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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Wellemeyer cruises in win vs. Pirates

Bullpen holds on after allowing three runs in the ninth
ST. LOUIS -- Joe Mather provided the pregame excitement for the Cardinals, but it was Todd Wellemeyer who struck the Pirates like a bolt of lightning Friday in a 5-4 win at Busch Stadium.

Not that the recently recalled rookie failed to impress, but Wellemeyer turned in the second gem of the week for the Cardinals. Following in Adam Wainwright's footsteps, Wellemeyer threw seven strong innings to lead the Cardinals to their third straight win.

Throughout the year, Wellemeyer (6-1) has been a pleasant surprise for the Cardinals, going six or more innings in 10 of 12 starts. Wellemeyer struck out four hitters, lowered his ERA to 3.16, and the Cardinals continued to roll.

"He just got better and better," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

Since becoming a starter, Wellemeyer said he is using a little less of his repertoire due to the effectiveness of his two main pitches -- his fastball and slider. Because he is deceptive with his slider, he only goes to his changeup and cutter when he has to.

"Just simplifying it, you know," Wellemeyer said. "I'm not trying to think too much or do too much out there. I'm just pitching."

As simple as it sounds, "just pitching" is what Wellemeyer and Co. have done on the mound for the Cardinals.

Two months into the season, the Cardinals' starting pitching has dominated the Majors. The starting staff is the only National League group to average more than six innings per start (6.05), and it has the second-best ERA in the league (3.77) and the second-most wins in the NL (25).

"They've consistently given us a chance to win as a group," La Russa said.

"They're doing all the things to get themselves ready, and when they go out there, they compete. High class."

While Wellemeyer dominated on the mound, Mather, making his Major League debut, aided him on a fabulous dive in right field in the second inning.

With Xavier Nady on first, Adam LaRoche ripped a line drive towards the right-field corner. Leaping in full extension, Mather robbed LaRoche of an extra-base hit and likely saved a run. Once he stood up, Mather could hardly hold back his Cheshire grin.

"I couldn't help it," Mather said. "It was one of those things where, that's what you dream of. ... That doesn't happen often."

Wellemeyer said he thought Mather had no chance at making the grab, and he was on his way to back up catcher Yadier Molina for a throw to the infield. Instead, Mather came up with what he said will go down as one of the best catches he's ever made.

The rookie looked slightly nervous in the batter's box early, but with Cesar Izturis on third in the seventh, Mather gave the 42,791 fans at Busch Stadium a glimpse of why he tore up the Minors.

On a 1-1 count, Mather's swing connected with a fastball that turned into a single, his first big league hit. The RBI turned out to be the difference after the Cardinals nearly fell apart in the top of the ninth inning.

Entering with a 5-1 lead, Randy Flores retired two of the first three batters he faced, but left two on when he exited the game. Ryan Franklin came in, gave up a bloop single and a three-run double into the left-field corner that fell just short of a grand slam.

"It got very scary there at the end," La Russa said.

Nate McLouth had a chance to extend the game, but tapped out to Franklin to get the Cardinals to 10 games over .500 for the second time this year. At 33-23, the Cardinals are tied for the second-most wins in the Majors. La Russa's club has been a winner in nine of its last 12, and it allowed three runs or fewer in seven of those games.

In the first, Wellemeyer gave up a two-out home run to McLouth, but Albert Pujols answered with a two-run blast of his own -- his 14th long ball of the year. Wellemeyer added a sacrifice fly to help out his cause in the second, and Izturis singled home Rick Ankiel, who tripled to open the seventh.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Pujols is just fine — and so are the Cardinals

Ryan Fagan

ST. LOUIS -- Apparently the elbow is fine.

Those red flags that were waving across the Midwest this spring weren't St. Louis Cardinals banners; they were warning hankies foretelling that superstar Albert Pujols' elbow was about to burst. "Have the surgery," the flags screamed into the breeze that would inevitably blow the Birds into the NL Central's second tier. "Your team's not going to be any good this season anyway."

Pujols didn't listen, and those concerns now seem like they were raised years ago.

Right now, Pujols is as locked in as he's been at any point in the past two seasons -- he's hitting .359 with 13 homers and 35 RBIs.

The Astros, another surprising team this season, were in town for a key three-game series, which featured teams within a game-and-a-half of the first-place Chicago Cubs in the Central. All Pujols did was go 6-for-10 with two homers and four runs scored as the Cards took two of three.

It's not like the Astros suddenly decided it would be a good idea to challenge the big fella, either. In the second game of the series, they elected to walk Pujols with runners on second and third and no outs in the first inning. Didn't really work in the Astros' favor; the Cards scored three times, on a bases-loaded walk, a wild pitch and a weak groundout.

Pujols walked two more times in that game as the Cardinals won 6-1 behind another strong performance -- eight innings, three hits, eight strikeouts -- from starter Adam Wainwright. It was the eighth time in 11 starts that Wainwright -- who is bearing more of a resemblance to injured ace Chris Carpenter with every start, in terms of both production and mannerisms on the mound -- has thrown at least seven innings.

Pitching was the key to this series. In the opener, Shawn Chacon turned in another excellent game as the Astros won 8-2 to pull into a second-place tie with the Cardinals.

Chacon has had a rather odd season. Despite eight quality starts (defined as at least six innings, no more than three earned runs), he has a 2-0 record. "He's pitched well for the most part all year," manager Cecil Cooper told reporters after the game. "He just had one, I thought, shaky outing about three starts ago but other than that he's kept us in every ballgame and given us a chance." Hunter Pence was 5-for-5 and the Astros jumped on starter Braden Looper for four first-inning runs and never looked back.

Wainwright was the story in Game 2, and the Cards won the rubber game behind another strong starting performance, this time from Kyle Loshe. He took a shutout into the seventh before Carlos Lee opened the inning with his 12th homer. Lance Berkman hit a solo shot for his 17th homer, but it wasn't enough as the Cards held on for the 3-2 victory on Thursday.

The Cardinals are two games ahead of the Astros in the battle for second place.

If this series is any indication, both teams figure to fight the good fight the entire season. And that doesn't just mean they'll hang around. Both teams can get better, and both are capable of winning the Central.

For the Astros, Roy Oswalt has been a shell of his normal self, though he did look sharp through most of Thursday's game.

For the Cardinals, there's the promise of a return by Carpenter sometime in the second half.

And, most importantly, there's a sense of confidence that neither team was expected to have this deep into the season.

La Russa: 'Totally my decision'

Although he is among Chris Duncan’s biggest defenders, manager Tony La Russa said it was "totally my decision" Friday to send the lefthanded-hitting outfielder to Class AAA Memphis to make room for righthanded-hitting Joe Mather.

Mather will make his major league debut tonight at Busch Stadium when he bats second ahead of Albert Pujols against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"The front office didn’t say a word," said La Russa of the move to send Duncan out so that Duncan could get some consistent at-bats. The Cardinals will face five lefthanded pitchers in the next week, so Duncan, who is two for 18 against southpaws, wouldn’t have played much.

"I just look at it as, 'What’s the best chance to get this guy right?’’’ said La Russa. "And I think it’s playing. He needs to play.

"But what I think the fans need to remember is that here’s a guy who sparked us in his first two years. I don’t understand their impatience with this guy. It’s atypical for the way they act. They cheered him in the second half of ’06 when he saved us and the first half last year before he got hurt (double hernia). Now he’s hitting .260 (actually .252) and he’s struggling. How much more do you need to know that this guy’s for real?"

Duncan is required to stay in the minors at least 10 days on the option assignment. Mather, La Russa said, would play with some regularity, but the Cardinals also must find time for Ryan Ludwick, Skip Schumaker, Rick Ankiel and Rule 5 draftee Brian Barton.

Mather had been told late Thursday night in Des Moines, Iowa, by Memphis manager Chris Maloney that he was coming to the big leagues, but La Russa said he still wanted to sleep on his decision overnight Thursday.

"It was a real tough call because (Duncan’s) not hitting under .200. But it’s really hard to play him against a lefty right now," La Russa said.

Duncan had 43 homers in the previous two seasons, and La Russa said, "You take our current group of outfielders, which includes Mather and (Colby) Rasmus, and Chris has as much or more potential to be a productive, impact guy. He’s already demonstrated it."

La Russa said the decision as to when to send out Duncan was also tied to the recent media speculation that he should be optioned. "You don’t want to appear to be responding to other people being unreasonable," La Russa said.

La Russa said he told Duncan of his decision this afternoon and La Russa said, "He was not pleased. He could see that he may not be prospering but he was surviving."

Duncan had made several good defensive plays and had the game-winning hit off Houston righthander Roy Oswalt in a 3-2 Cardinals win on Thursday night. He is expected to join the Memphis team in Albuquerque on Saturday night and La Russa told Maloney the latter could play Duncan at either first base or the outfield.

The 26-year-old Mather, a third-round draft pick in 2001, was hitting ,.315 with 12 homers, 10 of them this month. "This guy’s a good player," La Russa said. "He plays the whole game -- defense, runs bases, takes tough at-bats."

La Russa said that one of the things he told Mather in an afternoon chat today was, "You don’t have to feel guilty about Chris not being here. There are going to be a lot of games when you guys are on the same roster."

Mather, who will wear No. 62, talked to the media some 3 ½ hours ahead of the game and said, "I’m hope I’m this calm when I get in the box."

Clutch Duncan lifts Cards past Astros

Outfielder breaks out of slump with two-run single in first
ST. LOUIS -- Persona non grata during player introductions, Chris Duncan quickly turned hero to the fans at Busch Stadium on Thursday night.

Duncan lined a two-run single in the first inning and played a fine defensive game, as the Cardinals beat the Astros, 3-2, to win the three-game series between the National League Central rivals.

With one swing, Duncan equaled the RBI total from his previous nine games. With five putouts in left field, he began to mollify some of the criticism of his defense, which flared up again after a ball dropped in front of him in Los Angeles on Sunday.

