GAME 24: Shiver Me Timber
Pirates starter A.J. Burnett paid dearly for his shutout of the National League’s best offense on April 22, as the Cardinals (16-8) cruelly gutted Burnett and the clumsy Pirates 12-3 on steamy night at Busch Stadium. This was one of the most inspirational wins of the young season.
PUNISHMENT: When the Cardinals saw Burnett two weeks ago, they took too many pitches and allowed Burnett to fall into a dangerous rhythm. This is a team built to score runs, so Burnett’s shutout that night really left a sour taste. And boy, did they make him pay for it! The Cardinals jumped on Burnett’s first-pitch strikes for five straight hits in the first and never looked back. By the time the ambulance arrived to cart Burnett’s carcass from the field, he had surrendered 12 runs on 12 hits, including two homers and a triple among the hit parade. Incredible, breathtaking offense!
KING CARLOS: Until tonight, Carlos Beltran was having the kind of solid year that fit well with the Cardinals’ retooled, team-wide offense. But tonight he showed that he is the kind of game-changer that can carry a team solo. Beltran’s incredible 4-5, two-homer, 7 RBI night lit up the night sky and electrified Busch. Like Cardinal Nation, Beltran was smiling from ear to ear; this is obviously the most fun he’s ever had in a uniform.
UP AND DOWN: The Cardinals had a .500 batting average tonight; the entire lineup had a blast. While nobody had Beltran’s night, several Cardinals enjoyed multiple hit games, including Matt Holliday (2-2 with 2 RBI and 3 runs), Jon Jay (3-4), and Matt Carpenter (3-5). Four other players not named Beltran had RBI’s, and everyone contributed. It was a glorious offensive display by everyone tonight.
IMMOVABLE MOUNTAIN: Lance Lynn didn’t need 12 runs to earn his National League-leading fifth win (against no losses). Lynn produced an easy-going start in which he allowed just two earned runs (one surrendered by Marc Rzepczynski after Lynn left) on two hits against five strikeouts. If Lynn wasn’t covered in hair, he wouldn’t have perspired at all. Lynn received a huge and well-deserved ovation when he left in the seventh, an acknowledgement of how he has helped this team in the absence of Chris Carpenter. Well done, kiddo!
BOILING OVER: I really don’t blame Rod Barajas and manager Clint Hurdle for getting ejected in the second inning. The home plate umpiring has been atrocious in this series, and we’ve seen several series ruined by bad calls and ego-driven counts this season. Can’t we option the umpires to the minors, too? Or maybe start using electronic balls and strikes?
ALL HANDS ON DECK: Matheny continues to show creativity and forethought in dealing with his roster. After the Cardinals leaped out ot such a staggering lead, Matheny made the wise choice to get everyone into the game while also giving some starters a rest. Players like Tyler Greene, Shane Robinson, and Tony Cruz made it into the game for extended play, which is important for their development. I just wish Matheny would’ve given Molina a breather instead of moving him to first base, because we need a fresh Yadi this month with only one day off in May.
BOGGED DOWN: Mitchell Boggs wasn’t particularly sharp in his two-thirds of an inning in the ninth, giving up a run on two hits and a walk. Sure, it’s like complaining about a raindrop falling into a glass of water, but this was the first notable time that Boggs lacked control and concentration this year. Hopefully it doesn’t wear on his confidence.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Are you kidding? Beltran all the way. Wow, what a night!
CONCLUSION: The Cardinals are soaring after scoring 22 runs in two games. Like I said yesterday, imagine this club with Berkman and Carpenter back in it! Tomorrow the Cardinals go for the sweep with Jake Westbrook on the hill. Stay focused, guys!