Joel Pineiro usually pitches very well, especially against the Mets. Johan Santana may well be the most talented starter of his generation. So, the meeting between the two pitchers was anticipated to be a classic pitcher's duel.
However, the match-up between the New York Mets (50-56) and the St. Louis Cardinals (59-50) at Citifield tonight turned out to be an orgy of offense.
The Cardinals staged a classic comeback, capped off by a towering grand slam by Albert Pujols in the tenth inning, which powered the Redbirds to a 12-7 win.
Pineiro was not nearly as effective or as efficient as he usually is on the mound. New York scored all seven of their runs during his five innings of work.
Surprisingly, in relieving him, St. Louis's bullpen did pretty well. Dennys Reyes got through a rare worry-free inning. Even "Terrible" Todd Wellemeyer came in for two innings and pitched decently. He allowed a hit and walked two, but no Mets scored during his appearance in the game which, I'm sure, caused many residents of Cardinal Nation to breathe a sigh of relief.
Kyle McClellan got the win, pitching a nice ninth inning, and Ryan Franklin, despite giving up a couple of hits, got yet another save.
The Cardinals were behind for most of this game, as New York jumped out ahead early. Still, St. Louis scored two runs in the ninth inning to tie it. They did a very admirable job of hitting in the clutch, matching the Mets step by step.
The game was tied into the tenth inning, until Mark DeRosa stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and was hit by a pitch from Sean Green, which drove in Rick Ankiel.
Then, Pujols, who has been in a slump the last couple of weeks, stepped up to the plate, and hit a massive grand slam that, I'm sure, will be featured on his career highlight reels for years to come.
It was Pujols' second home run of the game; he also hit a solo shot in the 8th inning, that seemed to suck all energy and momentum from the Mets.
These two outstanding reminders of Pujols's power gave the St. Louis slugger five RBIs in the game, bringing his season total to a league-leading 97.
Ryan Ludwick also hit a solo home run in the game, and drove in two runs. Julio Lugo and the uncharacteristically hot Rick Ankiel were also very impressive at the plate, each going 3-5 with two runs and one RBI.
'Crazy" Khalil Greene made his comeback appearance pinch hitting in this game, and promptly struck out, proving that, after his time in Triple-A, he is just as useless as he's ever been.
St. Louis currently has an overabundance of good infielders. I don't know quite where Tony LaRussa thinks this inept guy is supposed to fit in. Therefore, I hope Greene's stint with this team is short lived.
Of course, DeRosa, an example of an infielder who is much better than Greene, didn't get a hit in this game, was credited with the game-winning RBI after courageously getting beaned by a pitch with the bases loaded.
This impressive victory over the struggling Mets kept the Cardinals tied with the Cubs, who also won tonight, for the first place in the Central Division. The Cardinals have one more game against the Mets tomorrow, and then, after a day off, travel to Pittsburgh.
If Pujols stays hot, and the Redbirds can maintain momentum like they did in this game, there is no reason why they shouldn't be able to keep up with and eventually overtake the far inferior Cubs, and handily win their relatively weak division.