July 17, 2008

Cards' four-of-a-kind beats Peavy and the Padres

ST. LOUIS--Four solo home runs were one run too much for Jake Peavy and the Padres, but just enough for Kyle Loshe and the Cardinals, as St. Louis started the second half with a series opening win at Busch Stadium.

Peavy doesn't give up the longball very often, making the round-trippers out of the norm for him. Not so unusual for the Troy Glaus of late, however, bringing home a hot bat from the last road trip before the All-Star break, picking up where he left off, with power, the Cards' third baseman hitting a couple shots to left field. His first homer came in the second inning, tying the game at 1-1.

Sandwiched between Glaus's homers was a fourth-inning Rick Ankiel skyball that made the first row in right-center, tying the game for the second time at 2-apiece. Glaus's second home run was the latter part of a back-to-back assault, coming after Ankiel's round-tripper to put the Cards in the lead once more at 3-2.

The longballs almost made Kyle Lohse's solid performance a sideshow. Almost.

Noteworthy of Lohse's twelfth win against two losses was that he struggled early, giving up a run in the first, but working through somewhat of a self-made jam. A walk he gave up (to Adrian Gonzalez) pushed the base runner (Edgar Gonzalez) who had singled into scoring position, then scoring on a Kevin Kouzmanoff single.

Lohse continued to sharpen through his seven complete innings, roughing it in the third, however, giving up a leadoff solo home run to E. Gonzalez. After a fly out, Lohse begged for more trouble after A. Gonzalez ripped a double, walking Brian Giles to put two men on. Kouzmanoff laced a ground ball that Albert Pujols stabbed, leading to a double play to get Lohse off the hook.

After that, Lohse pretty much cruised, throwing three ground outs in the fourth. After a pop-out to lead off the fifth, Lohse struck out E. Gonzalez and Giles to retire the side. The sixth went well for the new Cardinals' ace, who struck out Kouzmanoff after an A. Gonzalez single, the latter going down as the first part of a double play started from the bat of Chase Headley, Miles to Izturis to Pujols. In his last inning, Lohse gave up a single that led to nowhere for the west coast visitors.

In the bottom of the frame, Joe Mather pinch-hit for Lohse, who had no complaints with the results, a home run to extend the Cardinals' lead to 4-2. The "Joey Bombs" homer was his second of the season, and would prove to be a valuable piece of insurance.

The Padres' Peavy completed the seventh, striking out seven. Reliever Mike Adams took over, striking out one in the eighth, his only inning of work.

It was the Cardinals bullpen that had everyones' hearts racing. There's no disputing the troubles the Redbirds' relievers have gone through. It's not as if part of the opposition's plan is to survive whomever the Cardinals' starter is, then go after the bullpen. Tonight's game would be an initial test for the second half of the season.

The first arm manager Tony La Russa called was Kyle McClellan, and most likely this rookie because he as done a little better on average then the rest of the relief corps. Plus, La Russa probably chose McClellan for this assignment because he was able to start a fresh inning.

McClellan struck out E. Gonzalez swinging, no easy feat for the contact-talented hitter. When Giles lined one hard to center, however, La Russa hooked him fast. The switch may not have been due to the rip to that Ankiel was in perfect position to grab with a few quick steps back. Indeed, calling in the lefthanded specialist Ron Villone may have been part of his strategy for the actual progression of the inning.

Villone is was, though, facing A. Gonzalez and striking him out.

La Russa brought in his closer of recent times, Ryan Franklin, who brought on cries of "Not again!" as Kouzmanoff and Headley stroked back-to-back doubles, the former scoring on the latter. Kouzmanoff's extra-basehit went down the left field line, but when Headley's shot flew into deep left-center and ricocheted off the wall, La Russa sent pitching coach Dave Duncan to the mound.

Whatever Duncan told Franklin, it worked well, Franklin striking out pinch-hitter Brian Myrow. Headley scampered to third base on the next hit, a Nick Hundley ground ball to Aaron Miles. With the pressure of the tying run racing to the plate on pinch-hitter Luis Rodriguez's ground ball to the right side, Miles handled a bad hop well, the ball skipping high on the last bounce. Miles stayed with the play, however, side-arming a throw over to Albert Pujols for the final out.

McClellan picked up his 21st hold, Villone, his eighth, while Franklin copped his 13th save.

In Lohse's mixed bag of innings, he scattered seven hits while giving up two runs, both earned. He walked two and struck out four.

A defensive gem was created by Miles in the fourth inning when he ran down a Peavy ground ball up the middle, fielding, leaping and throwing to first while gliding away toward the outfield. Peavy was out by a half-step.

And speaking of Peavy, in the losing cause, he proved what a tough competitor he is, going 2-for-3, Miles having ruined a perfect day at the plate.

The Cardinals continue their series with the Padres tomorrow night at Busch Stadium.
photo by SD Dirk