On Thursday, though, Duncan contributed in both phases of the game. Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse settled to pitch six-plus quality innings, but he surrendered quite a bit of hard contact in the first couple of frames. Much of that contact was directed at Duncan, and each time he made the play. Of the five putouts Duncan registered on a busy night in left field, two of them were on hard liners in the first inning.

"That was humongous," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "He made the plays in the first and came up against Roy Oswalt, behind in the count, [and] fight that [at-bat]. That shows you what he is. This guy's a champion."

Oswalt retired the first two batters of the first inning, but an Albert Pujols single started the rally. Oswalt walked Ryan Ludwick and Troy Glaus, bringing up Duncan, whose single gave the Redbirds a 2-0 lead. Pujols later added a solo home run.

One hit doesn't get Duncan out of a slump, as he's still 13-for-61 (.213) in May. But for a player inclined to be an extremely harsh critic of his own play, one big hit could get him turned in the right direction. Duncan left after the game without speaking to reporters, but his teammates were happy to talk for him.

"I think that was a huge hit for him," said Skip Schumaker, one of Duncan's better friends on the team. "Everybody knows around here how hard he works to get his swing back. He's constantly looking at video, constantly hitting early, constantly in the cage. Nobody pulls more for Chris than his teammates, because every guy in the clubhouse knows how hard he's working to get out of his funk."

Lohse allowed a run on five hits during his six-plus innings. He didn't strike out a batter and was helped out by an outfield defense that didn't let much of anything drop. The only run against him came on a leadoff homer in the seventh inning by Carlos Lee.

"They've got a lot of power, and you don't want to make a mistake," Lohse said. "That was the main thing. Even though I didn't have great location, I wasn't allowing myself to miss back over the middle of the plate. A lot of misfires off the plate, but those are better than the ones you throw down the middle when you're struggling."

Houston, which entered the series with one of the league's hottest offenses, was held to three runs over the final two games. Kyle McClellan, Ron Villone and Chris Perez combined to shut out the Astros in the seventh and eighth, and Ryan Franklin allowed a solo homer in the ninth but picked up the save.

The Cardinals moved back to nine games over .500, one game shy of their season high-water mark, as they won their fourth straight series. They are still 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Cubs in the NL Central.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ace gives Cards a sterling eight

Wainwright allows a lone run; Izturis hits a two-run triple
ST. LOUIS -- Adam Wainwright continues to make his case as one of the best pitchers in the bigs.

In his second year starting for the Cardinals, the 26-year-old tossed another gem -- an eight-inning, eight-strikeout masterpiece -- to lead his team to a 6-1 win over the Astros. It was the second such performance of the year for Wainwright against Houston; he threw a complete game victory on April 26.

"I think there are certain teams that you get kind of geared up for and mentally lock it in better," Wainwright said. "It's kind of a fault in me that I don't mentally lock it in like that against every team."

But on Wednesday, he certainly was locked in. Between the third and eighth innings, Wainwright retired 15 straight batters. He only gave up three hits, one of which was a solo shot to Ty Wigginton, on the picture-perfect night.

Manager Tony La Russa said it might not be Wainwright's best start of the year, but against a Spartan offense in Houston, La Russa was more than impressed.

"That was a very tough lineup and he made so many good pitches," La Russa said. "To shut them down as good as they're swinging, outstanding."

With a fastball averaging 90-92 miles per hour, Wainwright said his command of that pitch enabled him to have such success.

"It's a shame I can't command my stuff every time like that," Wainwright said.

Yadier Molina said it was not just the fastball that put Wainwright in great position.

"He's one of those pitchers where he can throw any pitch for a strike," Molina said. "He's got that slider, it's nasty. He's got one of the best sliders in the league. He's got a big curveball, one of the best curveballs in the league. He's got a great sinker -- he's got everything.

"He's one of the best pitchers in the league, I can tell you that."

Wainwright's eight strikeouts tied a career high that he set on Aug. 16, 2007, and it was the first time this year he won consecutive starts.

Over the past 12 months, Wainwright has developed into one of the premier pitchers in either league. In 33 starts since May 28 of last year, he has accumulated a 15-10 record, 224 1/3 innings pitched, 152 strikeouts and only 64 walks. But it is his eye-popping 2.93 ERA -- second-best in the Majors during that time frame -- that stands out the most.

"That's what I expect of myself," Wainwright said. "I expect to be right there, whether it's No. 2 or top 10 or whatever ... That's where I need to be. That's where this team needs me to be, and that's where I expect to be."

Having an early cushion certainly helped Wainwright settle into his groove that lasted the whole night.

The offense manhandled Wandy Rodriguez, fresh off the disabled list and starting for the first time since April 19. Rodriguez allowed the first three batters of the game to get on base and then walked in a run with the bases loaded. Molina drove in another run with a groundout, and a wild pitch gave the Redbirds a 3-0 lead after the first inning.

"It was huge," Molina said. "Every time you got a game like last night, a tough game, tonight coming in the first inning with three runs, it makes you feel good."

From then on, Wainwright cruised. Cesar Izturis tripled in two runs in the fourth and Molina singled in another run in the fifth.

"We just played well," La Russa said, "but I guarantee you we got a little extra juice because of the way our starter pitched."

With the win, the Cardinals ended a two-game losing skid and stayed within one game of the Cubs in the standings.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Ethier gives Dodgers 4-3 win over Cardinals in 10

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Andre Ethier singled home the winning run in the 10th inning and Luis Maza hit his first big league homer, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.

Russell Martin drove in two runs and touted prospect Clayton Kershaw pitched six effective innings for the Dodgers in his major league debut.

Terry Tiffee, recalled Saturday from Triple-A, pinch-hit for Los Angeles closer Takashi Saito (3-1) and led off the 10th with a bloop single against Mike Parisi (0-1). The right-hander then turned Juan Pierre's comebacker into a force play, but Pierre advanced on a wild pitch and Ethier lined Parisi's 3-2 delivery down the right-field line with two outs.

Saito struck out Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick in succession in the top of the 10th and finished his two-inning stint with five Ks.

Kershaw allowed two runs and five hits, striking out seven and walking one. The left-hander threw 69 of his 102 pitches for strikes, recording his first three outs on punchouts.

Kershaw was the seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft out of Highland Park High School in Dallas. He was promoted from Double-A Jacksonville to take the fifth spot in the rotation for at least three turns.

The original plan was for him to pitch on Tuesday, but manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt decided instead to give Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda an extra day of rest because they both pitched deep into the game their last time out.

Kershaw, who turned 20 on March 19, got a chance to pitch at Dodger Stadium in the team's final exhibition game against the World Series champion Boston Red Sox and tossed four scoreless innings of relief with six strikeouts. During spring training, he gave up one run over 14 innings and struck out 19.

St. Louis starter Todd Wellemeyer gave up three runs and five hits over six innings with four strikeouts and no walks. The right-hander was removed for a pinch-hitter in the seventh, when the Cardinals tied it 3-all on a sacrifice fly by Aaron Miles, who was batting for Brendan Ryan.

The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the fourth as Ethier scored from first base on Martin's double off the center-field fence.

Brian Barton scored the tying run for St. Louis in the sixth, when third baseman Blake DeWitt charged Ludwick's slow bouncer and made a high throw to the plate that Martin had to reach for as Barton slid across. Barton reached on a pop-fly single that first baseman James Loney lost in the sun near the foul line.

But Martin put the Dodgers back in front 3-2 in the bottom half with a two-out RBI single after Pierre led off the inning with a single and was sacrificed to second by Maza. The hit ended the Dodgers' 0-for-26 drought with runners in scoring position.

After striking out his first batter, Skip Schumaker, Kershaw asked that the ball taken out of play for a keepsake as the crowd of 46,566 gave the rookie a warm round of applause. But he walked his next hitter, Barton, on four pitches and Pujols followed with an RBI double. Kershaw then came back to strike out Ludwick and caught Troy Glaus looking at a third strike to end his 32-pitch inning.

Maza, starting at second base with Jeff Kent getting the day off, got the run back in the bottom half when he drove a 1-1 pitch over the left-field fence. Wellemeyer had not allowed a home run in his previous five starts, spanning 30 innings.

Glaus was back in the Cardinals' lineup after a brief bout with stomach pains, which forced manager Tony La Russa to send up a pinch-hitter for him in the ninth inning of Saturday night's 4-0 victory and resulted in a brief visit to the hospital for the four-time All-Star third baseman. Glaus was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

Notes: Kershaw was 0-3 with a 2.28 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 43 1-3 innings with Jacksonville. ... Ryan was in the starting lineup for the first time at Dodger Stadium as a major leaguer. He played 2B at Chavez Ravine eight years ago, when Notre Dame High School lost the California state championship game to San Luis Obispo High on Graduation Day. Everyone on the team wore their caps and gowns over their baseball uniforms for the commencement before taking a chartered bus to the ballpark.

Lohse, bullpen stop Dodgers

By Joe Strauss
Sunday, May. 25 2008

LOS ANGELES — As he headed to the Petco Park bullpen Wednesday afternoon in San
Diego for his between-starts throw, Kyle Lohse glanced over his shoulder with a
semi-sarcastic reminder: "I feel fine. Everything's good. I'm going to throw my
'pen. Make sure everybody knows that, will ya?"

Lohse let everyone including the befuddled Los Angeles Dodgers know Saturday
night, when he became the latest Cardinals pitcher to offer evidence that this
staff is more a force than a mere early-season curiosity.

Lohse provided the Cardinals six shutout innings in a 4-0 win. In return, Lohse
got four two-out runs in the third inning from an offense otherwise stymied by
Dodgers starter Brad Penny.

Penny faced the minimum number of Cardinals hitters except for an abrupt string
of five consecutive batters who reached base against him in the third.

Immediately after bouncing a pitch off plate umpire Jerry Layne's right hand,
Penny walked back-to-back batters before left fielder Chris Duncan broke a
scoreless game with an opposite-field single.

First baseman Albert Pujols made the lead 2-0 when he drove his first hit, a
double, since lining a ball off San Diego Padres righthander Chris Young's face

Drilled by a Penny fastball in the second inning, center fielder Rick Ankiel
returned in the third to line a two-run double past third base for a 4-0 edge.
Second baseman Adam Kennedy's fifth-inning single stood as the only other
damage within a four-hit win.

