doubles. He took a .297 road average into Thursday’s game at PNC Park and "isn’t 100 percent good as he can be, but he’s a tougher and tougher at-bat," La Russa said.

"To me, they’re good swings," Glaus said of the doubles. "They’re good, solid swings. That they didn’t go three feet farther, whatever. But it’s a good baseline to start from. If you’re hitting the balls in the gap, then it’s a good, solid swing."


Shortstop Cesar Izturis took infield with no limitations Thursday and took cuts in the cage, swinging at balls on a tee. Izturis said he feels "weakness" in his right hand, but the numbness that followed being hit near the arm with a pitch Tuesday is clearing. Izturis plans to take batting practice today and could return to the lineup by the start of next week. La Russa said he’d like to avoid using Izturis in the field or as a pinch hitter for a few days, but he wouldn’t hesitate to trot him out as a pinch runner.


When Matt Morris came to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline line last season, he knew he was moving into a different role, but now he’s learning how to be a different pitcher. Arm surgeries and mileage have reduced his ability to burn hitters with fastballs and then "drop that yawker" in there, he said, referring to the curve he bent for 22 wins as a 27-year-old Cardinal in 2001.

"In the past, my arm would catch up to a lot of the mistakes (in mechanics)," Morris said. "Now the mistakes show. I really have to concentrate on allowing my arm to do the right thing."

Morris, 33, called his last start one of the worst of his career. He allowed eight runs in four innings against Florida. He has a 9.15 ERA in four starts this season, and in losing three consecutive he’s allowed 18 earned runs and 27 hits in 152⁄3 innings. His velocity is sitting in the mid-80s and he has had lapses of control. Making about $10 million this season, he remains in the Pirates’ rotation, set to start Saturday and feeling better after a recent bullpen session.

"Velocity allows you to get away with mistakes," Morris said. "Right now I’ve got to be as perfect as I can be as far as confidence."


Rookie Brian Barton made his first career start in right field Thursday, as La Russa put Ryan Ludwick in left and Skip Schumaker in center. All 12 of Ludwick’s previous starts this season had been in right field. La Russa opted to swap the two because of the ballpark, not because of the players. PNC Park’s right field features a two-story-high scoreboard that is 320 feet down the line from home plate. Left has a tricky notch where the bullpens meet the field at its deepest point, 410 feet. "Tougher to play left here," La Russa said. "Go with the more experienced guy."


Mark Mulder will start tonight, as scheduled, for the Cardinals’ Class AA affiliate, the Springfield (Mo.) Cardinals. Pitching coach Dave Duncan said the lefty will target 85-plus pitches for his third rehab start. Mulder is returning from a second shoulder surgery in as many seasons. … Albert Pujols’ walk in the first inning Thursday meant he reached base for the 23rd consecutive game to start the season, and it jumped his on-base percentage to better than .500. His best streak to start a season is 33 games, but his personal record is 48 — and that came in his rookie season, 2001.


By Cardinal 70

When you are faltering, even the teams that you should beat wind up beating you. Which doesn't really bode well for the future of this team. Four runs is nice, but you'd like to see more than that when all four score in the first inning.

You knew that Wellemeyer was playing with fire last night. The first seven outs were in the air, and that's just asking for trouble in a ballpark that's not known to be a pitcher's paradise. Wellemeyer only got 2 outs on the ground, 11 by fly ball and 5 by strikeout. That probably means that he was lucky to get away giving up only the one home run.

I don't think it's too much of a debate to anoint Anthony Reyes as the Goat of last night's game. If he hits Miles with that double-play throw, it's two outs, none on and the .115 hitting Adam LaRoche coming up. Instead, the winning run is at second with one out. Allowing two extra runs just put the icing on the cake, unfortunately.

Kudos to Kennedy for not only backing up the play but having the presence of mind to throw it to first to get at least one out on the play. Ironically, that's something I'd never seen before until my softball game Tuesday night, where the same thing happened (though no throw to first was made). For that and the 2-4, 2 RBI game, Adam Kennedy is the Hero of the game.

It'd been nice if Albert could have come through in the sixth with a couple of runners on, but he was 2-2 with a HBP at that point. While another hit wasn't unlikely, it's still tough to get three hits in a game. And I guess you could say it was about time for Snell to get him out.

If not for Reyes, Chris Duncan might have gotten the goat. Grounding into a big double play didn't help, but it seemed possible that, if he'd taken a better route to Bay's home run ball, he'd have been able to catch it at the wall. Maybe not, but that's the way it looked to the untrained eye.

So now the Cardinals have slipped into third place, 2.5 games behind the apparently-never-losing Cubs. Their 13-9 record, though, would lead the AL Central and West and have them a half game out in the NL East. That said, four of the last five have gone the wrong way and that's a trend that needs reversing.

It might be a tough chore to do that today. Tom Gorzelanny takes the mound, and the Cardinals have traditionally had some struggles against left-handers. Gorzelanny sports a terrible ERA, but it's all based on two games against the Cubs, where he gave up 14 earned runs in 5 innings. In his other two starts, he has an ERA under three. Pujols hasn't hit him all that well, but Aaron Miles has. Most of the other Cardinals haven't faced him much, though it is interesting to see that Ankiel is 3-3 with a HR against him. Being that Gorzelanny is a lefty, I was going to say Ank sits today, but with those numbers, probably not.

