September 19, 2008

Mad Motte earns first save, Cards end streak

Jason Motte, who had been eluded to by a sports broadcaster as having a bit of the "Mad Hungarian" in him, further eluding to Al Hraboskey, earned his first big league save last night Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. The save helped the St. Louis Cardinals break a losing streak that was six, seven, lost count, and who cares now?

St. Louis skipper Tony La Russa had to have breathed a sigh of relief as his squad blew out of Cincy, his unnamed closer, Chris Perez, sputtering, hanging in there, but obviously a little off in the ninth inning.

So how about that, Cardinal Nation? A closer to close for the closer, if indeed, Tony La Russa dares dub anyone with the title. What was it called again?

The idea for "Mad Motte" came after I read a recent post on the UCB blog, Cardinal Nation Globe, where the TV sports caster's reference to Al Hraboskey's days as the Mad Hungarian was noted. And Motte does have that aggressive, quirky, fidgety nature on the hill that suggests he can't wait to make the next pitch.

The Cardinal Nation Globe author was live blogging on the Cardinals Community LIVEcast last night. During the live blogging event, I had stated how much I like Motte's approach, to throw his best stuff for strikes, no nibbling, just, you hit it or you don't, no freebies.

I believe Cardinal Nation would agree that if the Redbirds are going to lose a ball game, for crying out loud, let's not set the table for the opponents with walks. We've seen this far too many times with the relievers. (I'd much rather have Wellemeyer get tagged with home runs three at a time then pee away games on walks. At least I everyone say that the other team hit well, and beat us, and that's baseball.)

But back to Motte's success, which is all very exciting, both to stop the Cards current losing streak dilemma and for something to look forward to for the team. But Motte's chance to earn a save came as a result of a bit of Cardinals' offense, something that had arrived better late then never in Cincy.

Alber Pujols was responsible for a healthy portion of the scoring, launching an Edinson Volquez pitch into the right-center field seats for a three-run homer in the third inning to bring the Cards back from a small deficit at 3-1. Volquez had walked both Skip Schumaker and Cesar Izturis prior to Pujols' blast, pointing out how much walks can hurt a team.

The Reds came back with one run in the bottom of the frame, cutting the lead to 3-2, but Cardinals' starter Kyle Lohse was holding is own, and with some run support at that. Lohse's last outing wasn't so hot, and then he had the five-game suspension to serve after the umpires tossed him for throwing high and tight to none other than his match-up pitcher, Volquez. In that game, Volquez had brushed Lohse and got no warning or ejection, the hit Felipe Lopez and still brought no penalty from the umpires.

Suffice it say, Lohse had something to prove besides doing well for his team. Lohse was an out shy of completing the seventh inning, having scattered six hits. He gave up three runs, one of them unearned, walked two Reds' batsmen, and struck out six. His pitch count was 101 when La Russa pulled him for Russ Springer, who mopped up the seventh in five pitches.

Lopez singled home Aaron Miles in the fifth, and after the Reds matched that run to make it 4-2 in the sixth, Volquez, who had given up only three hits in his 7.0 innings pitched, had showed signs of tiring.

Volquez ended up hurling 113 pitches, giving up three runs, all on the Pujols' blast. If Volquez had a downfall in a game where he struck out three Cardinals' hitters, it was that he walked six. He didn't seem to get ahead of most of the hitters the way he had last time out.

Adam Kennedy doubled home an insurance run in the form of Troy Glaus in the eighth, and it was good insurance, too.

In the bottom of the ninth, semi-closer Perez sinned, twice, walking the lead off man for the first indiscretion. Now a base runner, Corey Patterson stole second base. Perez buckled down for a hitter, striking out pinch-hitter Chris Dickerson. But as good as Perez looked on the strikeout, he didn't look well on the next hitter, pinch-hitter Javier Valentin, walking him. Valentin was replaced by pinch-runner Wilkin Castillo.

Jerry Hairston Jr. then singled up the middle, shortstop Cesar Izturis and second baseman Lopez unable to keep the ball in the infield, Patterson scoring to bring the Reds within one at 5-4. That's when La Russa called up Motte.

With the tying run on third base and Jeff Keppinger at the plate representing the potential winning run, Motte got Keppinger to fly out to Schumaker in center to end the ball game.

The Cardinals start their last regular season road trip today at Wrigley Field in Chicago where they begin a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have a chance to clinch their division in their home park this weekend, needing a couple more wins to accomplish the task.

The Cardinals hope to spoil the Cubs' potential celebration and keep their Wild Cards hopes alive at the same time, throwing Adam Wainwright today versus Carlos Zambrano at 1:20 p.m. CT.

Zambrano threw a no-hitter in his last start at Miller Park in Milwaukee versus the Houston Astros.

Brad Thompson is expected to get the nod for tomorrow's game, nationally televised, as Joel Piniero is away with his wife in the expectancy of childbirth.

Yadier Molina is not expected to play in the Chicago series due to an injury to his leg, sustained when Cubs' pitcher Ted Lilly rolled him in a home plate collision during the last Cardinals' home stand. Lilly is expected to pitch in Saturday's game, which could be the potential clincher for the Cubs if they are successful in today's game.

A Cardinals Community LIVEblog is expected to launch sometime before the start of the Cardinals/Cubs game this afternoon.