Treated gingerly because of an ouchy shoulder the past two weeks, Lohse took
over from there.

Able to escape the first two innings unscathed despite allowing three hits to
his first seven batters faced, Lohse benefited from a double play, a caught
stealing and two strong defensive plays by Pujols to never face the tying run.

Randy Flores and Kyle McClellan took the game to the ninth inning and rookie
Chris Perez.

Perez allowed his first hit in five appearances before blowing away three
consecutive hitters.

Lohse (4-2) picked up his first win since April 27. He allowed eight, seven and
four earned runs in successive starts earlier this month before manager Tony La
Russa conceded Lohse was dealing with discomfort after going

3-0 with a 2.36 ERA in April.

"I felt like I was able to make pitches whenever I needed to," Lohse said.
"That's a good feeling to have. That's a good feeling when they give you four
runs, and you are able to protect it."

Recent history may have influenced La Russa's decision to pluck Lohse from a
shutout after 96 pitches. Or it may have been that he enjoyed a well-rested
bullpen except for closer Ryan Franklin. Either way, the Cardinals have allowed
only nine runs during a 4-1 road trip that concludes Sunday afternoon.

Saturday's win gave the Cardinals win No. 30 in their 51st game. They didn't
arrive there last season until game No. 66 on June 17.

"They don't give out awards after a third of the season," Flores said. "They
don't give out pennants after a third of the season. But I think enough time
has passed that everybody sees the type of team we have. We're finding ways to
win. We're playing the game right. Good things usually happen when that's the

The win also lifted the Cardinals into a virtual tie with the Chicago Cubs for
the division lead, a place they had not been since May 11.

The Cardinals won with three players rotating at shortstop and Pujols as the
only infielder to play the same position for nine innings. In addition, third
baseman Troy Glaus was removed from the game with abdominal pain and was taken
to a hospital afterward for an examination. Glaus said he could not stand up
straight late in the game, and La Russa speculated Glaus' appendix may be the
source of the problem.

Most encouraging, however, was Lohse's command. The Dodgers placed two of the
first three runners he faced on base but were denied on a fly ball and a

Lohse ended the second inning with a double-play grounder. He got out of the
third inning when catcher Yadier Molina threw out Juan Pierre attempting to
steal down four runs.

Pujols put down a rally before it began with a sliding backhanded stop for the
fifth inning's second out.

One night after winning 2-1

the Cardinals crafted their third shutout win this season.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Video) Albert Pujols: One Man Wrecking Machine


As said on the video, other than dealing with nightmares of an Albert Pujols soft liner coming at his face, Chris Young should be fine. Not that a broken nose is any picnic, but at least you’re breathing… albeit through the mouth.

Bard’s ankle looked like it was about to go Robin Ventura on us. Thankfully that’s not the case, although a trip to the DL is forthcoming for him.

And how about that bonus catch by Skip Shumaker?

Stories from the Stool: An Inside Look at the Life of a Field Usher

This past week I had the pleasure of interviewing Aaron Borchelt, a field usher for the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. You can find him along the 1st base line, sitting on his stool with his helmet and glove, waiting for a foul ball to come near and some lucky fan to get it. But his job is much more than retrieving foul balls and giving them to fans; rather, Aaron brings a whole new perspective to what it's like to watch a ballgame at Busch. His experiences add to the diverse body of Cardinal Nation, and there's a chance he has been a part of your experience at the ballpark if you have sat along the 1st base line. I hope you enjoy this interview, and hopefully Aaron will be able to contribute from time to time here in the future.

For those not familiar with what you do, what is your job title and what are the basic duties of that position?

I am an usher for the St. Louis Cardinals. Basically, we are the ones that meet the fans as they enter the ballpark, provide direction to those that might be "misplaced", be a presence in each of the sections, provide a measure of security for all attendees, and strive to provide a fun, family-friendly environment by providing customer service. My gameday position is on the field down the right field line. It is a misconception that I am "better" or "more important" than the ushers in the seating area, but that is not true. I have just as much responsibility as they do. I am there to make sure that no one runs out onto the field or in any way interrupts the flow of the game. Part of that involves the catching of foul balls and tossing them to a lucky fan.

How long have you been working for the Cardinals?

I have been working for the Cardinals since I was 17. So, doing the math, I am now in my 10th season as an usher for the Birds.

I'm sure you have interacted with many fans, but what has been the most memorable interaction you have had with a fan?

The fans are the reason I, along with the other ushers, am there. It is hard to narrow down my interactions to just one memorable moment. Being in the same position every game allows me to create a friendship with the "regulars," those fortunate few that have season tickets. I regularly get emails from some of the ticketholders. I think other moments that stand out are when I can give a ball to a young fan and see their face light up. There was one such time this year that I gave the kid a baseball and he turned around and held it up in front of the entire section. Needless to say, baseball's best fans gave that little kid a standing ovation, as well as a memory he will not soon forget. It's the little things like that that make my job worthwhile. I know it sounds cliche, but it's true!

A while ago there was talk that the Cardinals are catering to a more well-to-do crowd at the ballgames. People are less apt to stand up and cheer, and the tone is more subdued, so they say. Since you're at all the home games, have you noticed any change in fan behavior over your ten years with the Cardinals?

That is quite an observation, or shall I say accusation. As it appears, the clientele has changed dramatically over the course of the past decade or so. It used to be a place where families could come for a night out, fathers could teach their kids how to keep score, people would do the wave, etc. Nowadays, you see more business suits, client meetings, and a more corporate look in the stands. It appears as though the focus of the fans is gone .... it's no longer a fun night out, but rather a status symbol as "I was at the game last night" or "I was in an all-inclusive party area entertaining a big client yesterday". I think part of this is due to the escalating prices of tickets and other inclusions to an experience at the ballpark. A family of four should expect to pay around $300-$400 in one night when you consider tickets, parking, food, souvenirs, gas, and everything else that goes along with a trip to Busch Stadium. Is this due to the magnitude of players' salaries? Perhaps. Is it due to the greed of ownership? Maybe. Whatever the reason is, one can certainly see a difference on a nightly basis. It's not necessarily a bad change, but it is noticeable.

We've occasionally seen field ushers make the Sportscenter clips with a great pick or an embarrassing dive and miss. Have you experienced any moments of glory and/or failure when going after a ball that you care to share with us? Have you encountered any great fan catch in the stands or along the line?

I have indeed made some catches, but nothing that would be Sportscenter-esque. I will say, though, that one of the more memorable moments involving a field usher was when a guy from the other side fielded a FAIR ball. Great play, clean hands, but FAIR!!! (Pardon me while I pick myself up off the floor from laughing) He fielded the ball, looked up, realized what he did, and then dropped it as if nothing happened. "NO, 40,000+ people and a regional television audience didn't just see you do that ...." HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA Needless to say, that was quite embarrassing for him, extremely hilarious for me and the other ushers, and a moment that will live in infamy for years to come. Follow-up question ... did he get fired? No ... he is still there.

Are there any extra perks to being an usher that go unnoticed by the ordinary fan?

Other than a paycheck twice a month, there aren't any "perks" that are notable. Yes, I get to meet the players .... that's pretty nice. I get to see every game, including the playoffs and World Series ... AWESOME! I can't get autographs (usually one of the first questions asked by fans).

You mention forming relationships with season ticket holders. Have you been able to interact with the players at all? Have you formed any relationships with them?

I do get to interact with the players briefly. I spent one year out in the visitors bullpen (they used to have ushers out there) so I got to know many of them. To this day, they still come by and see how I'm doing. As far as Cardinals go, I really got to know David Eckstein and Scott Rolen well over the past few seasons. I went up to Cleveland this past weekend to see them play. David was on the DL but Scotty was there. After BP, he came over to talk to me and signed whatever items I had for him. I was the only person he signed for which was rather special. All in all, the players know who I am and I know who they are, so the interaction is normally a "Hey how ya doing" or "Great game yesterday" type of convo.

That's interesting about your relationship with David Eckstein and Scott Rolen. I think the way Rolen left the Cardinals may have misconstrued his personality as one of being overly stubborn and maybe even bitter. But to see that he took the time to talk to you presents a completely different story than the one we grew used to. Any comments on the difference between the Rolen that refused to back down to La Russa and the Rolen that stopped by to say hello to you?

I think that the Scott Rolen that I saw (as well as the fans saw) was totally different than the Scott Rolen that was in the clubhouse. I have heard that there were some rather heated moments between those two behind closed doors in the confidentiality of the clubhouse. I cannot confirm or deny those types of moments as I did not see them. I would also protect the confidentiality had I seen them. It has been documented (and confirmed) that there were "differences in opinion" between LaRussa and Rolen. That's a known fact. I only know Scott Rolen in the times that I have interacted with him and those times were very pleasant, very sociable, and never awkward. Whether or not there was an incident in the clubhouse prior to seeing me, I would have never known it. He was always quite cordial and friendly.

Albert Pujols hits a home run and an excited fan decides to celebrate by running onto the field. What is the first thing you do?

First and foremost, we keep in mind the safety of the fan. Running onto the field during a game can be quite dangerous. (Heck, attending a game can be quite dangerous, but I digress) There are strong men swinging bats, throwing baseballs at very high speeds, and numerous other potential problems. While running on the field might seem appealing, it is really not safe, whether the game is in play or between innings. IF a person were to run on the field, our job (the field ushers) is to "catch" (for lack of a better term) the person and escort them off the field (to the hands of the police waiting for them) as quickly and orderly as possible. That being said, if someone is disorderly or not cooperative, special treatment can be administered, and I will keep it at that.

I said that our first priority is the safety of the fans. Our second is the safety of the players and coaches. Remember back to the incident in Chicago when the Royals first base coach got attacked by the fan? It is stories like that that really speaks volumes to me as an on-field employee. Or the time in Boston where Gary Sheffield of the Yankees almost got into a fist fight with a fan. Yes, the position has its perks and can be very fun, but it is also one of the places where you have to be the most alert and serious.

