August 6, 2008

Pineiro goes seven while Pujols slams and Ludwick solos

Albert Pujols went a perfect 4-for-4 with a double and a grand slam to help struggling starting pitcher Joel Pineiro and the team to a victory last night.

The St. Louis Cardinals took the three-game series as well, from the Los Angeles Dodgers, and have a chance to sweep today at 1:15 p.m., an afternoon game on "getaway day," before the Cards travel to Chicago for a three-game set in that city against the NL Central's leaders.

The Cards jumped on the board first, Adam Kennedy scoring on a wild pitch by Dodgers' starter Derek Lowe in the first inning.

Manny Ramirez would have none of it, however, blasting a solo home run in the next half-inning, teammate Angel Berrora tripling home a run in the same frame, flipping the lead over to the Dodgers, 2-1.

Ramirez then singled home Matt Kemp in the third inning, extending the Dodgers lead to 3-1.

Pineiro kept plugging away, as he has been for weeks, without a lot of good results usually. Just the same, he worked through the innings waiting for the Redbirds' offense to come alive.

Ryan Ludwick answered quickly, singling Pujols home in the third. Not long after, Yadier Molina singled home Ludwick, and the game was tied at 3-all.

Pineiro then got a real lift after holding the Dodgers scoreless in the fourth, Pujols launching a grand slam into the left field seats, the Cards suddenly up 7-3 with one swing. The next batter, Ludwick, belted a homer as well, solo, of course, since Pujols had just cleared the bases. Ludwick's team leading 29th homer added one, making it 8-3.

Pineiro did a lot to help himself get a win while helping his team keep pace with the Cubs and the Brewers when he went farther than the fourth inning. Both the fifth and the sixth innings were one-two-three's respectively. The Brewers managed to clip Pineiro for one run in the eighth, cutting the lead to four at 8-4.

When Joe Mather got a pinch-single in the seventh, then stole second, he needed only wait around for Skip Schumaker to single him home to inch the Cards ahead by five once more, 9-4.

Brad Thompson came on in relief for the eighth inning, giving up two runs before Cardinals' manager Tony La Russa brought in Chris Perez to see if he could pull off a four-out close. Perez was activated today, and although La Russa didn't say it out loud, it was obvious Perez was going to get a shot at closing if the game conditions dictated the opportunity. Well, the game conditions did, however early it occurred.

Perez worked his closing with a 9-6 lead, getting into a position in the ninth that found the Dodgers attempting to rally as they had the previous night. The closest Joe Torre's team got, however, was with the potential tying run on-deck in the form of Manny Ramirez. Perez, however, got Russell Martin to ground out on a slow-roller to third baseman Troy Glaus.

It was Perez's first major league save. He struck out four.

The Dodgers had a few offensive pains. One was Casey Blake, who went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles. Three other Dodgers' hitters had doubles, including Kemp, Angel Berroa, and James Loney. The aforementioned hitters were responsible for eight out of the Dodgers 11 hits on the night.

The Cardinals had 17 hits, 11 of them due to four hitters: Pujols, Ludwick, Kennedy, and Izturis. Pujols accounted for four of the team's nine runs, his grand slam taking care of those. Pujols also doubled and singled twice.

Ludwick went 3-for-5, Kennedy went 2-for-5, and Izturis went 2-for-3.

Another Cardinals's hitter of interest was newcomer Felipe Lopez, who went 1-for-3.

The game time was 2:56.

Game attendance was 42,581.

photos by Barbara Moore