Cardinals-Mets: St. Louis' Weakest Link Helps Secure a Victory

Derek CoffeltSenior Analyst IApril 22, 2009

It was probably too good to be trueI couldn't believe my own eyes.

The Cardinals bullpen was actually protecting a lead that their offense had scraped together.

However, it wasn't a dream. It was reality as Ryan Frankin and company slammed the door shut on the New York Mets 6-4 on Tuesday night.

Both starters for the game weren't particularly effective, as Mets starter Oliver Perez left the game in the fifth inning with four earned runs on six hits, while managing to walk five batters.

St. Louis' starter, Todd Wellemeyer, was arguably worse, as he managed to pitch five innings but allowed four earned runs on 10 hits, while only managing a single strikeout.

Slugger Albert Pujols helped contribute with his usual consistent offense with a two-run double. Shortstop Khalil Greene and utility man Joe Thurston rounded out St. Louis' four runs through most of the contest with an RBI from each man.

The game was officially a stalemate at that point as the game remained tied for most of the rest of the contest. If either ball club was going to win this game, it was going to be from the bullpen.

"David versus Goliath," I told myself.

The Mets had completely revamped their bullpen in the offseason, adding flamethrowers J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez. The Cardinals one worth mentioning.

I was astonished to see Kyle McClellan pitch two scoreless innings of baseball, something that he'd only shown flashes of this season and rarely last year.

Dennys Reyes issued a walk, but at least he didn't give up a run. Jason Motte's antics returned to the mound, only this time he was all business as he finished out Reyes' inning without allowing a hit.

His stock rose slightly above a penny for this Cardinals' faithful.

The Mets countered with scoreless innings of their own with Casey Fossum, Brian Stokes, and Pedro Feliciano.

The two teams had entrenched themselves into their respective lines and dug foxholes, something had to break this stalemate.

The eighth inning would prove to be the difference.

Carlos Beltran has historically been a Cardinal killer and he certainly had a decent night going 2-for-3 with an RBI. However, his base-running blunder in the top of the eighth inning would prove costly.

With one out and Beltran on second base, Ramon Castro flied out to right field. Beltran advanced to third, and when Joe Thurston couldn't corral the ball, the speedy outfielder tried to score. However, Thurston got a throw home in time and Beltran didn't slide, allowing catcher Yadier Molina to tag him for the third out of the inning.

Molina had blocked the plate perfectly and Beltran's foot landed right on top of his, completely missing home plate.

Beltran attributed his base-running mishap to carelessness.

"When I took off to home plate, I was watching the ball," said Beltran. "And when I looked at home plate, I was too close to slide. Molina was on top of the plate and I tried to go over his foot, but I stepped on it and I wasn't able to touch [the plate]."

The bottom of the eighth would give all the runs the Cardinals would need. Brendan Ryan led off the inning with a triple after Mets outfielder Ryan Church slipped and fell after misjudging the trajectory of the ball.

I laughed.

Ryan recalled the circus-type play.

"That's about as hard as I can hit a ball," said Ryan. "When I hit it, I looked at him and I saw him coming in, and I thought, 'This has zoo maybe written all over it.' It could have gone in the lights. I don't know if he was trying to stop to reach. I think he was probably trying to brace himself to jump or reach. I'm just glad it sat down."

Rick Ankiel would easily get him in with a double as he showed signs of waking up with a three-hit performance. Ryan Ludwick provided an insurance run with a sacrifice fly.

All of this could be chalked up to good luck, but it was all against premier set-up man J.J. Putz. The Cardinals had struck a blow into that impervious Mets bullpen.

David had slayed Goliath.

All dramatics aside, the Mets certainly took the Cardinals to the limit. St. Louis' offense was lucky to even be in a tie ball game as they were down 4-0 going into the fifth inning and rallied back to win.

Wednesday's game pits John Maine against Joel Pineiro where Pineiro has had much better numbers at home than on the road. Hopefully, St. Louis' offense can get things started earlier rather than later.

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