Here's the golden question: how do you determine who gets a foul ball when you give it to the fans?

Ahhhhh, the golden question. Well, there is really no rule as to who gets the foul balls, but I make it a personal policy to give it to kids. They are the future of the game. It's amazing how a scuffed up baseball can brighten their day. I've had kids come back and ask for my autograph before on the ball that I gave them. It just really makes their day. It becomes their next school show-and-tell object. I could give it to any hot-looking female and probably never see them again, or I could give it to a 30-something guy and see it on eBay the next day. (I know these are extremes) But the kids are the ones I target. Besides, it makes for better TV!!!! ;-) Now I will say that there is one exception to my policy. On Mother's Day, I make it a point to give the foul balls to the moms and grandmas in the stands. (Typical follow-up question: What about Father's Day? Who cares about them ... I give it to the kids) Moral of my story: NEVER FORGET YOUR MOTHER!!!!

It's interesting how you can be an integral part of some child's lasting memory of going to the ballgame by simply giving that child a foul ball. That would seem to make the job worthwhile just based on that fact...

Very satisfying to please a kid and be a part of their show-and-tell story. The kids are the future of this game. If a simple baseball can bring a kid back, or get them to watch games on TV, the sport will be around for generations to come. If they have a bad experience, parents might stop bringing their kids and then there might not be an interest in America's Pastime at all. I know that sounds extreme, but you never know. Baseball has to compete with basketball, football, hockey, and every other sport out there, most of which are fast-paced and high scoring. There aren't too many sports in which every 10-15 minutes or so you take a break, or the contest lasts 3+ hours, or there can be a delay of which a game might be canceled. I know you can point to hockey as being a potential evening of "boredom" with the possibility of a 1-0 score, but at least you have guys flying around on an ice surface and a lot of physical moments. You don't get that in baseball.

Aaron, thank you very much for your candid remarks over the course of this interview. I appreciate you taking the time to inform the fans about what life is like doing a job that most of us have never experienced. Being a field usher may seem simple, but it definitely has its complexities, which you have so aptly described. I feel assured knowing that we have an individual of such character and love of the game manning the right field line, giving baseballs to fans and protecting the players' security.

Ludwick, Glaus Lift Cards to 11-3 Win Over Padres

SAN DIEGO (AP) -It's hard to imagine things getting worse for the hapless San Diego Padres.

They did.

One day after reigning NL Cy Young winner Jake Peavy was placed on the disabled list, pitcher Chris Young and catcher Josh Bard sustained injuries that knocked them out of Wednesday night's 11-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Young and Bard were injured within a span of two batters in the third inning. Young had his nose broken and cut when Albert Pujols lined a shot off his face in the third inning that sent blood streaming down the front of his jersey. Bard sprained his left ankle on a play at the plate when Pujols slid into his leg.

"When I hit it, I thought it was going over his head," Pujols said. "But it hit him right in the face. "There was blood all over the place and I began to pray about it and make sure it was all right."

The Padres (17-31) are in last place in the NL West, have lost 12 of 17 games and have the worse record in the majors. But the last 48 hours have been especially tough.

First, general manager Kevin Towers called his club "bad" on Monday night after losing 8-2 to the Cardinals. Towers threatened wholesale changes.

Peavy was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday with a strained and swollen right elbow.

And now the Padres have lost Young, who had been the team's best pitcher, and Bard, their starting catcher.

"It's tough to lose two clubhouse leaders," said Adrian Gonzalez, who drove in all three Padres' runs. "We got beat up (in the score) and we got beat up."

Padres manager Bud Black said that Bard will be placed on the disabled list. Black said that Young will be re-evaluated to determine his immediate future.

The Cardinals got three RBIs apiece from Ryan Ludwick and Troy Glaus as they collected a season-high 16 hits for the second straight game. St. Louis won for the fourth time in five games.

But it was the scary sight of Young taking the line drive off Pujols' bat that was on the mind of many of the Cardinals.

"If he weren't so tall, the ball would have gone into center field," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said about the 6-foot-10 Young. "It was one of those freak things."

The ball hit by Pujols immediately knocked Young onto his backside as he put his right hand up to his face. Blood was running down his face.

"That's a scary one," Black said. "You see the amount of blood that came out of Chris' nose immediately. But he was conscious, he was talking and he had his senses about him. But it's still scary at the same time. It was a little frightening."

After a few minutes of sitting on the grass, Young walked off holding a bandage on his face with blood on the front of his jersey.

"It was a pretty tough night," Pujols said. "After that, I couldn't concentrate on my other at-bats. I kind of had flashbacks thinking about that at-bat."

Pujols' shot ricocheted to the left side of the infield for a single and loaded the bases with one out. After Cla Meredith replaced Young, Ludwick's grounder knocked in one run and advanced the runners. Glaus then lined a single to right to score Miles to put St. Louis up 3-2.

Brian Giles' throw arrived at the plate at the same time as Pujols, who slid and caught Bard's left leg. Bard went down and stayed on the ground for a few minutes before he was helped off the field, dragging his leg.

"It's a pretty tough night to take," Giles said. "It's frustrating to lose two guys like that who are so important to our team."

Ludwick had a two-run single in the fourth when St. Louis scored three times to make it 6-2.

Gonzalez hit a two-run homer off Braden Looper (6-3) in the first inning and added a run-scoring single in the fifth.

Skip Schumaker of the Cardinals tied his season high with four hits and reached on a walk, while pinch-hitter Rick Ankiel hit a two-run homer, his eighth, in the eighth off Justin Germano.

Aaron Miles had three hits and scored two runs for St. Louis.

Looper allowed three runs and eight hits in five innings. He struck out five and walked two.

Young (4-4) allowed three runs and four hits in 2 1-3 innings. ^


Ankiel's home run was his first as a pinch hitter. ... San Diego hitting coach Wally Joyner was ejected by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds in the sixth inning for arguing a strike call to Jody Gerut. ... Young had won three of his previous four starts.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

First 1/4 All Stars

By Chris Russell on Ryan Ludwick
The St. Louis Cardinals are just past the first quarter of the 2008 season and I’d be a fool if I didn’t say I was happy to see them sitting in 2nd place, 2 games back of the Chicago Cubs. Sure, the Birds hit a lull recently and the team does have some issues (stranded runners, no closer, inconsistent starting pitching to name a few), but thanks to a hot start and some gutsy comeback wins the team is still 6 games over .500 and within striking distance of the Cubbies. And keep in mind, this team is not built on a staff full of aces or a lineup full of superstars. Besides Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright, no one really expected much out of anyone else on the 25-man roster (outside of St. Louis anyway). The ‘08 Birds have found a way to win with what they have and turned a lost season into potential playoff run. From rebuilding to reborn, here are the first quarter Cardinal All Stars that got them there.

Ryan Ludwick

Not only is Luddy a Cardinal All Star, if this guy doesn’t get National League consideration there may be riots in the streets of downtown St. Louis. He’s not on the national radar yet, but if Ludwick keeps up his production he will be. Soon. He’s currently 2nd in the NL in OPS (1.153) and slugging % (.739), tied for 6th in homeruns (11) and 7th in batting average (.336). Those are not ordinary “4th outfielder” numbers. It looks as if Ludwick has earned an everyday spot in the lineup with his hot bat, yet for some reason there are still naysayers. Ryan Ludwick is not Craig Pauquette or So Taguchi. He is not in jeopardy of being overexposed. This guy was a 2nd round pick and a legitimate up and coming talent who suffered a couple unfortunate freak injuries. It’s only now that he’s getting a chance to prove that he’s been able to do it all along. Thank God Tony is on board.

Albert Pujols

No surprise here. King Albert is having one of his better starts to a season and he hasn’t even seen a decent pitch to hit yet. He leads the universe in walks and on base percentage, and when he does see the occasional pitch near the strike zone he’s hitting .357 with 9 homers and 29 RBI. Incredible numbers considering the amount he is pitched around. Even though Ludwick has superior statistics in a couple offensive categories, Albert is still the backbone of this team and perhaps the best hitter on the planet. Once pitchers start to respect Ludwick’s offensive ability, look for Albert’s numbers to skyrocket.

Adam Wainwright

He’s had a lot of pressure on him this season to step in and fill Chris Carpenter’s shoes, which by the way are bigger than Bozo the Clown’s, and Wainwright has delivered. The wins aren’t really there with only 3, but most of that can be pinned on Jason Isringhausen. (Don’t worry Adam, he’s gone now). He has left the game with the lead 4 times only to see his W slip away. 7-2 sounds a lot better than 3-2 doesn’t it? Even after getting beat up a bit in his last start, Wainwright still has a team leading ERA of 3.25 and WHIP of 1.13, and his strikeout to walk ratio is 41-14. Keep it up buddy. Those wins will sort themselves out as the season progresses.

Rick Ankiel

Yeah Ank is streaky and he doesn’t hit that well on the road, but this kid is just a flat out athlete. He’s one of 2 players ever to win 10 games as a pitcher and hit 10 homeruns as a position player. Maybe you’ve heard of the other guy: he built a house in the Bronx for the Yankees. Rick has good (not great) offensive numbers .285 AVG, .370 OBP, 7 long balls and 21 RBI, but it’s his defense that gets him on this list. You all remember the 2 throws he had in Colorado and the catch over the wall against Pittsburgh, but the guy is getting it done every day. He has incredible range, gets great jumps and takes perfect routes to the ball. No one is really missing new Cub Jim Edmonds, and that’s because of Rick’s gusty play in center.

Remeber me Cubs fans?Todd Wellemeyer

Who knew? The former Cub castoff was left for dead, but Dave Duncan saw potential. After being fairly successful as a swingman in 2007, Wellemeyer trained as a starter in the offseason and looks downright dominant this year. He currently has a 4-1 record with an ERA of 3.27, a WHIP of 1.13 and an opponents batting average of only .216. He also leads the team with 47 strikeouts and has allowed only 19 walks. And quite possibly the biggest feather in his cap, he has lasted at least 6 innings in 7 of his 9 starts. Not bad stamina for a converted reliever. The big blond righty, with a little more seasoning, could be a legitimate 2 or 3 starter in a good rotation.

