Chris Duncan was the most unlikely of heroes for the St. Louis Cardinals, on a night when their bats were in top form and their pitching was less than stellar.
Duncan stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning with outfielder Ryan Ludwick on base, and crushed a ball out of the yard to tie the game up at seven. What transpired in the following inning led to a large celebration in Busch Stadium and around St. Louis.
Cardinals’ third baseman Troy Glaus hit his second home run of the night, this one barely over the head of New York Mets outfielder Endy Chavez.
The play evoked memories of Chavez’s catch against the Cardinals in the NLCS just two years ago. Many fans were teased before Glaus took out the big stick, as outfielder Rick Ankiel came within mere feet of a walk-off blast in the at-bat prior to Glaus. Although the Cardinals picked up just eleven hits to the Mets’ fifteen, the final score of 8-7, and that was the only line that the home dugout would care to see.
Another stat line that may be troubling in tomorrow’s review is Joel Pineiro’s struggles. He pitched just five innings, allowing four runs on eleven hits. This starting performance comes a night after the Cardinals' Todd Wellemeyer also got shelled by New York.
The Cardinals starting pitching has been its pride and joy so far this year, but with starts like this, the offense may have to pick up more slack than was previously conceived.
Not many teams are going to win a ballgame after giving up fifteen hits, and the Cardinals just happened to outduel the Mets at the end to steal this one from the NL East power’s grasp.
It still remains to be seen how well first baseman and top slugger Albert Pujols can adapt to being close to reaching a milestone. Pujols is stuck on 299 career home runs, and it looked as though he was trying hard to alleviate that stress tonight with five poor at-bats.
Hopefully Albert can send one deep soon, so we can see the hitting machine we're used to, rather than the 0-5 superstar.
As bad as Pineiro was, he was outdone by reliever Mark Mulder. In just his second appearance since a long DL stint in 2007, Mulder gave up two earned runs while recording just one out for the Cardinals in the seventh inning. The Redbirds are going to have to get more out of Mulder if he is to continue to make appearances in tight situations.
This win, however, propels the Cardinals to just two games back of the division-leading Chicago Cubs in the race for the top record in the National League. Both clubs also endured a rain delay of 47 minutes to complete the game.
Cardinal manager Tony La Russa said in a postgame interview that this win was very important for the club’s morale, but they need to start playing well to win games, not just getting lucky with some timely hitting. That said, a win is a win, and the Cardinals are creeping closer to the NL Central lead.