GAME 144: A Whiff Of Hope
The Cardinals repeatedly ran themselves out of scoring chances, wasting another excellent start from Edwin Jackson, but they saved their dramatics for the final two innings as the Cardinals defeated the Braves 4-3 in extra innings. The Cards are now 6.5 games behind the Braves for the wild card.
ACTION JACKSON: I’m really liking what I’m seeing from Edwin Jackson. Another dominating performance, with the only trouble coming in a two-run first inning. Six innings of two-run, five strikeout baseball doesn’t get much better. The frustrating part is the lack of run support Jackson’s received; in his last four losses, he’s given up three earned runs or less while getting less than three runs in each start. Annoying for sure.
ONE INNING OF SPEED: In the Cardinals’ game plan, the stolen base is like Bigfoot; there are rumors that it exists, but nobody’s ever seen one. But in one of the more bizarre innings of the year, the Cards attempted TWO stolen bases in a row. First, Edwin Jackson took off for second with nobody out and was caught by Brian McCann. Then, one out later, Rafael Furcal stole second base. Sadly, by the end of the scoreless half-inning, TLR had already forgotten the strategy.
ALRIGHT IN RIGHT: Lance Berkman hasn’t been spectacular in right field, but he occasionally makes a play that surprises everybody. One of those happened in the first, as Berkman ran down a line shot from Chipper Jones that reached the warning track. Berkman wasn’t graceful doing it, but he caught the damned thing anyway.
RALLY KILLER: There isn’t a player on this club that bothers me more than Corey Patterson. He simply does not have anything that recommends his usage on a major league club. The seventh inning gave us more evidence of this fact. Speedy Tyler Greene was on first base with one out when TLR called on Patterson to pinch hit for Marc Rzepczynski. Greene tried to steal second, but Patterson popped out weakly to left field to take that base away from Greene. That ended up hurting even more when the next batter (Furcal) hit a single in between first and second. Those are the kinds of things Patterson does constantly to ruin rallies.
FURCED UP: When Furcal hit his single in the seventh, it was bobbled enough that Furcal thought he could make it to second. What was he thinking?? The ball wasn’t that far away from Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla to justify trying for the extra base. So they easily caught Furcal at second to end one of the best scoring chances of the night.
NO HUSTLE: The eighth inning had Adron Chambers on first base as a pinch runner for Allen Craig and Albert Pujols at the plate. Pujols (of course) grounded to the pitcher, who turned to start a double play. Chambers, barreling down the line, took Uggla out as he made the pivot at second. However, Uggla managed to fling the ball toward first anyway AND IT BEAT PUJOLS BY TEN STEPS! Why wasn’t Pujols running at full speed down the line? Is he really THAT slow?? Wind-blown petrified dogshit could’ve beaten Pujols to first. UNACCEPTABLE.
ARTHUR RHODES BLOWS: The Braves got a runner on second base with two outs and Michael Bourn (3-4 at the time) at the plate. TLR began to twitch, every cell in his rapidly-decaying body crying out for the limited skill-set of Arthur Rhodes. I have no idea what kind of situation would be the right time to call on Rhodes, but my general answer is “none.” I wouldn’t depend on Rhodes to put his shoes on the correct feet. Still, TLR adores Rhodes; I guess Rhodes must shit Puppy Chow or something. So Rhodes came into this game and promptly surrendered a triple to Bourn to tack on another run that this dormant Cardinal offense could not surmount. AWESOME! THANKS, ART!
NINTH INNING DRAMA: Thanks to Craig Kimbrel’s inability to throw a strike, the Cardinals loaded the bases with two outs and Albert Pujols at the plate. The Cards needed at least two runs. Everyone at Busch was standing and chanting, praying for a big hit. Pujols came through, shooting a ball down the line for a double and scoring the two tying runs. Then, Ryan Theriot decided to try and score all the way from first and was caught between third and home for the final out. Still, the Cards gave themselves a life at the last moment.
A PERFECT INNING: The Cards started off their half of the tenth with consecutive singles from Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman. Daniel Descalso was asked to bunt the runners over, which he (eventually) did. The Braves made the correct call, walking Skip Schumaker to bring up Nick Punto. Against all odds, Punto ripped a fly ball to score Holliday with the winning run. Everything about this inning was perfectly executed by TLR and the team. Congrats, guys … do it more often.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Albert Pujols. His hit in the ninth made everything else possible.
CONCLUSION: Given how they were playing all night, it seemed improbable that the Cardinals would have a chance to win this game from the dominant Braves. But something stirred in them late, and they found enough motivation to snatch this out of the jaws of defeat. Will it be the kind of game that drives this club to finally do something with 18 games left? History still says “no,” but I think their hearts are starting to tell them something else.