Honorable Mention: Skip Schumaker

The Cards were desperately searching for a leadoff hitter and it appears they’ve found one. The Skipper has been more than serviceable in the 1-spot, hitting .286 with 2 bombs and 15 RBI. He’s getting on base at a .354 clip, leads the team in runs scored with 30 and has a penchant for coming through with the game on the line (3 walk off hits). Tack on a handful of stolen bases and he’s a pretty good lead off man. He’s young too, so we have every right to think the best is yet to come.

At 87, Stan still is The Man as Cards fans pay homage

By Rick Hummel

The Cardinals rallied Sunday for their second last-bat victory in two days. But, even if they had lost, it would have been a good day at Busch Stadium. Every day Stan Musial is at the park is a good day.

Musial, the greatest Cardinal of them all, was honored before the game on what was proclaimed "Stan Musial Day.'' Fans in attendance received a replica of the nine-foot statue on Musial Plaza, which is on the newly renamed Stan Musial Drive. Those same fans rose in standing tribute as the 87-year-old Man was wheeled around the ballpark in a cart, and his No. 6 had been carved into the center-field greenery.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa gets excited the few times he gets to see Musial every year.

"... Once you get to know him, he's just as great off the field" as he was on it, La Russa said. "That combination not only is to be admired and respected, it is to be loved.

"He's an unbelievable person. It's a disappointment that we don't see him more. He really lifts everybody's spirits when he comes around. And he's like (Hall of Famer) Red Schoendienst. When they see something, they say something."

Musial never stops talking about how fortunate he was to have played in St. Louis for his whole career. After making some brief remarks to that effect Sunday, Musial left the microphone, only to return to salute longtime teammate Schoendienst, who was sitting behind him, and another return to note that his bad knees were a result of his having run out too many triples (177).

Later, as Musial spoke exclusively to the Post-Dispatch, he talked about a litany of subjects. Of particular interest was the occasion of his 3,000th hit, which came 50 years ago last week in Chicago. It came on a double in a pinch-hitting appearance in the sixth inning of the last game of a trip as manager Fred Hutchinson refused to wait until the next night for Musial to get his 3,000th hit at home. The Cardinals were losing 3-1 at the time but scored four runs to go ahead.

Instead of adoring St. Louis fans saluting Musial after hit No. 3,000, fans throughout central and southern Illinois had a chance to honor him as the Cardinals' train ride home became akin to a political train whistle-stopping through the countryside. At one stop, Musial remembered coming to the platform and saying, "I see a lot of children here. Take the day off tomorrow (Friday) and don't go to school.'''

If Hutchinson had been more patient, Musial would have collected No. 3,000 almost immediately at home.

"The next night, the first time up, I hit a home run off Johnny Antonelli (of the San Francisco Giants)," Musial recalled.

Musial's memory was dead-on. He homered off the Giants' tough lefthander with two outs in the first inning for hit No. 3,001.

Often Musial is asked what he would hit if he played in these times. After some consideration Sunday, he said, "I guess I'd hit above my average, which was .331. I'd be making a lot of money."

Musial was assisted out of the cart and to the microphone and back to his seat during the ceremony. But there was one move he made that required no help. Musial offered up one more time one of the most famous swings in history, the one you might have seen and maybe the one your father might have seen. As always, he never lost his balance. Grown men smiled.

These days, Musial said he watched all the Cardinals games, because he likes baseball and, he added, "There's nothing else on TV."

The statue of Musial placed outside the previous Busch Stadium in 1968 — the fans had that replica Sunday — never was particularly a favorite of his.

"I would have had them change the face, the legs were too thick and they didn't have my stance," he said.

But, over the years, he has grown accustomed to it. And four other smaller statues of Musial have been made.

"There's one down in Springfield, Ill., and one in Springfield, Mo., and there's one here in St. Louis," he said.

Then Musial laughed that playful "tee-hee-hee" laugh and said, "I've got more statues than Lincoln."

The day could come, maybe 10 years from now, when Musial might have to share the torch with Albert Pujols, the modern-day equivalent of Musial. Asked if Pujols, an avowed fan of Musial's career, could break his records, Musial said, "He has a chance to. He loves baseball, he's a good first baseman. ... You know the first time I saw Albert Pujols? He gave me a big hug and kissed me on the forehead."

Not many players have a nine-foot statue and a plaza and street named after them. When it was suggested that Musial shouldn't drive too fast now on his own street, Cardinals vice chairman Fred Hanser smiled and said, softly, "Oh, yes, he can."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Schumaker's walk-off hit lifts Cards

Lohse solid, offense comes back late against Rays in finale
ST. LOUIS -- For the Cardinals' fans who packed Busch Stadium on a sun-splashed Sunday afternoon, it was a day that started with a thrill and ended similarly.

From Stan Musial to Skip Schumaker, it was a good day to be a Cardinals fan.

A moving pregame tribute to the 87-year-old Musial set an inspiring tone for the day, and Schumaker brought down the curtain three hours later with a walk-off double in the ninth to give St. Louis a 5-4 victory over Tampa Bay heading into a week-long West Coast road trip.

tag Manager Tony La Russa didn't deliver a "win one for Stan" speech to his club, but he wanted to make sure the Cardinals played good fundamental baseball and competed in a manner that the St. Louis icon would enjoy.

The effort and overall execution were there, and the comeback victory made for a perfect ending to Stan Musial Day. Trailing, 4-2, going to the bottom of the eighth, the Cardinals used a two-run single by Interleague Play stalwart Aaron Miles to tie the game. Rookie reliever Chris Perez came through with a clean ninth to set the stage for Schumaker to produce the game-winning hit.

After Jason LaRue led off the ninth by drawing the 10th St. Louis walk of the game, Cesar Izturis beat out an infield roller down the third-base line. Schumaker went the opposite way against Tampa Bay reliever Gary Glover with a drive to left that just cleared the glove of fleet-footed left fielder Carl Crawford.

It was the second walk-off hit and fifth game-winning RBI of the season for Schumaker.

"You get it up in the air against these guys, Crawford and [B.J.] Upton, and they are going to run it down," Schumaker said. "You can never underestimate their speed out there. I just put my head down and ran. I was trying to listen to the fans, hoping they were going to yell."

The noise indeed told Schumaker that the ball had eluded Crawford and given St. Louis a walk-off win for the second consecutive game.

The wins aren't coming easily, but the Cardinals are now 26-20 after shaking off a 2-8 stretch through Friday's loss to the Rays.

"I think we're all grinders," Schumaker said.

Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse got through six innings on just 78 pitches, but the Cardinals trailed, 3-0, early and Lohse was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the sixth as St. Louis scrambled for offense.

"I think he handled himself really well," La Russa said. "There were a couple of first-pitch hits, and that was their [offense]. He was ready to keep going, but at that point, we were running out of outs."

There had been some questions raised about Lohse's throwing shoulder early in the week, but Lohse allowed just two earned runs on eight hits, while fanning a season-high five.

"I felt strong out there," Lohse said. "Those guys are swinging it. They are putting the ball in play and finding holes. You tip your hat to them, but we did a good job of battling and coming out on top."

The biggest difference between the two teams was control. While Tampa Bay pitchers were nibbling, walking 10 on the day, St. Louis' pitchers didn't allow a single walk. The Cardinals did suffer one glitch, when LaRue's throwing error allowed the Rays' third run to score, but they had to earn just about everything else they got.

St. Louis finally picked it up on offense in the seventh, when Ryan Ludwick homered off Rays reliever Dan Wheeler. Ludwick has hit three homers in his past two games, and a club-high 11 on the season. Albert Pujols went 3-for-5, and picked up his 1,400th career hit in the fifth inning.

"It's a good sign of our toughness," La Russa said of the consecutive walk-off wins to end a 3-3 homestand.

The clutch hit by Schumaker enabled to Perez to notch his first Major League victory, capping a memorable day for Perez in which he earlier had a chance to meet Musial coming off the field.

"I think we had Stan on our minds the whole game," La Russa said.

In the end, Musial had something big to cheer about, just like all the other Cardinal fans.

Stan Musial Day

Today is Stan Musial Day. The team has some dedications and tributes planned for today down at the ballpark for the greatest Cardinal of all time. Derrick Goold has the scoop.

In his career, Stan “The Man” hit .331, with 475 home runs and 3630 hits. He’s one of the greatest players to ever play the game. View all of his stats here.

I found a couple of videos about Musial. He’s featured in the first half of this clip from Ken Burns’ Baseball. Enjoy!

Inside the Numbers - Innings Pitched

One thing that stood out in the Cardinals’ extra innings win yesterday was the performance of starting pitcher Adam Wainwright. He clearly didn’t have his best stuff, and lasted only 5.2 innings, his shortest outing of the season. Recall, in his previous start on May 12th in Milwaukee, he made it through 6. Both of those starts weren’t typical for the Cardinals’ ace.

This got me thinking about the bullpen. Any time the starters can’t go deep into games, it puts additional stress on the pen, forcing them to get nine or more outs, night after night. We all know how things turn out when the relievers are overworked.

So, now that the Cards have gone through the rotation nine times, I decided to take a closer look at the starters’ innings pitched. Here they are, listed with the number of innings in each of their starts:

Adam Wainwright 8, 7, 7.2, 7, 9, 6.1, 7, 6, 5.2
Kyle Lohse 5, 7, 5.1, 7, 4, 6, 6, 4, 7
Todd Wellemeyer 5, 7, 6, 7, 6, 6, 5, 6, 7
Braden Looper 6, 5.2, 5, 3, 7, 6, 8.1, 6, 6
Joel Pineiro 3.2, 6.1, 7, 7, 3, 6.1, 5
Brad Thompson 6.2, 4

[Note: I excluded Thompson’s innings in relief.]

