I'm a pitching fan. I love seeing dominant pitching performances, low-hit games, games where you know that early runs will hold up and the game moves briskly along.
That's why this incarnation of the St. Louis Cardinals is so much fun for me. When you've got a group of starters that have gone 28-3 with a 1.89 ERA since July 1, you know that night in and night out, you are getting ridiculously good pitching.
That held up last night as Joel Pineiro kept the run alive. Save for a spell in the fourth where the ground balls actually made it through for hits, Pineiro kept the Astros off the basepaths, usually by getting them to hit the ball right back to him. I don't think I've seen a pitcher make so many plans in one game in a long time. It's a good thing Pineiro is a heck of a fielder, because he got plenty of action last night.
With the fact that he'd thrown only 87 pitches, I really wanted to see him come back out for the ninth. I'm thinking that, if Brendan Ryan had reached leading off the bottom of the eighth, Pineiro might have stayed in to sacrifice. Still, the bullpen is well-rested, something that's likely to continue today with Chris Carpenter going. By Friday, if John Smoltz isn't ready to go over five innings, it won't be an issue because the bullpen guys are going to need work anyway.
On the down side, the offense still needs to get on track. It looked like things were going to be better last night with that first inning explosion, but for the second night in a row, that's all she wrote. It's not like they didn't have their chances, leaving numerous runners on. However, it seemed like most of those situations came up with two outs, needing a hit to get it done. That hit didn't come. (BTW, check out this trivia Tweet from Fox Sports Midwest about winning games by just scoring in the first.)
The worst of the offense last night had to be Rick Ankiel, in my book. Not only was he the only person in the lineup not to get a hit, but he had the most miserable at-bat I've seen in a while in the 7th. He took two fastballs that were right there without even looking like he was going to offer at them. If he looked that lost after a strong batting practice, it may be time to keep him off the field for a while.
I talked some about the National League Cy Young race here yesterday. There's a better breakdown at Viva El Birdos today that comes to the same conclusion that Tim Lincecum will win it. However, Rob Neyer thinks one of the Redbird hurlers will get the hardware.
Afternoon game today, pitting Chris Carpenter against Brian Moehler as the Cardinals look for the sweep. Carp's done pretty good against the 'Stros this year, giving up two runs in eight innings in a no decision and one run over nine in a win. His career numbers are favorable as well, as long as he keeps Lance Berkman in the park. And, as hard as it is to believe, he's been more dominanting in the day games (1.69 ERA) than night ones (2.36). If he's the regular Carpenter today, the Cards aren't going to be giving Houston much of a chance.
Moehler, though his total numbers don't look impressive, was able to limit St. Louis to two runs over six and two-thirds back in July. If his career numbers are any indication, though, it would be a good day for the offense to get rolling. You can see there that Albert Pujols has some strong power numbers against Moehler. Looking at AP's splits, he's hit 16 of his 40 homers in day games, even though he's played 40 fewer games under the sun. Put all that together, and #41 might be coming today.
Lots of places to follow along, from Twitter to CardsClubhouse to the FSN Live Blog. Let's see if we can't use the brooms today!