As if things didn’t look bleak enough in the last couple of weeks for the St. Louis Cardinals, they faced the likely pick for the NL Cy Young Award in Arizona Diamondbacks’ starter Brandon Webb tonight.
Webb, who boasted a 21-7 record and 3.26 ERA coming into tonight, had looked strong his last two starts, pitching a combined fifteen innings while giving up just two runs in two Diamondback wins.
The Cardinals, who came into tonight’s game having won just two of their last ten games, tied the score up at one apiece in the first inning after Webb balked. Not much to report after quality pitching through three innings from both sides. Wellemeyer was shaky in the fourth giving up two hits and a walk that allowed the D’backs to grab a 2-1 lead. Webb has looked in control thus far for the most part, varying his curveball and fastball usage to retire Cardinal hitters.
Wellemeyer just threw a dynamite breaking pitch to get Chris Young flailing to lead off the fifth inning, too bad he let Conor Jackson on with a single to follow, and gives strikeout master Adam Dunn first base on a four-pitch walk. Wellemeyer pitch count: 84
Wow! Just when it looked like Welle would be knocked out of the game early, he strikes out Mark Reynolds and Chris Snyder swinging with the bases loaded to end the inning. It might have cost Wellemeyer precious extra pitches, but no runs came across.
Clearly Skip Schumaker needs to work on his bunting skills. After two failed attempts to move Cesar Izturis over to second base, Schumaker was forced to swing and grounded into a double play. On the first pitch of the next at-bat, Felipe Lopez rolled a Webb offering to Dunn to move play to the sixth inning.
After making short order of Eckstein and Webb, left-handed Stephen Drew went deep for his 20th home run of the year. Manager Tony La Russa lets Wellemeyer record the final out, but the Cardinals now trail 3-1. Wellemeyer pitch count: 115
In a totally unrelated matter, Chicago Cubs’ pitcher Jason Marquis has five RBIs tonight. I mean, I knew he could swing the stick from his days with the Redbirds, but that’s insane. As a matter of fact, no pitcher has done that since 1972.
It appears that not even Webb wants to challenge Albert “El Hombre” Pujols. He just drew his second walk tonight. Man, Ludwick has looked terrible tonight. That’s three strikeouts, all while looking like a Single-A prospect. Aaron Miles goes down swinging to end the sixth. Webb pitch count: 98
Here comes the 29-year-old righty Josh Kinney to relieve Wellemeyer. After all, Todd tossed 117 pitches, striking out seven in the process. Kinney missed 300 games but has been called back up recently and has been effective out of the Cards’ pen.
Kinney’s curveball was explosive, which is why it was three-up, three-down for the Diamondbacks in the seventh in just fourteen pitches.
Can the Cards’ brew something up in the late innings? Pinch-hitter Adam Kennedy just singled to right field to make things interesting against the otherwise-dominant Webb.
Runners on the corners for Schumaker with one out. Schumaker’s groundball is gobbled up by Eckstein, but Kennedy scores from third to make it a 3-2 ballgame. Webb pitch count: 112
Third base coach Jose Oquendo holds up the fleet-footed Izturis on a single by Lopez. Not too sure about that one, even with Pujols stepping to the dish. It didn’t look like Young had much of a chance to gun down Cesar at home, plus Albert has been looking fooled at the plate as of late. Webb pitch count: 121
That’s a missed opportunity, Pujols was absolutely puzzled by that sick breaking ball by Webb. The score remains 3-2 and Russ Springer is in for Kinney.
What a play by Lopez! A hotshot from Eckstein is smothered and tossed to Pujols. Springer allows a double to pinch-hitter Chad Tracy and things aren’t looking good for the Redbirds, Reynolds scores to make it 4-2.
Lefty Ron Villone is jogging in to take the ball from TLR, the Cards need this out to have a chance to make up two runs in the last six outs.
Well a walk by Villone definitely isn’t going to do it. La Russa calls on Brad Thompson who gets Young to pop out.
Ludwick singles, Glaus doubles…Miles lines out into a double play! That is by far the most deflating play of the night.
It’s up to Chad Qualls to shut down the Cardinals in the ninth. Izturis singles and steals second, but it the chances are looking gloomy.
Qualls gets Lopez to ground out to end the game. Boy, if the hopes of all Cards’ fans weren’t already mostly dashed, they should be severed right now.
For most of Cardinal Nation this game meant nothing. But to the ballclub, the story was simple: they had to win.
Even if they won out, they would still need to get a tremendous amount of help from other NL contenders.
With just seven games remaining, a four-game set against the Diamondbacks followed by a three-game weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds, the Cardinals glimmer of hope to make the 2008 postseason was a mere dull beam of light.
One of the most compelling stories surrounding the game was how current Diamondbacks’ second baseman David Eckstein would be received back at Busch Stadium for the first time since being named World Series MVP in 2006.
Most columnists had projected that Eckstein would receive the same favorable ovation that fan favorite So Taguchi saw when he came back as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies last season. The local columnists were right on point, as fans in all three tiers of Busch Stadium stood to applaud the former Cardinals’ infielder, then saw Eckstein promptly walked on four pitches. Just goes to show you that the Cardinals truly have the best fans in baseball bar none.
Although it is highly unlikely that the Cardinals will be playing ball in October, there have still been a plethora of moments that can make the Redbirds proud of what has been accomplished this year. From being tabbed to finish second-to-last in the NL Central by most major sporting publications, to a rag-tag ballclub that hung on until the last couple of weeks, one could absolutely describe this team as “overachieving”.
Although the situation looks grim for the Redbirds, expect a young and upstart bunch to come in for the 2009 edition.
-First pitch 7:15 p.m.
- Centerfielder Skip Schumaker, who came in hitting .342 against RHP, good enough for first in the majors, went 1-5 with a run scored.
-Starter Todd Wellemeyer, had retired 37 of the last 40 left-handed hitters he has faced. So much for that stat, I guess, because Drew went 3-4 with a home run and RBI double.
-Albert Pujols is aiming to lead the team in batting for an eighth consecutive season. That’s something no other Cardinal has ever done (Musial and Hornsby had 7-year streaks).
-Last pitch 10:31 p.m.
Cardinals’ Milestones heading into Monday night’s game:
-Pujols has scored 94 runs, six more for 100 on the year. (0 scored tonight)
-Ludwick has 199 total bases on the year, one more for 200. (0 bases tonight)
-Glaus has 93 RBIs on the year, seven more for 100. (0 RBIs tonight)
-Izturis has 392 at-bats this season, eight more for 400. (4 ABs tonight)
Tonight’s starting Cardinals’ lineup:
Schumaker (CF): 1-5, R, GIDP
Lopez (2B): 3-5
Pujols (1B): 0-2, K, 2BB
Ludwick (RF): 1-4, 3K
Glaus (3B): 1-4
Miles (LF): 1-4, K, SB
Johnson (C): 0-4
Wellemeyer (P): 0-2, K
Izturis (SS): 3-4