Buccos starter Ross Ohlendorf had a nearly perfect outing. After earning a spot in the starting roster in spring training, he did not disappoint in his first start of the season. He scattered seven hits over six innings and allowed two runs.
And he was tagged with the loss, only because reinvented Chris Carpenter was even better. He showed the same stuff he had as a Cy Young winner a few years ago, stopping the Buccos dead in their tracks.
The lone run Carpenter gave up wasn't even his fault. Pirates third baseman Ramon Vazquez advanced to third on a sacrifice attempt by Ohlendorf after an error by Albert Pujols.
For a while, it looked like that mistake may have cost them the ballgame. However, the crafty Cardinals jumped on the opportunity in the sixth inning to score the decisive two runs.
From a pitching standpoint, this is a tremendous indication of what Ohlendorf is capable of. From a hitting standpoint, this proves that the Pirates could have burned themselves out after a behemoth 17 hit performance just last night.
Carpenter was brutally effective in the first two innings, inducing five ground-outs and striking out out Eric Hinske. Ohlendorf, while not nearly as dominant, was still very effective in getting Cardinals out.
The Pirates finally got a breakthrough in the third inning, as Vazquez walked to start things off. After Jack Wilson harmlessly popped out to second, Ohlendorf came up to try and advance Vazquez. He ended up doing that and much more.
Ohlendorf laid down a slow roller, fielded by Pujols, who fired it into the next county while trying to get the lead runner. His efforts rewarded Vazquez, as he advanced to third.
Nyjer Morgan came up next. I've been critical of Morgan lately, but he has responded very well, hitting .400 before this game. A very nice surprise indeed.
He put on the suicide squeeze, trying to get Vazquez home. The throw was late and the Puerto Rican slid home safely. Meanwhile, the Cards still hadn't managed to get anyone else out.
Freddy Sanchez was up next, coming off a monster game last night. He looked like he was just trying to do too much, and ended up falling victim to the strikeout. Nate McLouth would ground out to Pujols for the second time in the game, crisis averted for Carpenter.
For the next several innings, the Cardinals and Pirates would trade off bagel for bagel. Ohlendorf allowed a few hits here and there, but nothing that gave the Redbirds a runner in scoring position to tie. Carpenter was just downright filthy.
It wasn't until the seventh inning that the Pirates recorded their first hit on the scoresheet. After Ryan Doumit walked, Brandon Moss grounded into a fielder's choice. Strangely enough, I'd rather see Moss running than Doumit. Vazquez singled to right, advancing Moss to third.
Continue the trend, why not. Wilson came up and simply tried to do too much, also striking out.
The Cardinals finally got to Ohlendorf in the bottom of the seventh, as three batters singled in order - Ryan Ludwick, Khalil Greene and Yadier Molina, with the last one driving in a run.
Enough of that. In comes volunteer fireman Sean Burnett.
Pinch-hitter Brian Barden mashed a 1-0 pitch into center field to give the Cardinals their first lead of the afternoon. Then Burnett loaded the bases after plunking Brendan Ryan with a high and inside fastball.
After rookie David Freese lined out, Moss wanted some redemption. He made one of the worst throws to the plate in the history of major league baseball on Opening Night. He caught a routine fly ball by Colby Rasmus, then gunned down Molina at the plate to keep it a one run game. What a play.
The corsairs finally had a chance when Carpenter was yanked in favor of Ryan Franklin. Or wait, maybe not. Of all people to come in to pinch-hit, why pick Andy LaRoche? On come the profanities. No clue why power bat Craig Monroe would not come in.
LaRoche fanned on five pitches. Collective groan. Morgan and Sanchez would then fly out to end the inning.
Tyler Yates came in for the Pirates and sat the Redbirds down in order. So here's an interesting question. Does Opening Day anti-christ Jason Motte come in? Or does La Russa hand the ball to someone else?
It's Dennys Reyes. Oh damn.
He would be facing the heart of the Pirates' order, none of which had done much of anything today. McLouth and Doumit both ground out. Gag.
Then a glimmer of hope! Here comes Monroe! Yippee!
After taking the count to 2-1, he demolishes a pitch to deep center. It looks good as gone. But the damn kryptonite pulled it down right at the wall, allowing Rick Ankiel to make the catch. I hate wind.
Final Score: Cardinals 2, Pirates 1
STARS OF THE GAME
PIT: Ramon Vazquez (1-2, BB, R)
STL: Chris Carpenter (7.0 IP, 0 ER, 7 SO)
PIT: Ross Ohlendorf 50
STL: Chris Carpenter 78
The Pirates will finally face a new foe after a 2-2 draw with St. Louis. Jeff Karstens will take the hill against Johnny Cueto and the Cincinnati Reds tomorrow night at 7:10 ET. The three game series will be played in the ultra-friendly hitter's park that is the Great American Ballpark.
PIRATE TEAM LEADERS
Average: Freddy Sanchez (.444)
Runs: Brandon Moss (4)
Runs Batted In: Jack Wilson (5)
Home Runs: Freddy Sanchez (1)
Wins: John Grabow and Zach Duke (1)
ERA: Paul Maholm (1.35)
Strikeouts: Zach Duke (4)