That yields the following inning totals and averages per start:

Wainwright 63.2, 7.07
Lohse 51.1, 5.70
Wellemeyer 55, 6.11
Looper 53, 5.89
Pineiro 38.1, 5.48
Thompson 10.2, 5.33

In 45 games to this point, the starters pitched 272 innings with an ERA of 3.90. I was curious to find out how they stacked up against the rest of the league. The Cardinals lead the NL in innings pitched by a starter, but they’ve also played more games than any other team as well.

So if we look at just the average number of innings per start, as a staff, the Cardinals sit at 6.04. Here are the numbers from the rest of the league:

St. Louis 6.04
Philadelphia 5.93
Arizona 5.90
San Diego 5.90
New York 5.83
Milwaukee 5.82
Cincinnati 5.74
Chicago 5.71
Houston 5.63
Colorado 5.62
Washington 5.57
San Francisco 5.55
Pittsburgh 5.51
Atlanta 5.48
Florida 5.46
Los Angeles 5.40

To my surprise, the Cardinals ranked at the top of the league. I watch the games every day, and I guess it’s easy to remember all of the shorter outings. I know the Cards’ starters began the year hot, but seemed to have come back down to Earth lately. When I think of the different starting staffs around the league, I don’t associate the Cardinals’ with the better ones.

While we may have been anxiously awaiting the mending pitchers when the season began, the current staff is making it tough to think about the others. It will be interesting to see how they’ll hold up over the long haul.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ludwick's two taters lift Cards

Outfielder's walk-off homer secures extra-innings win vs. Rays
ST. LOUIS -- Ryan Ludwick hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th and the Cardinals beat the Rays, 9-8, at Busch Stadium on Saturday.

Up 8-4 in the top of the seventh, the Cardinals' bullpen unraveled and nearly spoiled the team's second-largest offensive output of the year. Carlos Pena hit a three-run home run and Evan Longoria added a sacrifice fly in the eighth to tie the game. But Ludwick came through to give the Cardinals just their third win in the past 11 games.

With a struggling Adam Wainwright on the mound, Tampa Bay took the early advantage. The Rays scored three runs in the first two innings and forced Wainwright to eclipse the 60-pitch mark in the third.

But the Cardinals chipped away at the lead, scoring two runs in the first, one in the fourth and four runs in the fifth to take a 7-3 lead.

Albert Pujols and Ludwick added homers in the fourth and sixth innings, respectively.

Cardinals are at wits' end with Reyes

MILWAUKEE — The Cardinals and Anthony Reyes are headed toward divorce. All that remains is whether the split will be amicable or contentious.

The reason should be obvious by now: Irreconcilable differences.

Reyes is again on tour with the Class AAA Memphis Redbirds. It's the fourth consecutive season Reyes has put in time at AutoZone Park, and at least the third of those years when questions about his viability as a starting pitcher for this franchise have festered.

This year, however, the club appears firmer than ever in its stance: If Reyes enjoys success as a major-league pitcher it will likely occur elsewhere.

Last Sunday's demotion of Reyes to Memphis exhausted the righthander's final option. The Cardinals can send him on the I-55 shuttle as often as they like this summer but next year must pass him through waivers and outright him off the 40-man roster in order to send him back down.

Manager Tony La Russa explained a bullpen crisis necessitated the May 4 move, which swapped Reyes for Mike Parisi. True, Reyes would not have been available to pitch behind starter Joel Pineiro if Pineiro experienced a recurrence of back spasms Monday night in Colorado. However, the larger truth is that Parisi proved more impressive to pitching coach Dave Duncan in spring training.

Reyes, it should be remembered, broke camp with the major-league club only at general manager John Mozeliak's insistence.

Duncan had earlier voiced skepticism about Reyes' fitness for relief because of the elaborate set of exercises the pitcher performs before throwing. La Russa said it is the front office's prerogative to influence the roster but it is the manager who dictates face time.

"When spring training broke, we were very excited about what he was showing out of the bullpen," Mozeliak said. "His performance started becoming more inconsistent. We wanted to give him regular work to get him back to where he once was."

When optioned, Reyes had made nine appearances in relief and saved a game. Irregular use eventually hurt a pitcher with five professional relief outings prior to this season.

Reyes is 23-10 with a 3.23 ERA in 62 career minor-league starts. He is 9-24 with a 5.40 ERA in 52 major-league appearances. The splits reflects Reyes' hot-and-cold career within an organization that gave him the ball in Game 1 of the 2006 World Series but rarely has trusted him since.

Reyes is most comfortable throwing a four-seam fastball while pitching up and away from contact. It is no secret Duncan prefers a two-seam approach, pitching down with a desire for ground balls early in counts.

When Reyes reclaimed several miles per hour on his fastball last month, closer Jason Isringhausen suggested he was better-suited for relief duty than starting. "He's got less things to think about," Isringhausen said.

There are those both inside and outside the Cardinals organization who believe Reyes is hindered by looking over his shoulder whenever he pitches. Reyes is not demonstrative. He is regarded as a diligent worker who has never shorted himself or the club. He also carries a stubborn streak and sometimes refers to his pitching style as "my way." Reyes has never challenged La Russa or Duncan. But friends perceive the constant shuffling, philosophical differences and shifting roles as eroding his trust.

Duncan speaks warily of "outside help" Reyes or his agent, Scott Boras, may have enlisted. Reyes noted his father's influence on him returning to a more natural pitching style last winter, but the club believes it sees pitching guru Tom House's fingerprints.

Reyes' availability for trade ranks as one of the game's worst-kept secrets, though Mozeliak insists he remains "hesitant" to finalize a deal given the rotation's uncertain depth as Mark Mulder and Matt Clement rehabilitate from shoulder surgeries.

Other clubs believe the point moot for now, since Mozeliak's asking price of at least one top prospect does not square with Reyes' value to the other 29 organizations.

"We have no interest in giving Anthony Reyes away," Mozeliak insisted during the team's last home stand.

The Cardinals now envision him as "insurance" should the current rotation experience a breakdown before Mulder (or Clement, or Chris Carpenter) returns. Other clubs, meanwhile, see a pitcher blocked by the Cardinals' current rotation, three injured starters and, at one point, Brad Thompson. If Parisi indeed enjoys higher standing, that makes Reyes the organization's No. 11 starter.

That doesn't sound like a pitcher with a future with his current club or a price tag that should command a windfall from another.

It does sound like a pitcher ready to become another organization's success or tease.

Pitcher of frustration: Izzy injured slugging TV

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Jason Isringhausen pitched three times after cutting his pitching hand, apparently from striking a television in frustration, before the St. Louis Cardinals placed their bedraggled closer on the 15-day disabled list.

The team admitted on Friday that the injury made for an easier decision about what to do with Isringhausen, their ninth-inning specialist since 2001 but with six blown saves in 17 chances and an 8.00 ERA. The move came a day after Isringhausen gave up a three-run, go-ahead home run to Jason Bay in the eighth inning of an 11-5 loss to the Pirates, although Isringhausen worked a pair of scoreless innings earlier in the week.

"You know what? He's not effective right now, so something's bothering him," general manager John Mozeliak said. "I think medically right now, that's part of it.

"Are there other aspects that are affecting him as well? I'm sure there are."

Manager Tony La Russa characterized the cut as an "aggravation" for the 35-year-old Isringhausen, who was not at Busch Stadium after requesting an examination by a team physician earlier in the day.

"It was irritating when he threw and it got infected," La Russa said. "It's not his biggest issue, but it probably would have shut him down for a few days."

Isringhausen was 32-for-34 in save opportunities last year, a season after he missed the team's World Series run because of hip surgery. He's been stuck on 292 career saves since May 5, absorbing three losses and three blown saves in his last five outings, and lasted only one-third of an inning on Thursday.

Isringhausen and La Russa have said repeatedly that the pitcher's problems are not physical, but now say they've been referring to the hip. That also was checked out during the exam, and Mozeliak reiterated that the hip was not a concern.

The team purchased the contract of rookie right-hander Chris Perez, the closer at Triple-A Memphis, and transferred right-handed reliever Josh Kinney from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list. Kinney is recovering from elbow surgery.

The 22-year-old Perez is 1-1 with eight saves and a 2.04 ERA in 18 games in the minors, with 22 strikeouts and nine walks in 17 2-3 innings. He'll likely be used as one of a group of setup men for stand-in closer Ryan Franklin, who had two saves in four chances entering Friday night's interleague game against the Rays.

Perez was close to getting called up after Isringhausen's self-inflicted wound last weekend, purchasing a ticket to Milwaukee where the Cardinals were playing, before Isringhausen assured the team he would be able to pitch. Mozeliak said the cut on Isringhausen's hand has gotten worse since then.

Perez found out he would be making his major league debut during batting practice Thursday night while with Memphis, and was held out of that game. When manager Chris Maloney gave him the news, Perez said, "I looked at him twice and said 'Are you sure this time?"'

Perez' numbers reinforced a positive impact made in spring training, when he was 1-0 with a 4.22 ERA in nine games with 10 strikeouts in 10 2-3 innings. He last pitched Tuesday.

"I put as much stock in how he handled himself in spring training, when he knew he was being looked at closely," La Russa said. "He didn't faint."

Assurances from Kyle Lohse, who skipped his bullpen session on Thursday due to tightness in the back of his shoulder, that he'll be able to make his start on Sunday should provide further relief for the staff. One of the reasons La Russa was forced to use Isringhausen in a one-run game was that he was holding rookie right-hander Mike Parisi in case Lohse couldn't go.

Lohse was surprised by the level of concern, saying it was something pitchers deal with.

"You're going to have little things come up and I've never missed a start due to injury and never been on the DL," Lohse said. "I think the track record kind of speaks for itself that I'll be ready on my day."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Izzy's struggles continue in loss to Bucs

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa insists that the ninth inning is a different animal for a reliever. For La Russa, protecting a tight lead for the final three outs is a much higher mountain to climb than doing the same thing in the eighth.

He put his closer where his mouth is on Thursday, and it didn't work out. Jason Isringhausen found holding onto a one-run lead in the eighth to be just as trying as collecting a save. Isringhausen was charged with four runs, three earned, and his sixth blown save of the year in an 11-5 loss to the Pirates.

Now the right-hander is left wondering not only how to get right, but what his future holds.

