July 30, 2008

Carp off to good start, Mather doubles, goes deep to lead offense

Chris Carpenter went to the mound for the St. Louis Cardinals for the first time in nearly two years. Needless to say, all of Cardinal Nation was anxious.

The former Cy Young winner had the difficulty with command one might expect, using a lot of pitches and making it easy for the Braves to take a lot of balls. In the second inning, the Braves compiled three successive hits, the last off the bat of Jeff Francouer, who singled home Omar Infante to take a 1-0 lead.

The Cardinals would have to grind away at Braves' starter and rookie standout Jair Jurrjens into the fifth inning before Cesar Izturis singled home Joe Mather in a Redbirds' rally. Later in the rally, Adam Kennedy would double Izuris home to turn the tables on the lead, the Cards now up one at 2-1.

Brad Thompson came on in relief of Carpenter to start the fifth, having a rough inning out of the chute, giving up a couple walks and singles that culminated into the Braves tying up the game at 2-all.

Thompson settled down in the sixth, matching Jurrjens one-two-three inning.

In the seventh, more inefficient defensive play by the Braves combined with good base running by Adam Kennedy and a stubborn at-bat by Albert Pujols gave the Cardinals the go-ahead run at 3-2. Pujols ran a full count on Jurrjens and continued to foul off pitches with aggressive but control.

In the bottom of the seventh with two outs, Thompson gave up a single to Infante and Cards' manager Tony La Russa brought in Russ Springer. Just like the previous night's game, Springer only needed one pitch to get out of the jam.

There was some doubt about Joe Mather's ability to catch up to heat due to his awkward-looking stance and somewhat lengthy swing, but with Yadier Molina on base in the eighth, Mather turned on a low-90s fastball from Braves' reliever Blaine Boyer, launching it into the left field seats, the two run blast increasing the Cards lead to 5-2. This was Mather's second round-tripper in the Atlanta series.

La Russa brought in Kyle McClellan to face the Braves in the eighth. McClellan seemed close to being overworked, the first two batters reaching. With two outs, McClellan walked Escobar. La Russa yanked McClellan for Ron Villone, who secured the inning's last out to get the Cards out of another jam.

Ludwick and Glaus both had back to back RBI-singles in the ninth to push the Cards lead to 7-2.

Villone stayed in to close, giving up a double but taking down the other three Braves' batsmen.

Carpenter's start, under the microscope, went for 67 pitches, during which he allowed the one earned run. He walked two and struck out two, giving up five hits. For his short stint, he now carries an 2.25 ERA.
Thompson gave up the only other Braves' run in his 2 2/3's innings, walking two and striking out one. His role in middle relief was expected, and he came through with some stellar defensive work from first baseman Pujols, who robbed the Braves' leadoff hitter in the seventh. Casey Kotchman ripped a hard grounder down the first base line that Pujols dove on, whirling around form his downed position and hitting Thompson covering first base, preventing a sure leadoff double.

Offensive standouts for the Cards:

  • Joe Mather went 2-for-5, scoring two runs on a double and a home run.
  • Also doubling were Skip Schumaker, Albert Pujols, and Kennedy.
  • Joe Mather, Yadier Molina, and Adam Kennedy went 2-for-5.
  • Ryan Ludwick went 2-for-4.
  • Brad Thompson earned the victory, improving his record to 4-2.

The Cards ensured a series win with the victory and have a chance to sweep tomorrow afternoon before returning to Busch Stadium to start a homestand on Friday.
photo by Barbara Moore