June 28, 2008

Royals turn for two-out scoring

Five of the Royals seven runs came with two outs, an attribute the Cardinals are usually noted for. As it turned out, three of those two-out runs were all it took to take the first game of Round 2 of the I-70 series, this three-game set held at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.

Joel Pineiro, except for a disastrous second inning, pitched far better than his numbers showed. The Cardinals' right-hander went 7.2 innings, which, in the loss, was probably the biggest bonus to his performance. He threw 110 pitches, and going so deep into the game meant the bullpen wasn't eaten up on the first night in Kansas City. Only Ron Villone came out of the pen, throwing only nine pitches, and for one out.

Falling to 2-4, this hasn't been the first time he has pitched well and ended up on the short end. What proved to be all the runs the Royals needed to win came off the bat of Alex Gordon in the second, a bases-loaded (and clearing) double into the right field corner that came after an infield single (which scored a run) when shortstop Aaron Miles couldn't make the play. The play also points out how the incredible speed of Joey Gathright can put pressure on an infielder. Suffice it to say the man is one of the quickest from the box to first that 4thebirds has reported on this season.

The 7-2 loss became a display of pitching hardship for the Cardinals, but also another frustrating example of how a team can garner multiple hits and never have just enough to do damage in enough innings. The Cardinals scored 10 hits, just one less than the Royals, yet the end result was vastly different.

Scattering those Cardinals' hits was the handiwork of the Royals' starter Gil Meche, who went seven innings and allowed six of the 10, only one earned, the seventh inning solo home run by Troy Glaus (11). Glaus added an RBI in the next inning against Royals' reliever Ron Mahay with a two-out single that brought home Ryan Ludwick.

It wasn't as if the Cardinals didn't have opportunities, to expand on the issue of "multiple hits, little to show for it." An old habit came back, leaving too many ducks on the pond, the Cardinals stranded eight. And to prove the missed load of opportunities, the Cards added to that LOB tally in seven of nine frames.

If there's a bright side to the LOB situation, it's that the Cardinals hit the ball hard, with three noted line drive outs, and plenty of well hit ground and fly outs. Outs are outs, but you can tell when the majority of them are hit pretty hard, and that's where the offense was last night. Hard hit outs are also make for a growing frustration, when the other team's hits fall in most of the time and your hits don't. Crying over such occurrences, however, won't get you prepped for the next games. At this point, considering the Cards did hit Meche well, just not for scored hits, the offense may be primed for a breakout game, especially considering Albert Pujols had rocked one off the right field fence, and adding Glaus's round-tripper.

The 7-2 loss marks the fourth in a row to the Royals, with two more interleague games to play to finish up the second set of three.