It was predetermined by the Gods that Pirates starter Ian Snell would begin the season with one of his annually awful performances.
Starting for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, Snell had a much shorter spring training, and therefore did not see a whole lot of time on the mound. He threw two innings against minor league opposition yesterday, focusing on his sinker. The results were there, despite him not feeling 100 percent.
Snell gave up bombs to both Chris Duncan and Albert Pujols en route to giving up eight runs in four innings of work, six earned. He also got little to no defensive help, as third baseman Andy LaRoche committed his third error in two games. His decision to drop a routine pop fly lead to a two run fourth should have never been.
Meanwhile in Lynchburg, Pedro Alvarez is licking his chops.
The Pirates started strong once again, putting guys on base immediately. Singles by Nyjer Morgan and Freddy Sanchez put the Bucs in good position to jump on Cards starter Kyle Lohse early. Nate McLouth and Ryan Doumit sacrifices lead to the first run of the game, scored by Morgan.
But in classic fashion, Ian Snell was primed to give the advantage right back to the Cardinals.
Cards prospect Colby Rasmus was making his first career start apparently. Nobody cares.
After retiring punchless Skip Schumacher and Rasmus, Snell walked Pujols. No surprises there. Despite the man being on base, Snell naturally forgot all about him and tossed a beach ball up to Duncan, who mashed it off the foul pole in right for a two run shot.
The Pirates, again, got a man in scoring position in the second inning when Jack Wilson reached on an infield single, then advanced on a ridiculously wild pitch by Lohse. He probably saw a guy hitting on his wife behind the plate.
Either way, he fanned Snell for the final out. Ian definitely helped his cause there.
The locals quickly got back in business in the bottom of the second when catcher Yadier Molina tripled to right. Eric Hinske was probably shocked he even made it around first.
New acquisition Joe Thurston would drive him in with a double. It could have been worse, but Snell did a decent job of damage control to get out with one Redbird run on the board.
Lohse then took down the top of the Pirates order. Three up, three down.
You'd think Snell learned once, but not quite. He worked around Pujols, working the count up. He then threw a fat one right over the heart of the plate, which was promptly put into orbit by Pujols.
The Redbirds would grab another run after Rick Ankiel singled and Molina walked. So far, so ugly for Snell, who had given up six earned runs in three innings. But JR was insisting on keeping him out there.
Lohse would again get the Buccos in order. He looks to be in mid-season form already.
By that time, Andy LaRoche had already thrown in the white towel. Any chance the Pirates had at making a comeback, he took them out back and had them put down, Ol' Yeller style. After Snell took down the first two Cardinal batters, Rasmus reached on an infield single. Lucky kid.
Then up comes the unstoppable force, Albert Pujols. But Snell finally appeared to get him out, as he popped one straight up over the infield. Pujols chucked his bat in the direction of the dugout in disgust. But it was his lucky day. LaRoche lost it in the, uhh, sun, and the Cards were somehow in business yet again.
Khalil Greene would take no time at all to double them both home. 8-1 Redbirds and the game was now essentially out of reach. Snell was done, thanks to yet another LaRoche error.
For the third straight time, Lohse would sit the Pirates back down in order, including pinch-hitter Brandon Moss, who has further proven he is as worthless as a cocker spaniel.
It was now flamethrower Donnie Veal's turn to subdue the pesky Cardinals. The Rule Five pick from the Cubs had a great spring and earned his way onto the team. But the first batter he faced, Molina, was sitting pretty and launched a fastball to center. Ugh.
But he would improve from there. Despite allowing three walks, he struck out three Cardinals to end the inning. Crisis averted.
The Pirates finally decided to show again up in the top of the sixth. Or at least Morgan and Sanchez did. Morgan capitalized on a throwing error by second baseman Schumacher. Dirty Sanchez would then blast the first Pirates home run of the season, to deep left.
Here comes the parade of relievers, on both sides. Several threats, but no results, as the Cards walk away winners, 9-3. Closer Jason Motte was politely given the night off by Tony La Russa. Probably a good decision.
Final Score: Cardinals 9, Pirates 3
STARS OF THE GAME
PIT: Freddy Sanchez (2-4, 2 RBI, R, HR)
STL: Albert Pujols (2-3, 2 RBI, 3 R, HR, 2 BB)
PIT: Ian Snell 15
STL: Kyle Lohse 60
Zach Duke will face Todd Wellemeyer tomorrow at 8:15 ET. Let's Go Bucs!