GAME 25: Walk The Plank
A flat, uninspired Cardinal squad came out on a sunny, muggy afternoon and dropped the chance at a sweep of the clumsy Pirates. Even without some of their big bats in the lineup, the Cardinals had a chance to win this game anyway. A failure to execute with runners on base spelled their doom. The Cardinals (16-9) dropped the final game 6-3 before 34,000 at Busch Stadium.
OUT OF THE GATE: After the offensive explosions of the previous two games, everyone wondered what might happen today. Well, three straight doubles answered any doubts in the first inning. Smoking hot Jon Jay led it off with a double, then scored on a double by David Freese. The next batter, Allen Craig, ripped a double inside the third base line to score Freese. Even without our big guns in the lineup, the kids keep coming through!
MISSED SHOT: You could almost feel the momentum suck out of the stadium in the second when the Cardinals loaded the bases (on a Pirate error, a single, a stolen base, and a walk) and failed to score. With the groundout to end the inning, Matt Holliday left four runners on base in a frustrating afternoon for him.
JUST LIKE LIFE: Baseball can make you look great in one inning, and a fool in the next. Take, for example, David Freese. Not only did he drive in the first run of the game, but he also made a terrific play in the fifth on a foul ball near the Pirates dugout. Freese barely had time to savor his contributions when baseball turned again, as a bad hop on a grounder by Jose Tabata ate him up at third base for a key single in the seventh that led to the Pirates’ fourth run. Sometimes baseball can be whimsically cruel like that.
DECENTBROOK: For the first three innings, it looked like we were going to see the new, Cy Young caliber Jake Westbrook dominate the Pirates. However, some hard hit balls in the third indicated that this wasn’t the Westbrook we’ve been amazed by so far this season. Ultimately, this was more of a prototypical Fat Westbrook start: 6 innings, four runs, four strikeouts, one home run allowed. Not bad, but I was just getting to love the new, slimmer Westy with the golden ERA. Hopefully he comes back in five days.
MISSED SHOT PART TWO: The Cardinals had Juan Cruz on the ropes in the seventh. Rafael Furcal and Jon Jay worked walks with one out, and, after a Holliday pop out, Freese had an infield single to load the bases. Allen Craig came up with a chance to really rip this game open. Unfortunately, Craig grounded to third for a fielder’s choice. You’re not going to win many games when you fail to score on a bases-loaded situation twice in the same game.
OUT OF REACH: The last thing you want when trying to play late-game catch-up is for a reliever to give up another run, but that’s exactly what Victor Marte did in the eighth as the Pirates ripped two consecutive doubles to add a run. Then, the Pirates did it again in the ninth, adding a run against Kyle McClellan to hammer in a final nail. Frustrating.
LATE LIFE: When Hanrahan came out in the ninth, everyone imagined the game was over. But Furcal and Freese coaxed walks, and Allen Craig followed that with a deep double off of the base of the center field fence to plate Furcal. Sadly, too many late runs made the deficit too large to overcome.
CREDIT: Sometimes you have to tip your cap to an opposition’s pitching staff. The Cardinals, recipients of six walks in addition to six hits, couldn’t score more than two runs because Erik Bedard and a host of relievers skipped around problems and struck out the Cardinals a shocking sixteen times (11 by Bedard). Outside of Joel Hanrahan, the Pirates bullpen is not good. But they were pretty good today.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Freese for his timely hitting and great play in the fifth. Not much to choose from, though.
CONCLUSION: You can’t win ‘em all, they say, and I guess that’s true. It would’ve been nice to get a sweep, especially given the awful defense by the Pirates. There isn’t any reason why this game got away, except that the Cardinals just didn’t concentrate enough. Still, they’ve had an incredible home stand, and winning the series (and every series) should be their main goal.