August 11, 2008

Pineiro notches victory, Molina, Mather homer in Cards win

Pitching was the order of the night for the Cardinals in a 4-2 series opener win versus the Florida Marlins tonight. Cardinals' starting pitcher, Joel Pineiro earned a victory, now 5-5, his first in some time.

Pineiro went 7.0 innings, allowing seven hits and giving up two runs, only one of them earned. Pineiro walked two and struck out four, giving up the long-ball once. All in all, a successful start for Pineiro, one in which the starting pitching has gone seven innings, a definite plus for an embattled staff.

Pineiro had some help from teammate's Yadier Molina and Joe Mather, who both homered to account for three of the four Cardinals' runs. Rick Ankiel batting in Felipe Lopez from third base for the initial Cards' run.

Ankiels RBI came in the first inning. The Marlins answered in the bottom of the first on a wild pitch by Pineiro, Hanley Ramirez scoring from third base to tie the game at 1-1.

The Marlins took a 2-1 lead on a Cody Ross solo home run in the second inning.

Molina hit his two-run shot in the fourth inning, flipping a one-run deficit into a one-run lead at 3-2. That score would hold until the ninth inning, when a pinch-hitting Mather hit his solo shot to add a run to the Cards' lead, making it 4-2.

As big a story for the Cards as the homers, however, was the relief pitching, Kyle McClellan coming on in relief for Pineiro to start the eighth inning. Ramirez hit a flare single that dropped a step in front of Ankiel playing left field. Ankiel muffed the catch, then threw wildly to second base, the ball shooting past Miles and Pujols to go all the way to the first base side dugout, a lazy-running Ramirez getting a reprieve and able to go all the way to third base on the play.

McClellan then had a super-jam on his hands, at the time, the tying run on third base with no one out. McClellan threw a ground out, strike out, and fly out to make the eighth a scoreless inning, protecting the lead.

Mather had pinch-hit for McClellan to hit his solo shot, Chris Perez coming on as closer in the ninth with a two-run lead.

Perez walked Dan Uggla to lead off the ninth, a no-no for a closer on a tight budget. Uggla dished an out over for the Cards however when assumed an easy steal of second base. Molina's arm had something to say about that, firing a strike to second base to erase a potential rally starter for the Marlins.

Chucking 90-mph fast balls, Perez got Wes Helms looking for the second out. Cody Ross couldn't catch up to the Perez fastballs either, striking out swinging to end the game.

The much-needed victory came on a night when the Milwaukee Brewers had already won their game earlier, the Chicago Cubs idle. The Cards remain in third place in the NL Central, now 6 1/2 games out of first and three games behind the Brewers in second.

photo by Barbara Moore