The game had some bumps in the road, but every contest can't be dominated.
Once again, St. Louis looked towards its offensive leaders, Ryan Ludwick and Albert Pujols (the gruesome twosome), to push past their long time rivals on Friday afternoon.
The Redbirds jumped on Chicago's starter Rich Harden early to score the first run of the game after a lead-off double by Skip Schumaker. It was eventually followed up by a Ryan Ludwick sacrifice fly for his first RBI of the game.
Ludwick's struggles were as evident as ever since his return over a month ago from his hamstring injury. There were talks swirling his name with possible trade rumors with Oakland A's outfielder Matt Holliday.
He finished the day going a perfect 3-for-3 with four RBI and has recorded a hit in nine of his last 10 games coupled with 13 RBIs. Hopefully this recent offensive explosion will help in quieting those rumors.
To Ludwick, he knew what he had to do to get out of his slump.
"I had a four-week, five-week period after I came back from my hamstring injury that was brutal," said Ludwick. "I couldn't hit water if I fell out of a boat. But getting together with [hitting coach] Hal McRae, we've really just kind of simplified things. I'm not worrying about mechanics so much, just worried about going out there and putting together good at-bats."
With the Cardinals offense clicking on all cylinders and leading 3-0 in the third inning, Chris Carpenter seemed to be cruising along until he gave up singles to Rich Harden and Ryan Theriot.
Carpenter later admitted that his pitches just didn't have the bite and movement that he wanted and continued to get bogged down in jams. Fortunately, the only damage done was a three-run home run by red hot slugger Derrek Lee in the third inning.
The Cardinals ace was helped out of those jams by having several hard hit balls hit right towards his outfielders.
However, Carpenter knew that he didn't have his best stuff.
"My command of everything today wasn't as good as it's been, but it seemed like I was able to make some pitches when I had to," said Carpenter. "They hit a couple balls at guys. The one pitch that hurt me was the one to Lee, but besides that I was able to make some pitches when I had to make some pitches, and we scored enough runs to win."
With the score now tied, Ryan Ludwick knew he had to help out even more on the offensive side.
"We need more runs," said Ludwick. "That's all."
Fellow slugger Albert Pujols took it upon himself to take back the lead as he took advantage of the wind blowing out to the outfield and hit his 32nd round-tripper of the season.
During the sixth inning, Ludwick was part of a four-run offensive output that blew open the game. Adding a two-RBI single, the Cardinals managed to score all of those runs on just two hits.
Chicago slugger Alfonso Soriano misplayed a routine pop-fly from catcher Yadier Molina it what could only be described as something reminiscent from the movie Major League. He did manage to get a fielder's choice force out at second base but a run would score. Pitcher Aaron Heilman then would be charged with a wild pitch that would send Ludwick across the plate.
The hard hitting offense and heads up baserunning by the Cardinals was something reigning NL MVP Albert Pujols knew was something St. Louis' lineup was capable of.
"Our lineup is good from the leadoff guy on," said Pujols. "We know what kind of talent we have. Obviously we haven't clicked where we want to be like we were in April, but it's a long season."
Cardinals captain Tony La Russa also knew of the potential of his lineup.
"The deeper it is, the more chances you have," La Russa said of his lineup. "It seems like every inning you've got a chance."
The Cardinals now look to gain the upper hand as they compete in a double-header on Sunday that will feature the return of Kyle Lohse to the rotation.
As St. Louis continues to heal up, they're looking more like contenders.
Quotes and information attributed to MLB.com
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