September 6, 2008

Wellemeyer strong for eight as Pujols homers and bullpen succeeds

Todd Wellemeyer (12-6) was the fourth St. Louis Cardinals' starter to deliver a well-pitched game, and thanks to some timely offense, the Redbirds were able to secure a 5-3 victory tonight.

The Cards evened up the series with the Florida Marlins at Busch Stadium tonight, a game each, with the rubber game coming up tomorrow afternoon.

Albert Pujols supplied the first runs of the game in the first inning, putting the Cards up 2-0 when he launched a Scott Olsen pitch far up into the left field seats, driving home Troy Glaus, who had drawn a walk.

The Marlins' Josh Willingham cut the lead in half in the third inning with a solo homer of his own.

Dan Uggla homered with Jorge Cantu aboard in the next inning, the Marlins going from one-down to one-up at 3-2.

All the while, both starters, Wellemeyer and Olsen, were unwilling to let their opponents put together any significant rallies, respectively.

Felipe Lopez helped the Cards knot up the game at 3-apiece in the bottom of the fourth when he singled home Ryan Ludwick, who had led off the inning with a single, then was called safe at second base after Molina had hit a potential double-play ball to third. The throw to second base sailed a bit, pulling Uggla off the bag. Uggla's relay got Molina at first, however. Lopez then singled to left field, driving home Ludwick with the tying run.

In the sixth inning, Pujols manufactured a situation from which the Cardinals added a run. After walking on four straight pitches, Pujols tagged up on a shallow fly to Luis Gonzalez in right field, beating the throw to second with a slide. From there, Yadier Molina drove a single to center, Pujols chugging around to score, the throw home wide.

The big scare for the Busch Stadium crowd of over 42,000 came in the seventh inning when John Baker doubled with Josh Willingham on first base. While left fielder Lopez was diving to block a hopping ball from bounding all the way to the wall, Willingham was failing to pick up his third base coach, who rightfully was windmilling his arm in a signal to go for home. By the time Willingham looked up to see the urgent sign, it was too late, the coach having to put up the two-handed stop sign instead. With Baker on second and Willingham on third, pinch-hitter Paul Lo Duca grounded out to the sure-handed Troy Glaus at third base.

Wellemeyer was out of a jam, and unlike the Cards' offense fans have come to know, the Redbirds' batsmen actually added an insurance run.

In the eighth inning, Ludwick led off with a double. Molina sac-bunted Ludwick to third, and Lopez pushed him home with a long sac-fly to right field, giving the Cards a two-run lead at 5-3.

When Cards' skipper Tony La Russa called upon Randy Flores to face left-handed swinger Mike Jacobs, Cardinal Nation held its collective breath. It was bullpen time, when no Cardinals lead was safe, even in the last inning, even to the last out, even to the last pitch. It simply has been that kind of season.

Flores got Jacobs to ground out to Cesar Izturis at short, and La Russa wasted no time bringing in Ryan Franklin. The one-hitter-and-out move forced Cardinal Nation to go through more angst, and it wasn't that it was Ryan Franklin, because it wouldn't have mattered who La Russa had chosen. It was indeed, Franklin, though, and just when it looked as if he was going to have a shot at getting Uggla, he hit him with a pitch and put him on first base.

The hit batsmen put the Marlins in an opportunistic situation, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Cody Ross. Franklin bore down and got Ross with some excellent spot pitching, finally doing in Ross's at-bat with a slider away.

Franklin then got Willingham to ground out to third baseman Glaus, Pujols making a nifty pick-up on a short-hopped throw to end the game.

The win meant the Cardinals kept pace with the NL Wild Card leaders, Milwaukee Brewers, toughing it out just stay 6.0 games behind the NL Central's second place team. The Philadelphia Phillies game with the New York Mets was postponed due to rain, so the Cards may have temporarily picked up a half-game on that team, who were 4.0 games behind the Brewers for the Wild Card spot going into today's slate.

The rubber game of the three-game set with the Marlins takes place tomorrow afternoon at Busch Stadium at 1:15 p.m. CT. Adam Wainwright is taking over Joel Pineiro's spot in the rotation for the start.

4thebirds will have no live blogging of the game, nor any daytime posts, as staff will be at Busch Stadium.
photos by Barbara Moore