It was a crazy game. A game that saw Jaime Garcia perfect through four innings and fall apart in the fifth. It also saw Albert Pujols playing third base in the major leagues for the first time since 2002.
Most Cardinals fans will see the L by Ryan Franklin‘s name and assume he blew it. Honestly, for once I don’t blame him for this one. With no outs, Alex Gonzalez hit a pop fly that a little leaguer could catch, except Ryan Theriot did not as he picked up his 7th error on the season (that puts him on pace for 40 errors this season, the most for a major leaguer since Jose Offerman had 42 errors in 1992, before that you go to 1978). Say what you will about what Franklin should have done at that point, the fact is if you give most teams a man on first and nobody out, they will most likely score that run. Good teams will, at least. The Braves are a good team.
Defensive issues have plagued this team and currently have them 24th in the league in fielding percentage going into today’s game. This game won’t help as Pujols and Theriot each made an error, which each led to an unearned run being scored and ultimately were the two runs that cost us this game.
In a highly questioned move, Albert Pujols made his first appearance at third base since September of 2002. How did it happen? After David Freese‘s injury (a broken left middle finger, it seems), Tyler Greene came in to play the infield. Later, he was pinch hit for by Jon Jay, leaving Mark Hamilton as the only infielder left on the bench. So what does Tony LaRussa do? In comes Hamilton to play first and Pujols returns to third base in the bottom of the 8th. He was involved in one play, but had Cardinals fans on edge as his elbow is still believed to be a worry.
Hero: Matt Holliday. The only guy with 2 RBI off a first inning double, it was Holliday that was in position to be the game tying run in the top of the 8th and was able to score on a Molina sac fly. (2-for-3, 2 R, 2 RBI)
Zero: Ryan Theriot. I’m giving it to him based on his strikeout in the top of the 8th with Jay on second and his error which unraveled the bottom of the 9th. (0-for-4, 1 K, 4 LOB)
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The Comeback Cards are at it again to finish out April. Down 2-0 going into the 8th, they tie it up and then take the lead in the 9th. Later that night while grocery shopping I saw a Braves fan and resisted the urge to rub it in. I know what it’s like to have a closer who doesn’t close.
For the Cardinals, Jake Westbrook proved that he might be back at it. Two earned runs over 6 innings is enough to garner a quality start, though I would have liked to see him go deeper into the ballgame. The 106 pitches he threw, said otherwise. His ERA is now down to 6.53. It’s going to take awhile to rebound it though.
Once again a solid bullpen brought home the game. Mitchell Boggs, Miguel Batista, and Fernando Salas brought home the game, throwing 3 scoreless innings of relief. Batista earned the win while Salas picked up his second save of the season.
For the offense, it was David Freese that provided the 2 RBI single to tie up the game with two outs in the 8th. Then Gerald Laird scored Matt Holliday on a 9th inning triple.
Hero: Tough decision for me between Freese and Laird, both played integral parts. Ultimately, Freese set it up, so he will get it. (2-for-4, 2 RBI, 1 K)
Zero: Tough call between Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols. While Berkman got just 2 at bats as he came in late in the game, he left 5 runners on base. Pujols played the whole game and went hitless, leaving 3. Berkman had the opportunity to blow it wide open, and didn’t. (0-for-2, 1 K, 5 LOB)
The bullpen has made us the Cardiac Cards, but tonight we were the comeback Cards. A sacrifice fly by Daniel Descalso in the ninth tied up the game and it was a Nick Punto triple in the eleventh that put the Cardinals ahead.
Chris Carpenter once again turned in a quality start, his fifth on the season, and yet he remains winless. He left the game today after 7 innings with the Cardinals down 3-2. He will officially go winless in April, despite having been effective on the mound. Despite the solid start, this was the first game that Carpenter has started and the Cardinals have won. I’m sure that gives Carpenter a little relief in the end.
Mitchell Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez, Jason Motte, and Trevor Miller combined in the bullpen to offer 4 scoreless innings of relief. For Boggs, it was an exit from his typical 9th inning position after he blew the save in Houston. I’m sure Cardinal Nation was questioning the move to bring Trevor Miller in for the final out of the game, relieving Motte. However, Miller finally got the job done.
Hero: Nick Punto. The game winning triple. (1-for-6, 2 RBI, 2 LOB)
Zero: Colby Rasmus. (0-for-4, 2 BB, 1 K, 4 LOB)
Kyle McClellan picks up his fourth win of the season, remaining undefeated, as the Cardinals offense puts up a huge crooked number in the top of the 6th and Lance Berkman went off on his former team.
While Kyle McClellan ended up with the win, it was potentially his least impressive start. Today he was unable to dance out of trouble as he was tagged with 5 earned runs in 5.2 innings. Despite it, his ERA is only up to 3.23 as he is still perfect on the year and hasn’t been tagged with a loss. In fact, the Cardinals have won every game McClellan has started this season.
Lance Berkman has had a great series against his former team, but none better than tonight. With a pair of homers, a three run shot in the sixth and a solo shot in the ninth, Berkman went wild with 5 total RBI in a 4-for-5 performance. It was also during this game that I realized why this team can be successful, while 2010 was a disappointment. Berkman is a unifying force in the clubhouse, willing to chat with everyone veterans and rookies alike. I think it keeps the clubhouse and the dugout a little looser during games and allows them to relax and just play. Something, I feel, that’s been missing since Jim Edmonds left.
Fernando Salas meanwhile came in a cleaned up an 8th inning mess and then closed out the 9th for his first save of the season for the big league club. Perhaps we have a true closer by committee?
Hero: Lance Berkman, was there any doubt? (4-for-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 1 2B, 5 RBI)
Zero: Daniel Descalso. It was his two errors that set up the trouble in the 8th inning, and he didn’t add anything from the plate to help. (0-for-5, 3 K, 5 LOB)