"I don't know what we're going to do," Isringhausen said. "I wish I could say that I was hurt, that my arm was falling off or that I couldn't land. But I can't do that. The people that are standing there at home plate tell you what the end result should be. I'm not getting any swings-and-misses, so that's saying something about my stuff. I feel healthy, but maybe my healthy is not good enough."

Not that Isringhausen was alone in contributing to the demoralizing defeat. Handed a 5-1 lead, Joel Pineiro allowed the Buccos to crawl back into the game with a three-run fifth. Ron Villone allowed three runs of his own in the ninth, turning a significant deficit into an insurmountable one. And the Cardinals' offense went to sleep after a big fourth, with three base hits and no runs over the final five frames.

But the player who drew the most postgame attention from reporters, as well as the ire of an announced crowd of 41,244, was Isringhausen. The deposed closer saw a modest two-game scoreless streak end as his ERA ballooned to a season-high 8.00.

The Cardinals had removed Isringhausen from ninth-inning duties, preferring to use him in lower-pressure, lower-leverage situations. He pitched with a large deficit on Monday, in his first game after being demoted. On Wednesday, Isringhausen protected a four-run lead in the ninth.

That was evidently enough to convince La Russa that Isringhausen was very close to being his old self, because the manager called on his horse in a tight situation. Pitching less than 18 hours after his previous appearance, Isringhausen was summoned to protect a 5-4 lead in the top of the eighth.

"I knew kind of what the program was going to be," Isringhausen said. "Get a few innings in non-save situations, then try to ease my way back into it. So this was the perfect one. After a couple scoreless, put me in a game like this. And I just proved to them that it's not going to work."

La Russa explained that while it might have been his preference to keep Isringhausen out of such a situation, he felt he had few options. Russ Springer was unavailable after pitching two days in a row. Kyle McClellan had already pitched earlier in the game. Ryan Franklin is serving as the closer while Isringhausen tries to get right. And Mike Parisi is being held out until Sunday, if possible, because a sore shoulder could cause Kyle Lohse to skip a start.

That left Isringhausen.

"If we're playing games with a chance to win, the guys in the bullpen are all important," La Russa said. "If you're playing games that get away from you, it's different. You can only do so much not to use Izzy in a situation."

The manager pointed out that if Pineiro had not come unraveled, it likely would have been a different game. With a low pitch count and a good game going in the fifth, Pineiro permitted three runs on four hits and a walk, and he was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the bottom half of the frame. If Pineiro lasts six or seven innings, Isringhausen likely doesn't have to pitch.

Isringhausen's command was clearly off from the start, as he issued a four-pitch walk to Doug Mientkiewicz to open the eighth. He got ahead of Ronny Paulino, 1-2, but Paulino lined a single into left field to put the go-ahead run on base.

The turning point of the inning likely came with the next batter. Chris Gomez attempted to bunt the runners over, and Isringhausen fielded the ball with a chance to retire the lead runner. However, his throw sailed wide of Troy Glaus at third base, sending Mientkiewicz home, Paulino to third and Gomez to second base.

Four pitches later, Jason Bay crushed a three-run pinch-homer to send Pittsburgh to victory.

"They give me a freebie, and I still don't make an out," Isringhausen said. "That's just one of those things where if it can go wrong, it does go wrong. You just try to regroup and make a better pitch. Make a decent pitch, but it still gets hit out. If anybody has any answers, go ahead and give them to me."

It's unclear what options the Cardinals have with Isringhausen, other than simply to avoid using him for a while. He is adamant in his assertion that he is healthy, so he almost certainly can't be placed on the disabled list. For a 13-year Major League veteran, a stint in the Minor Leagues would be quite complicated -- though Isringhausen admitted that if the possibility were broached, he might be open to it.

"I'm sure I'll either get a phone call tonight at home, or I'll meet with everybody tomorrow," Isringhausen said. "It's just the way it's worked in the past. Not with me, but with people that have been [playing poorly]. I never thought this day would come, but it's here."

And So It Begins

By Cardinal 70

Bernie has put it quite succinctly:

Izzy on DL with a hand injury. Perez is here and available tonight.

And so the Chris Perez era begins. It'll be interesting to compare and contrast how he is handled vs. how Kyle McClellan was treated when he made the team. McClellan was quickly put into tough situations and, for the most part, handled them well. I don't expect they have Perez up just to be a mopup guy. He won't be the closer, but it'll be interesting to see if he comes into a one-run game in the seventh or eighth right off the bat.

With McClellan, Mike Parisi and now Perez, it's almost looking like the kiddie corp of the 2006 postseason. Hopefully they'll be just as effective!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wellemeyer mystifies Bucs

Cards even series behind righty's fourth victory
ST. LOUIS -- Todd Wellemeyer pitched a gem Wednesday night, giving up two hits over seven-plus innings, and the Cardinals beat the Pirates, 5-1.

Wellemeyer overcame a high pitch count in the first couple of innings and cruised the rest of the way to end the Cardinals' three-game losing streak. His 108 pitches set a new career high, and seven innings equaled a career high.

Cesar Izturis rolled into a force at second in the bottom of the second inning, but the play scored Troy Glaus from third, and the Cardinals took a lead they never relinquished. Glaus added an RBI double off Bucs starter Paul Maholm in the third, and two sacrifice flies in the sixth gave the Cardinals a commanding 4-0 lead.

Center fielder Rick Ankiel pulled down a theatrical grab to rob Adam LaRoche of a home run in the top of the second inning. Ankiel's body twisted while he collided with the outfield wall as he extended his glove above it to make the catch.

The Magic Word

By Chris Russell on Yadier Molina
Umpires take a lot of grief from ball players, and vice verse. There is a laundry list of nasty, spiteful remarks that both parties will put up with (umpires especially), but it is known in tight baseball circles that there is one word that crosses the line. One word that you do not use… a particularly nasty word that umpires will not stand for. There is almost a myth surrounding it now, as it has been leaked to the media over the years, but it appears to hold water. On the occasional broadcast, you can read a player’s lips and know that he’s about to get tossed for dropping a verbal atom bomb. Yadier Molina most likely used this word on Monday.

In a heated argument over balls and strikes with home plate umpire, Paul Schrieber, Molina must have uttered “the ejection expletive” because he was bounced almost instantly. Yadi, not known for being a hot head, and well respected around the league for his poise and discipline behind the plate, must have spit out this no-no word to get booted so quickly. Once tossed, he got his money’s worth by calling Schrieber every name in the book, tearing off his catching equipment and tossing it in the ump’s general direction. Manager Tony LaRussa came out in Yadi’s defense and was ejected shortly after. Could Tony have dropped the bomb as well?

It’s very possible, as Tony is prone to ejection, and since he is a lawyer as well as a big league skipper we’ll assume he has quite the verbose vernacular. Regardless, he and Yadi were both tossed and the Cards lost the game 8-3. Not a banner day for the Redbirds, but quite a display of potty-mouthing.

Dennis Nedry knows all about the magic word.Major League Baseball is investigating the incident to see if Yadi will be fined, suspended or both. If the latter comes to fruition the Cardinals could be in for an even bumper ride down the road (already losers of 6 of their last 7). Back up Jason LaRue, well, sucks, and he’s playing hurt on top of that fact that he only had 3 hits all season while healthy.

Everyone gets frustrated, and Yadi was only trying to protect his ace (Adam Wainwright was on the mound), but in future circumstances he should refrain from using that one… specific… word. It’s not like the Birds have Victor Martinez or Russell Martin pining for playing time when Yadi gets tossed. Now the Cardinals play the waiting game and see if their talented young catcher will miss any significant time for saying “the word.”

By the way, that word, allegedly… is c***sucker.

Cards drop opener to Bucs in extras

Homers by Glaus, Pujols not enough; Villone falters in 10th
ST. LOUIS -- After an April in which the Cardinals often scored just enough runs to win, for much of May the Redbirds have been allowing just enough runs to lose.

The Cards' offensive slump continued in an 8-4, 10-inning loss to the Pirates on Tuesday night as they could never mount an offensive push against a string of pitchers that included a starter with an 8.01 career ERA and a reliever making his Major League debut. St. Louis has lost six out of seven, scoring 24 runs in that span.

Since April 27, the Cardinals are 8-0 when they score at least five runs and 0-8 when they score four or fewer.

"That's the way the season goes," said manager Tony La Russa. "Sometimes you score, sometimes you don't score. We've scored enough to win if we had pitched a little better, and we didn't score enough to win according to what the score was.

"But there's no doubt that offensively, we can get hotter. And I expect to."

Lefty Phil Dumatrait, he of the ERA that doubles as Salt Lake City's area code, stifled the Cardinals through six innings on Tuesday. Dumatrait allowed two runners in the first inning, but neither Ryan Ludwick nor Troy Glaus could drive in a run to get the home team on the board. That was the last chance St. Louis would have until the sixth, as Dumatrait permitted just one baserunner from the second through the fifth.

By that time, Kyle Lohse had allowed a two-run homer to Nate McLouth, and the Cards faced a deficit. But Glaus' three-run homer, his second long ball of the year, put the home team ahead and gave Lohse a chance to be the winning pitcher.

The lead, however, was extremely brief. Jason Bay and Ronny Paulino hit consecutive doubles to tie the game, and Jose Bautista stroked a go-ahead single.

"I made a couple pitches that, I went backed and looked on film, and they're both on the corners, just up," Lohse said. "To tell you the truth, I don't know how Paulino did what he did with that pitch. It was inside, just below the belt, on the black. I don't know how you drive it the other way like that. It's a good piece of hitting. Nine times out of 10, the guy is going to pop the ball up."

Albert Pujols' solo homer in the eighth tied the game, but the Cardinals couldn't add on. John Grabow retired Yadier Molina with two men on to end the eighth, straddling the Cardinals with their fifth and sixth stranded baserunners.

The Cardinals missed an exceptional chance to score in the ninth against Marino Salas, who was making his Major League debut. Salas walked the bases loaded (one intentionally), but Ludwick popped up on the first pitch to end the threat.

