June 28, 2008

Rookie Boggs gets Cards back in the I-70 fast lane

It took a rookie pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals to "Show-Me" how it's done, helping his teammates finally get a 5-1 win in the I-70 series. This victory upped his record to 3-0.
Boggs was matched against Kyle Davies, who beat the Cards in the previous I-70 series at Busch Stadium.

The difference in tonight's game was slight, as Boggs did pitch a good game, but not too much better than the other starters who'd suffered losses versus the Royals this season. The difference in the offense was significant, apparent in the runs scored alone, scoring five, which at least doubles the scores in their losses to the Royals.

That offense came in several innings, another plus for the sputtering Cardinals' offense, which hasn't given either the starting or relief pitching staffs the support necessary for a reasonable chance at winning, and that applies regardless of which part of the staff is doing well and which isn't.

The game remained scoreless until the fourth inning, and then the Cardinals only scored one run. But they would tack on at least one run in each of the next three innings as well, scoring two in the sixth. By the seventh, the Cards were up 5-0, and the Royals would score their only run in the bottom of the seventh.

Offensive highlights included a Ryan Ludwick double to center, followed by a Chris Duncan flare hit to center that scored a charging Ludwick. A lead-extending home run by Rick Ankiel with Skip Schumaker aboard helped Boggs pitch with a healthy lead, unlike the other starters, who although did well, had to pitch almost every inning either down in score or tied or up by only one run.

Defensively, Brendan Ryan was busy at shortstop, but making plays with the sort of movements that suggest an increased confidence. Earlier in the season, many plays Ryan made seemed to have him walking on eggshells, as if he couldn't be too careful. These days, he looks like a seasoned infielder.

On one defensive gem for the Cards, left fielder Schumaker took a desperation dive for a ball over his head, missing, sliding through the warning track dirt, then popping up and scooping up the ball. Schumaker threw a strike to cutoff man Ryan as another Royals' base runner headed for home. All of Cardinal Nation held its collective breath as Ryan threw a one-hop strike of his own to the awaiting Molina. But the gasp was not so much for the close play at the plate as it was for Molina, who spun away from the lowered shoulder of base runner Miguel Olivo. Molina made the tag while avoiding any serious contact, getting the putout and allowing said Cardinal Nation to sigh in relief.

Kyle McClellan, another rookie, came on in relief after Boggs walked one and gave up a hit in the seventh inning. Ross Gload doubled home Mark Teahen, this play described with Olivo getting thrown out at home.

Horacio Ramirez relieved Davies in the eighth, holding the Cards. McClellan held the Royals in the bottom half of the inning.

Robinson Tejeda took over for the ninth inning, also holding the Cards.

Russ Springer came on in the closer's role, walking one, but allowing no runs.

The rubber game of the Kansas City phase of the I-70 series takes place tomorrow afternoon, the Cardinals pushing to take the series before coming home to Busch Stadium for a home stand featuring a four-game set against the New York Mets and a three-game series against NL Central Division leaders, the Chicago Cubs.