Another outstanding game for Chris Carpenter. I think there should be a macro where you could just click a button and the Carpenter superlatives come out, because he is that consistent and that good. It really makes you think about how much the Cards have missed the last two years with him on the shelf. If he's around, especially in '07, St. Louis has probably played in October.
However, with the general lack of offense due to a new face and one with a knuckleball to boot, I think you have to give the Hero tag to Rick Ankiel for the surprising but welcome two-run shot that gave the Cards the lead. Many in Cardinal Nation, in contrast to the beginning of the year, see Rick as somewhat of the weak link now that the team has been upgraded. It was good to see him come through and get the big hit when the team needed it.
Albert Pujols now sits just one home run away from 40 on the season. While he's hit that mark in four of his eight seasons before 2009, he hasn't made that mark since 2006. There seems a pretty solid chance he'll break his career high of 49 from that year. Earlier in the year, there was talk of 60, which is out the window, but 50 would still be a wonderful campaign.
Last night's Goat goes to Mark DeRosa, who was 0-4. Is he really just hitting .228 since arriving back in the National League? Some of his hits have been of the long ball variety and have come at good times, so that's overshadowed the fact that he's struggled somewhat. Then again, he was hitting .215 for the Cards through July, a much more palatable .267 in August. However, he hit 7 HR in that earlier span, just one since the calendar has turned to this month. Seems like we can have average or power but not both. I think, with the way this team is constructed, hits are much more important.
The Cards now sit six games ahead of the Cubs, who blew a 1-0 lead in the ninth last night to the Padres. The only bigger lead in baseball is that of the Yankees, who lead Boston by 7. Obviously there are no guarantees with six weeks left, but you have to like the Redbirds' position. Well, unless you root for the baby bears, that is.
The off-the-field news was good for the Cardinals yesterday as well, as they came to terms with their first round draft pick Shelby Miller. Miller, who automatically moves to being in the mix for the Cards' best prospect, signed for much less than rumor had suggested, coming in under $3 million. Sounds like a win-win for everyone.
Speaking of draft picks, I think it was good for baseball that Stephen Strasburg signed with the Nationals last night. Those fevered talks of $50 million were crazy, though the record level of $15 million isn't anything to sneeze at. Getting a guy that talented to a team that bad is what the draft is supposed to be about. So while he didn't get there the ideal way--many teams wouldn't have been able to even consider signing him--the end result is what you want to see. This has nothing to do with the fact that I traded for him in my long-term keeper league earlier in the year in anticipation of his signing.
Could be a tough road for the Redbirds tonight. Chad Billingsley returns to the mound after dealing with a hamstring injury. The Cards have done all right against Billingsley in the past. If Tony LaRussa's looking at the career numbers, there's a strong chance Khalil Greene will get a start somewhere in the lineup tonight. Greene is hitting .583 with a home run in 12 ABs against the Dodger starter. The Cardinals touched him up for six runs in less than six innings in the series in St. Louis back in July.
St. Louis counters with Mitchell Boggs. I don't know about you, but I'm kinda disappointed LaRussa broke up Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. It's been nice seeing them go on back to back days, though it's understandable that, with last week's off day, they'd want to keep Carp on his regular rest. Boggs is an unknown to many of the Dodgers, though Manny Ramirez and Mark Loretta, the only two that have faced him, seem to have solved the puzzle.
It's another late night for the Birds. Let's see if it's as rewarding.