Joel Pineiro goes for the Cards this evening. The Pirates that have faced him the most were former American Leaguers, though both Xavier Nady and Jason Bay have home runs off of him in limited action.

This could be a tough one for the Cards, but they really need to get a victory before going back home for a key homestand against the Astros, Reds and Cubs.

What They Were Thinking

By Cardinal John

Here's a snippet from one of favorite Cardinal blogs, Fungoes: "Happily, the team corrected the problem today, but we’re concerned about the thought process that animated such a reckless decision."

This was regarding the decision to option Washington (536 OPS; .158 BA) instead of the expected Brad Thompson. The decision to go short handed in the infield caused some unorthodox moves to say the least. Fungoes does a great job of explaining the potential disaster that could have occurred from having too many pitchers.

The slight injury to Izturis has forced the call-up of Brendan Ryan (SS) and the demotion of Thompson.

However, I offer these thoughts on the aforementioned "thought process".

A. There have been several times that TLR has played his cards differently than the norm. Yet, often times it seems as though those gambles have paid off. No, they don't always work, but when they do they appear as genius.

B. It is clear that no one could have predicted the injury to Izturis. Had TLR known this, I doubt Washington would have been moved down.

C. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that player options had something to do with it. Washington was a flier and if I am not mistaken has never been called up before. I mean, if you don't want to lose an option on Thompson, who else are you going to send down?

D. TLR was having a tough time fitting Washington into the lineup as it was. And with that anemic OPS who's to blame him? Don't get me wrong, Rico was a feel good story about a guy finally getting his chance (been in the minors from 10+ years). 2/7 of Washington's appearances were in the outfield anyway.

All in all, I agree that sending Rico was prolly the wrong move. However, eating up one of Rico's options (especially if he is eligible for a 4th) is not half as bad as taking ANOTHER of Thompson's. However, the semi-injury to Izturis makes this all moot. the real question becomes: Why isn't Ludwick starting every game?

Outlook for Izturis

PITTSBURGH — Although the swelling subsided in his bruised right arm, shortstop Cesar Izturis is not expected to be able to throw at full strength for another five days to a week, the Cardinals said Wednesday. Manager Tony La Russa planned "to try not to play" Izturis until he's at what La Russa described as "100 percent comfortable."

Izturis took a pitch to his upper forearm, near the elbow, in the ninth inning of Tuesday's loss at Milwaukee. The blow affected a nerve and left his arm tingly, making it impossible to throw a ball. A large helping of ice on the bruise all night calmed the swelling and had him feeling better Wednesday. He was kept from any baseball activities.

"The hand is still a little numb," Izturis said. "But it was all the way numb, all the way up to the shoulder (on Tuesday)."


To provide protection at shortstop until Izturis is healthy, the Cardinals recalled infielder Brendan Ryan from his rehab assignment. Ryan joined the team in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, and he is expected to be in the lineup today. "We were going to make this move eventually," general manager John Mozeliak said. "We were going to wait until this weekend, but it made sense to do it now."

Ryan spent seven games in the minor leagues getting his timing back after missing the last third of spring training with a muscle strain near his rib cage. Ryan went seven for 13 in four games with the Cardinals' Class AA affiliate, and he played third, second and shortstop on his rehab assignment.

"It felt like it's been Christmas Eve for a long, long while," Ryan said. "I was just waiting to get back here. ... I'm anxious to see (if the timing at the plate is ready). That's one of the things you find out when you're thrown into the fire."


To make room for Ryan on the active roster, the Cardinals optioned reliever Brad Thompson to Class AAA. The righthander, who opened the season in the Cardinals' starting rotation, allowed four earned runs in his inning of work Tuesday at Milwaukee. Thompson (1-1, 4.58 ERA) will join Memphis' rotation. The jobs relievers have carved out for themselves this season — rookie Kyle McClellan as tight-game middle relief; Anthony Reyes in long relief — made Thompson the righthander removed from the bullpen, Cardinals officials said.


Left fielder Chris Duncan made his first start of the season in the cleanup spot, hitting behind Albert Pujols. Duncan had hit .379 with a couple of homers during his 10 games before Wednesday, but it was as much Rick Ankiel's skid as Duncan's surge that prompted the swap of them in the lineup. Ankiel hit No. 2.

La Russa said he might rotate them "like that all season," riding their streaks or priming their swings, depending on need.


La Russa figured it was "just a matter of time" before Walt Jocketty was a general manager again. It took just 21 games. Fired in October as general manager of the Cardinals, Jocketty, the architect of one of the finest decades in franchise history, was named GM of division rival Cincinnati on Wednesday. "His track record speaks for itself," La Russa said without listing the two NL pennants and World Series title.

"I wish him well," said Mozeliak, who was hired to the position less than a month after Jocketty's dismissal. "He was my mentor and what he did for me — I have an appreciation for what he did for my career. But now he is in the same division."