GAME 14: Lancing Pirates
Disaster struck the Crippled Cardinals in the opening seconds of the game, but the Redbirds hung tough against a very good Charlie Morton. After several innings of a tied ballgame, the Cards jumped out to a lead and never looked back at the hapless Pirates. Thanks to a late explosion, the Cardinals (10-4) beat the Pirates (5-8) 4-1 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
EARLY DAMAGE: Things looked doomed with the first at-bat of the game. Alex Presley skied a monstrous fly ball to the wall in center, where newly-activated Skip Schumaker was replacing an injured Jon Jay. Schumaker crashed into the wall as the ball bounced away. Presley rounded the bases for an inside-the-park homer, and Schumaker had to leave the game because he “had the wind knocked out of him.” Another frustrating setback for our super utility guy.
STOPPER: Prior to this season, Lance Lynn (3-0) was considered as a possible replacement for fifth starter Jake Westbrook. However, Lynn continues to pitch like an ace as the replacement for injured Chris Carpenter (is there anyone healthy on this team??). Lynn, already sporting a 1.50 ERA, needed just 87 pitches through seven innings. Did Lynn even break a sweat?? The best thing about Lynn is his confidence; he’s not afraid of challenging hitters. He also walks basically NOBODY. If this is real, Lynn gives this club some tremendous options for next year.
UP THE MIDDLE: Rafael Furcal demonstrated one of the big reasons the Cardinals re-signed the shortstop for two years in the bottom of the fourth. The speedy Andrew McCutchen attempted to steal second on Yadier Molina, which is usually foolish. Molina made a wide throw down to second, but Furcal corrected it with a snappy tag that got McCutchen by a hair. Having Molina and Furcal up the middle in this infield is a huge advantage for this team.
HE WANTS IT: It’s easy to see the frustration in Matt Holliday, who is laboring with a .206 batting average. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Holliday race down the first base line in desperation on a couple of ground balls like he did tonight. He did beat out one of them for an infield single, his only hit of the night. I feel bad for Holliday, who is clearly struggling and probably feeling a bit of pressure with Pujols out of town. RELAX, MATT! We’re doing fine!
SCHNOZZ: Daniel Descalso fouled off a ball early in the game that bounced off of the ground and smacked him in the nose. Descsalso doesn’t need a swollen nose, if you know what I mean.
SCREWED: The Pirates look much worse than they should be. They committed four errors tonight; it’s almost shocking that the Cardinals didn’t end up with ten runs. They also look lost at the plate, swinging at terrible pitches and failing to move runners over. This is a young team with some talent, but for whatever reason they aren’t putting it together. Their fans are definitely letting them know it, too, as the boos were regularly heard at PNC Park tonight.
LATE RELIEF: The Cards tacked on some nice insurance runs in the ninth. Leading off, Daniel Descalso demolished a low fastball for his first homer of the season to push the score to 3-1. Then, the Pirates committed their fourth error on a ground ball to second by Sugar Shane Robinson. Rafael Furcal followed that with an opposite field double to score Robinson and pad the lead to 4-1. Although you rarely worry about Jason Motte, it’s nice to give him some breathing room.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Lynn. He was spectacular.
CONCLUSION: The game started scarily with Schumaker’s injury, but this was another typical win for this team: solid pitching, little guys coming through, and some excellent defense. It’s getting easy to feel spoiled with a team like this one.