In the Cardinals' final interleague game against the Kansas City Royals, the Redbirds' offense seemed to finally catch a few sparks—one from a perennial All-Star, the other from an unlikely source.
Albert Pujols and Jason LaRue powered the Cardinals past their cross-state foes, defeating the Royals 9-6 on Sunday.
Pujols absolutely destroyed a bomb that landed in the left field bullpen, and added a double that nearly gave the slugger a multi-home run game. He finished the game hitting 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored.
Not to be outdone, backup catcher Jason LaRue showed his own fortitude after a nasty collision with Royals outfielder David DeJesus.
In the very first inning DeJesus zeroed in on home plate as he attempted to score on Jose Guillen's single. What resulted was a very violent exchange that was indicative of the Cardinals' entire interleague road trip.
LaRue held onto the ball and helped his team escape an inning with a great defensive play. Apparently, any and all cobwebs must have been shaken, as the Dallas Baptist product would be in store for a big day.
LaRue expressed his determination in blocking the plate to help his team.
"It's part of the game," LaRue said. "It's my job to block the plate. In a situation like that, I'm going to take the plate away if I know I have a chance to get the guy out."
That was not all the Houston native would accomplish. In the very next inning he managed to hit a near 400-foot blast to right field to help his team yet again. LaRue finished the day hitting 2-for-4 with four RBI and a run scored by hitting a two-run triple to cap off his fantastic day.
Even manager Tony La Russa couldn't hold back his feelings about his player's career day.
"My goodness," marveled La Russa. "What more can you do? Big hits, big collision at the plate, and he got another couple balls that he hit well that were outs. He just had a terrific day."
The offense may have been clicking on all cylinders, but just as one problem seemed to be solved, another would rear its ugly head. The Redbird pitching was very inconsistent, as they used six different pitchers to finish out the ball game.
Starter Braden Looper pitched a mediocre three-and-a-third innings while allowing two earned on six hits and walking four batters. Maybe the pitching coach or the manager saw something wrong in his mechanics, but Looper seemed to not bring even his "B" game into play.
Looper himself knew he just simply didn't have his best stuff on Sunday.
"It was tough for a lot of different reasons," Looper said. "[The weather conditions] were part of it, but it's still not an excuse. When the team gives you a lead like that, you've got to be able to pitch six or seven innings. I didn't do that today, so I'm just glad the guys could pick me up."
The bullpen's story seemed to be one that would impress Harry Houdini. It seemed their main concern was just to escape innings instead of attack batters. Young flamethrower Chris Perez was awarded the relief win but gave up a run and a couple hits.
The story seemed to be the same with Jason Isringhausen, as he also gave up a run but struck out four in nearly two innings of work. The rest of the bullpen, which included McClellan, Springer, and Franklin, did its job as the Redbirds continued to roll along.
Despite going 5-7 on their interleague road trip, the Cardinals remain only two-and-a-half games out of first place as the Cubs have displayed their own struggles in the AL/NL battles. Their most recent loss to the Chicago White Sox now has Cubs fans in a lather, as they have lost four straight.
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