GAME 99: Three Out Of Four Ain’t Bad
The Cardinals tried a new approach today, scoring six actual runs before the seventh inning in support of a solid-if-unspectacular start from Jake Westbrook. The runs held up thanks to the bullpen and some fine late defense as the Cardinals (53-46) won the four game series with a 7-4 victory over the Dodgers.
DECENTBROOK: Four runs in seven innings might not sound like a dominant pitching performance, but for Westbrook, this was the pinnacle of his resurgent year. Westy needed just 94 crisp pitches to finish his day, and notched six strikeouts as well. In addition, Westbrook made two plays with his feet like he was some sort of bearded Cristiano Ronaldo. It was crazy, gutsy, inspirational baseball from our quiet ace.
BIG BATS: Several Cardinals had huge afternoons, as the team raked for 18 hits. David Freese led the way, stroking three singles while driving in two runs and scoring two as well. Six regulars had multiple hits. Matt Holliday added a cherry on top with a booming centerfield home run for the seventh and final run. We even scored prior to the seventh, which felt like a miracle. An excellent day at the plate!
CRUZ CONTROL: Fans often roll their eyes when they see Tony Cruz in the lineup; he’s a scrawnier Molina with a rather flat .213 batting average. But Cruz outdid himself today, going 2-4 and driving in two runs (he’s driven in four runs in the last seven days). I would love to see Cruz hold onto more pitches, though; it seemed like Cruz dropped several pitches today and he looked a bit sloppy behind the plate overall.
UNREAL: It’s hard to describe the bizarre play by the Cardinals in the fifth. The Dodgers had Juan Rivera on second base with nobody out and Matt Treanor at the plate. Treanor bounced a ball into the hole at second, which was knocked down by Daniel Descalso. As Descalso leaped to his feet, he noticed that Treanor had rounded third and was headed home (for some reason). So Descalso wisely threw to David Freese at third in order to cut off Treanor’s escape route. Unfortunately, Freese threw the ball wildly to Cruz at home, and the run scored. While it sounds fairly standard, the play looked terrible in action.
LOCKDOWN: Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte took over the eighth and ninth innings for Westbrook, and they were incredible. The pair combined for two innings of scoreless baseball with five strikeouts, including Motte’s strikeout of the side in the ninth on 99 mph fastballs. While the rest of the bullpen remains in flux, the eighth and ninth inning guys are not in doubt anymore.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Freese.
CONCLUSION: This is the kind of game I really like to see from the Cards … nothing overwhelming, but all aspects of their game working in unison. Decent-to-good pitching, timely hitting, and solid defense. Team that can produce this kind of even-keel game on a regular basis will compete for the long haul.