This has been a week of mixed emotions for fans of the Cardinals. Successful trades for newly minted stars like Julio Lugo and Matt Holliday were followed by two embarrassing blowouts at the hands of the Phillies. Tonight, the manic nature of this St. Louis season continued, as the Redbirds maneuvered through some sloppy plays, bad calls and sticky situations to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-1.
Chris Carpenter pitched seven innings, and admittedly, he didn't throw his best stuff. He allowed nine hits and two walks, so plenty of Los Angeles had plenty of baserunners. However, Carpenter climbed out of nearly every hole that he got into. The Dodgers hit into four double plays, and he managed to maintain his astronomically low ERA of 2.19.
St. Louis relievers got into some equally choppy waters, but, didn't give up any more runs, mainly thanks to the efforts of Ryan Franklin. He only allowed one hit in 1.1 innings, and ended the game in dramatic fashion, striking out Ramirez.
The defensive effort was helped mightily by Ryan Ludwick, who made two brilliant catches in the fourth inning to rob the Dodgers of much needed scoring opportunities.
Brendan Ryan was great in this game, providing all of the offense the Cardinals needed, going 4-for-4 with two RBI. Mark DeRosa hit a solo home run. Matt Holliday also impressed in his first game at Busch Stadium as a Cardinal, driving in an RBI in the first inning.
Lugo also managed to prove the wisdom of the Cardinals' general management by driving in a run. Rick Ankiel's fluke streak of success continued, as he went 2-for-4, with one RBI and scoring two runs. As he's gotten hot, Albert Pujols has cooled down a little, going 1-for-4. Still, personally, I find it gratifying to see meaningful offense from the Redbirds steadily coming from sources other than Pujols. Such action is long overdue.
As of this writing, the Cardinals are tied for first place in the Central Division. They'll either end up a half game ahead of or half a game behind the Cubs, depending on who wins the Cubs-Astros game that is currently in extra innings. It is common knowledge that, this season, the Dodgers are the best team in baseball. Now, for one game at least, the Cardinals have managed to find the weak spots in their armor and shut them down.
If St. Louis can do this for the next three games of this closely watched series, that "best team" title may be up for serious reconsideration. Obviously, judging from this game, the newly solid Redbirds lineup has changed the configuration of the National League. Let's hope that the weak spots in their bullpen and their pitching rotation don't ruin it, and the Cardinals can continue to live up to the hype.