The Cardinals have taken some flak about their defensive play thus far this season. Committing 20 errors through the first 19 games of the season, St. Louis led the majors in fielding blunders.
They needed a game to right the ship.
That is exactly what they got as the Cardinals defeated the Braves 3-2 on Monday night.
St. Louis' defense, which managed to turn two double plays, helped starter Joel Pineiro keep a perfect record of 4-0 this season.
Inducing 13 ground outs with his two-seam sinking fastball, the veteran Pineiro only needed 76 pitches to produce 20 outs. Talk about effective.
Pineiro knew that if he got the ball down in the strike zone, his defense would back him up.
"You trust in your defense," said Pineiro. "That's why I throw that sinker any time in the count, and hopefully they hit them at someone."
His last out actually marked the end of a streak that any pitcher wouldn't want to be a part of: Striking out Brandon Jones was his first punch-out in 56 consecutive batters he faced.
He won't overpower you with his fastball, but Pineiro knows how to get a batter out.
The entire St. Louis infield played well, but shortstop Brendan Ryan provided the most highlights, turning in three outstanding and critical plays. Ryan made an exceptional sliding stop and strong throw to retire David Ross in the fifth inning and made slick plays to start the two key double plays.
Manager Tony La Russa knew how important Ryan's plays were to preserve the lead in a close game.
"The shortstop had a great day," said La Russa. "You've got to give him special credit. There were a couple of outstanding plays. He made three of them. In a one-run game, if he misses any one of those, who knows what the outcome is?"
Ryan isn't an everyday player, however, if you can get this kind of defense from a platoon infielder, you have a deep bench. It speaks volumes about the coaching staff that continually finds ways of bringing the unsung heroes into the limelight with their knowledge of the game.
David Ross, a fill-in catcher for the injured Brian McCann, was on the wrong end of one of Ryan's circus-type plays. After scorching a ball towards him that was all but certain to produce a hit for Ross, Ryan instinctively moved to his right and corralled the ball and through a laser to first from his knees.
According to Ryan, he had no doubt that he could make the play.
"I want to make every play," said Ryan. "Anything I can get to, I want to make a play on. I knew I could get to that ball, and I knew Ross wasn't going to be getting down the line lightning-quick. So I knew if I got enough on it I was going to get the out. I just wanted to make sure it was accurate."
Rick Ankiel was the difference on the offensive side of the ball as he came through in critical times for the Cardinals. Hitting two RBI singles with two outs, he continues to swing a hot bat.
Quotes and information attributed to MLB.com
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