The story of the past week for St. Louis Cardinals fans was twofold: the continued success of the starting pitching and the return of Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick.
The week began with a Sunday finale against the in-state rival Kansas City Royals. Joel Pineiro was solid in his seven innings, giving up just three runs. The Cardinal offense could not produce, however, as the Royals' three runs proved to be enough for the victory.
The loss was especially frustrating because the Royals had led the entire game before the Cardinals came through with two runs in the sixth, including one off the bat of Pineiro, who would in turn give up the deciding run in the top of the seventh.
As Major League Baseball honored our country's fallen heroes on Memorial Day, Chris Carpenter showed how masterful he can be, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning.
The problem was that Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo was just as effective. In a game that went into extra innings at a scoreless tie, a Brian Barden error proved costly, as Bill Hall, who had been in a 1-for-28 slump, delivered with a walk-off gapper to right-center. Carpenter's brilliance was wasted in the 1-0 loss.
The series took a Cardinal turn the following two games as the Redbirds won both by scores of 8-1 and 3-2. The 8-1 win was punctuated by four Cardinal home runs, including one by pitcher Adam Wainwright.
In the series finale, the Cards were led by Nick Stavinoha, who hit his first career home run.The win nearly proved costly, as backup catcher Jason LaRue narrowly avoided disaster and being trampled by the traditional brat race in between innings.
After taking the series in Milwaukee, the Cardinals headed west to take on the San Francisco Giants. Pineiro struggled in the opener, going just four innings and taking the loss. The bullpen was solid, however, holding the Giants scoreless the rest of the game.
Saturday's game was a different story, as Albert Pujols powered his team to a 6-2 victory with two home runs, giving him 16 for the season.
The St. Louis Cardinals enter the month of June eight games over .500, at 29-21, and find themselves just one game out of first place. Looking ahead, the Cardinals will face off against the Cincinnati Reds in an important four game series. The Reds will begin the series just two-and-a-half games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central.
Pujols has been hot, raising his average up to .339, and the Cards' offense hopes to find itself with Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel back in the lineup.