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Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Perfect Player" Keys Cardinal Victory

As Cardinal fans, we've seen Albert Pujols for the last eight-plus years. We've seen him do astounding things at the plate, whether it's walk-off shots or multi-homer games. We've seen him be aggressive on the bases, famously scoring from second on an infield grounder last year in Colorado. Now, apparently, we are seeing the evolution of him from Ted Williams to Rickey Henderson.

There's a reason Tony LaRussa called him a "perfect player" after the last game with the Mets and Buster Olney tends to agree. Whatever needs to be done to win the game, Pujols is going to try to do. And, lately, that means adding to his repertoire the stolen base. Once that ball Ryan Ludwick hit passed the second baseman, there was no question Pujols was scoring. Ryan Franklin locked it down and that was that.

There were a few others that had strong games. Joe Thurston smashed a two-run double and went to second on the throw, scoring on a single by Skip Schumaker. Franklin pitched a pretty solid ninth, with only the walk to pinch-hitting Milton Bradley blemishing the record. Ludwick had two hits, counting the game winner.

Really liked the way Kyle McClellan looked last night before Franklin came in. His spring struggles appear to be behind him and he's one of the few St. Louis can rely on coming out of the pen right now, it seems.

The person that made the most impact, though, was Adam Wainwright. Wainwright hasn't looked like the ace he was becoming last year so far in 2009. His command has been shaky and he's been good enough to keep the team in the game, but only by a thread. Last night, though, he looked more like Adam Wainwright. His breaking ball was moving quite nicely, he didn't walk but one, He wasn't able to get a decision due to a breakdown behind him, but he'll take that kind of game just about every time.

Can someone explain, though, what is going on with the Cardinal defense? We knew going into the season that it was a little shakier than it has been in the past. Still, there was Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols, Rick Ankiel, likely Colby Rasmus, Khalil Greene, guys with good defensive reputations. So how come this team is leading not only the National League but the majors in errors? Seventeen in seventeen games.

If you said two weeks ago that Skip Schumaker would make a crucial error that would help blow a Cardinal lead, you'd have probably railed that the second base experiment just wasn't working and the Cardinals needed sure hands at the keystone. However, Schumaker makes this error after moving to left field to provide defensive support, replacing Chris Duncan.

The error virus seems to have infected everyone, with no real reason for it. Pujols has four, which is totally unlike him. Schumaker is supposed to be very strong in the outfield. Hopefully this is just a concentrated streak and things will hit the other end of the pendulum very soon.

The Redbirds opened the last Cubs series with a win as well. They hope to do better in the next two games than they did up in Chicago starting this afternoon. Mitchell Boggs goes against Sean Marshall. Marshall has done pretty well against the Redbirds in the past. If it wasn't for LaRussa's assertion earlier in the week in the Fox Midwest pregame that Ludwick was going to play five of the six games this homestand, only sitting out the second Mets game, I'd think he'd take a pass today with his .182 mark against Marshall. Rick Ankiel and Duncan seem to have good, if very small sample size, numbers against Marshall, so it's probably another day on the bench for Rasmus.

Boggs has a very small sample size against the Cubs, but the numbers are good for him. It'll be like a new experience for most of the Chicago batters since they've only seen him once. Hopefully he'll be able to show something to the national audience that will be tuning in on Fox!

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