After a day off, the St. Louis Cardinals returned with a bang, trouncing the Milwaukee Brewers tonight by a score of 5-0. The contest between division rivals featured a succession of Milwaukee coaches getting ejected from the game for arguing with the umpires' calling of balls and strikes.
Despite any controversy, starter Adam Wainwright pitched brilliantly for eight-and-a-half innings of lights-out shutout baseball, striking out nine of the Brewers' batters, and making a pretty convincing case that he is among the most underrated pitchers in the National League.
Once again, the Cards managed to cobble together a convincing victory without Albert Pujols hitting a RBI, which, to me, is a very good sign of progress for this team. The offense was powered by both Colby Rasmus and the much improved Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick hit a resounding three run home-run, driving in two runs, and showing that, maybe, he belongs in the middle of this lineup.
Rick Ankiel, on the other hand, continued his long-running streak of completely sucking at the plate, striking out four times in five at bats. Clearly, he has no place batting for a Major League team.
I understand that LaRussa and Ankiel have an interesting history together, that Ankiel has an interesting life story, and that Ankiel has some defensive skills. Unfortunately, Ankiel can't hit. This must be dealt with. If he must play, can't he at least bat seventh or ninth in the lineup, so he doesn't strand so many runners and doesn't seem like such a major liability?
Mark DeRosa was officially placed on the disabled list, which unfortunately means that, due to the Redbirds' roster limitations, fans are going to keep being subjected to seeing Ankiel, Duncan and Thurston screw things up for everyone else on this team. Fortunately, games like the one tonight prove that such damage can be limited, especially if LaRussa would be willing to juggle the lineup around a little.
I'd suggest, while DeRosa is out, put Brendan Ryan batting second, let Rasmus bat clean-up, and then Ludwick could hit fifth. That way, at least Pujols has a little insurance around him when strategic minded teams decide to walk him.
Molina would be sixth, and then LaRussa could throw up members of the Cardinals' easy-out loser crew. It's certainly not an ideal situation, but anything would be better than having to see Rick Ankiel strike out again with the bases loaded. Let's face it, even viewing the funeral of a pop star that you spent a good chunk of your childhood idolizing is less depressing than watching that.
I know it seems silly to complain when, for two games in a row, the Cardinals have stomped teams in their division, but just because things are going well doesn't mean that they could be going better.