"I got the exact pitch I was looking for," Ludwick said. "The ball was right down the middle of the plate. You couldn't ask for a better pitch. I just didn't stay on top of it. Hit it straight up in the air. I just didn't get it done this time."

Given extra life, the Pirates took advantage. Freddy Sanchez hit a leadoff single against Ron Villone, and the inning eroded for Villone after that. A sacrifice bunt put Sanchez in scoring position, so Villone walked Bay intentionally. But Paulino struck again with an RBI single, and after another walk, Adam LaRoche drilled a three-run double for plenty of insurance.

Matt Capps retired the Cardinals 1-2-3 in the 10th, sending St. Louis to its sixth loss in seven games. The Cardinals are batting .258 with a .349 on-base percentage and a .401 slugging percentage in May, all down from their April averages. They're scoring 4.08 runs per game for the month, the third-lowest mark in the National League.

"It would be nice for all of us to get clicking at once," Ludwick said. "We've been playing good baseball this year. We've been grinding out wins and playing a hard nine, but we really haven't had that game where seven, eight guys in the lineup are all busting out at once. It would be nice to put a 15-spot up there one time. It's going to happen. It's just a matter of when."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Off night for Wainwright tough for Cards

Molina, La Russa ejected as St. Louis falls to Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- Even when Adam Wainwright felt he hit the corners, it was bad news for the Cardinals.

Wainwright was way off other times, leaving pitches over the plate for Brewers slugger Ryan Braun, who cranked two home runs in the second straight game, an 8-3 loss for the Cardinals on Monday night in which both Yadier Molina and Tony La Russa were ejected.

Wainwright fell for the first time in six starts, and the Cardinals, who have dropped five of six after reaching 10 games over .500 on May 6, fell out of first place in the National League Central for the first time since April 28 because the Cubs beat the Padres.

Wainwright (3-2) said he repeatedly threw the ball to the wrong spot.

"It was painful, because I had decent stuff; I just wasn't locating," Wainwright said. "Most of the time, I was trying to go in on guys -- I didn't get the ball in. A lot of times, I tried to sink the ball in or off the plate. I'm throwing it down the middle time and time again."

Wainwright and Molina, his catcher, felt a couple of pitches in Milwaukee's five-run third inning -- one to Prince Fielder, another to Corey Hart -- caught a corner of the plate but were not called strikes. Molina complained twice, and he earned a quick ejection from home-plate umpire Paul Schrieber.

After he got the heave-ho, with La Russa still arguing with the umpire, Molina removed all of his catcher's gear and tossed it at Schrieber's feet.

"I didn't say anything bad to him," Molina said. "I respect every umpire in the league. I just had to ask him where it was, the pitch, and he didn't like the way I asked him. And he threw me out."

La Russa said he went out to save Molina from being thrown out.

"I thought it was really unfair," La Russa said. "Yadier's got a reputation for being as respectful and as professional as any catcher out there. You complain a little bit, and you get some extra slack and he's one of those guys. He complained twice. I thought that was surprising and not what he deserved."

La Russa did not think a fine or suspension would be appropriate.

"I don't think he insulted" Schrieber, La Russa said.

Molina had no comment about his equipment removal, but Wainwright got some comic relief from it.

"That was awesome," Wainwright said. "If you're going to get tossed, you might as well make it a good one."

Wainwright said Schrieber gave Molina a quick hook, but he did not blame the umpire for not giving him the corner.

"You really can't fault him," Wainwright said. "They're two tough pitches, two of the only pitches I threw on the corner all night. He wasn't used to seeing them."

The Brewers, at that point, led, 2-1, on Braun's first homer and an RBI double by Mike Cameron. Wainwright -- now with Jason LaRue catching -- fell behind Hart, who hit a two-run double with two outs.

"If I get Hart right there, it's a 2-1 ballgame and it's a completely different game," Wainwright said. "We probably are going to have a chance to win the game, if I make a couple good pitches to Hart. I threw a backup slider right down the middle."

Bill Hall's fly ball to short right field was dropped by second baseman Adam Kennedy, who made two lunges at the ball, which slipped out of his glove twice and hit the ground. Two more runs scored on the error, making it 6-1.

Braun -- who went 9-for-16 in the series and is 16-for-33 with eight RBIs against the Cardinals this season -- also went deep in fifth against Wainwright, who had not allowed more than four runs in any of his previous seven starts.

Wainwright (3-2) came in fourth in the National League in ERA, but he allowed eight runs -- six earned -- and eight hits and a walk over six innings.

"He just had a rough night," La Russa said. "Usually, one of his strengths is making a pitch, and he had trouble making a pitch. He got penalized. But, you know, we didn't score. If we're having a good offensive day, we can pick him up. We didn't do either."

The Cardinals rested Albert Pujols, who reached base in each of the team's first 39 -- the longest such streak in the Majors in nine seasons -- replacing him with Chris Duncan.

Rick Ankiel's solo home run in the first against Dave Bush (1-4) got the Cards on the board.

St. Louis brought the potential tying run to the on-deck circle in the ninth, but Ankiel struck out against Guillermo Mota, the Brewers' closer of the moment with Eric Gagne in middle relief.

Never Put A Pencil In A Baby’s Soft Spot

By Chris Russell on Jason Isringhausen
This sound advice was given to me by my mother at age 3. I had just been informed that I was going to have a new baby brother and it was very important that I not perform the horribly detrimental act mentioned above. I learned that this was just one of the many things in life a person should not do. Although a bit creepier and more sadistic, it goes along with not tugging on Superman’s cape, not spitting into the wind, not pulling the mask off of the Lone Ranger and (most recently added to the list) not giving the ball to Jason Isringhausen in the 9th inning.

Let me first say that I have always been a huge Izzy supporter. In 2002 I watched him mow down the heart of a very dangerous Astros lineup with a 9-pitch, 3-strikeout 9th inning to win a nailbiter 2-1. Ever since that game I was hooked. That’s why it pains me so much now to say that Izzy needs to be benched with the game on the line. He has been given “some time off” from the closer role, but the guy makes too much money (almost $9 million a year) for ownership to just let him sit like a bump on a log. Rest assured Bill DeWitt will try and get his money’s worth and slide Izzy back into his old job. And frankly, in a tight division race, the Cardinals can’t afford for that to happen.

After coming on like gangbusters to start the season, 5 for 5 in save chances with a 0.00 ERA, Izzy hit a brick wall… and crumbled. He blew 5 of his next 11 save opportunities and saw his record slip to 1-4 and his ERA balloon to 7.47. Yes this has been the season of the blown save across Major League baseball, but the Birds can ill afford to be lumped in with the teams that trot known chokers to the mound in the 9th inning (Eric Gagne, Joe Borowski, Kerry Wood to name a few). The situation must be remedied or the Cards’ biggest strength last year will become their most glaring weakness in the blink of an eye. Minor league phenom Chris Perez is an option, or the team can go with a closer by committee experiment, mixing and matching Ryan Franklin, Russ Springer, Kyle McClellan and lefty Randy Flores. The latter is the most likely option, at least until they find out what the hell is wrong with Izzy. Which, by the way could be one of 2 things:

Izzy done?1. Izzy is done. He’s a washed up dead-arm that just can’t cut it in the big leagues anymore. This is highly unlikely due to the incredible season he had last year. It’s rare for a pitcher to perform at that level and then 6 months later just stink to high heaven for lack of a better reason than he’s a year older.

2. Izzy is hurt. He has had an injury riddled career, but one thing has always shown through: When Izzy is healthy, he is effective. The only times in his career when he has not been able to get the job done at a high level of efficiency is when he is pitching hurt. Izzy gets a bad rap as a heart attack closer who lets too many runners on, but that is solely based on fans’ memories of seasons when he was pitching with a bum hip, shoulder, elbow, what have you; and couldn’t use his best stuff to keep runners off base as a result of it. In healthy seasons with the Cardinals his WHIP has been .980, 1.035, 1.186, and 1.071. In seasons where he was hurt his WHIP was 1.167, 1.457 and 1.723. A noticeable difference.

Option 2 is obviously the more likely scenario, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Cardinals can no longer send Izzy to the mound in the 9th inning. If he is in fact hurt, put him on the DL, get him healthy and bring him back when he’s good and ready. The team can deal in the mean time. Bringing him back now, well… that would be as dangerous as putting a pencil in a baby’s soft spot.

Not So Fast Milwaukee: LaRussa’s Genius Still Revealing Itself

In what can only be described as his most brilliant regular season mind-trick ever, Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa exhibited uncanny genius by pulling Albert Pujols from the lineup, allowing his best starter to get torched by the Brewers, and inciting his beloved Yadier Molina to get himself tossed and then publicly undressed after arguing balls and strikes, while catching, during the middle of the game. In a final stroke of mastery, he then got himself ejected and permitted the Brewers to win the game. The Brewers, while celebrating the fact that they snapped their losing streak by taking three of four from the now-former division leaders, have no idea how completely and utterly manipulated they have been.

“Leadership is, among other things, the ability to inflict pain and get away with it - short-term pain for long-term gain,” said self-appointed baseball sage George Will, attempting to put the Cardinals’ Monday night “loss” into proper perspective. “LaRussa will reveal to us, only when he is ready, his reasons for conceding tonight’s contest to Milwaukee.” “This is akin to General Grant’s capture of Fort Donelson in 1861; i’s full import will not be understood by casual observers for years, if not decades,” Will added.

LaRussa permitted struggling Brewers starter Dave Bush to pitch six innings and allow only one run, permitted the struggling Brewers offense to score eight runs, and also permitted young Brewers slugger Ryan Braun to hit four home runs in the last two days, apparently because this will give rise to a strategic advantage to St. Louis at some subsequent, more important point in the season.

“The casual fan might think this was a huge, confidence boosting win for the Brewers that put them back at .500 and back in the middle of the NL Central race,” said longtime Brewers fan John Tokarz, “But those of us who have played the game know better. LaRussa just set us up for a big fall.” “Just wait, he’ll pull a double switch against Bush in the second inning late in the season, and we’ll lose like ten in a row,” he added. “We’re completely f***ed now.”