April 30, 2009

Late rally sparked by Ankiel, T. Greene in Cards win

In a game that ran tied at 2-apiece for four innings, then see-sawed up to 4-4 over the next four innings, then saw the Cards explode for five runs in the top of the ninth, it was as if you were either waiting for the Cards to do well or the Nats to do poorly.

Cardinal Nation got a lot of both, resulting in a 9-4 victory for the Cardinals in the first of a four-game series with the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park.

Rick Ankiel sparked the late rally with a double off of former Cardinal Julian Taveras, scoring Chris Duncan, who had walked his way on base.

Taveras then issued a free pass to Joe Thurston, followed by hitting Jason LaRue in the gut, loading the bases with one out Tyler Greene, this, his major league debut. Green had hit well prior to this AB, but had nothing to show for it.

On this bases-loaded AB, however, Greene topped a slow roller down the third base line, Nats' third baseman Ryan Zimmerman unable to make a barehanded pickup, touching the ball, though, which rolled away on the foul side of the line. Ankiel had scored, but when Thurston saw the ball get by Zimmerman, he darted for the plate, unaware that shortstop Cristian Guzman was directly behind him and hustling up the ball. Guzman's throw to catcher Jesus Flores had Thurston beat by a good ten feet, but Flores muffed the reception and Thurston slid in safely, at the time, giving the Cards a 7-4 lead.

Nats' former closer Joel Hanrahan was called in to face pinch-hitter Brian Barden, but balked, allowing LaRue to score from third and move Greene up to second. Greene then stole third base, surprising the Hanrahan/Flores battery. Barden hit a sacrifice fly to Austin Kearns in right field, Greene tagging up and scoring from third base with the Cards' ninth run.

Manager Tony La Russa, with the five-run lead, called PJ Walters in to close. Walters had difficulties with the late duty, falling behind every hitter, forcing La Russa to get left-hander Dennys Reyes up in the bullpen. Walters made it through, however, and the Cards came away with a sigh and a win.

Going back to where the game began, Mitchell Boggs started and gave the Cardinals six innings, tossing 100, 60 for strikes. He allowed four runs on six hits, walking only two while striking out a healthy share of nine Nationals.

The Cards' bullpen gave up nothing, finished with the aforementioned Walters, but with Boggs' first relief from Blaine Boyer (1.0 IP), Trever Miller (1/3 IP), and Chris Perez (2/3 IP).

The relief corps of four hurlers gave up no runs and no hits, Chris Perez ending up the pitcher of record, recording his first win against one loss.

Early hitting for the Cards was highlighted by a first inning, two-run shot by Albert Pujols (Rasmus on base).

Ryan Zimmerman answered Pujols' homer with by copycatting with Nick Johnson on base. That made the 2-all game that went on for the first four innings.

Colby Rasmus hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth to score Schumaker and give the Cards a one-run lead.

Mitchell Boggs set up the loss of the Cards' 3-2 lead in the sixth by hitting Nats' pitcher Daniel Cabrera, who normally strikes out in almost every at-bat. Flores made Boggs pay for that mistake by jacking a fly ball over Rick Ankiel's head in center field, a triple that scored Cabrera and tie up the game at 3-3.

Anderson Hernandez compounded the Boggs hiccup by doubling to right field, scoring Flores with the lead run, at the time, 4-3 Nats.

Ankiel provided some punch before his late-inning heroics with a sacrifice fly in the seventh that scored Ryan Ludwick with the tying run.

The 9-4 win makes the Cards 3-1 so far on this road trip. They continue facing the Nationals for three more games, the next contest set for Friday night at 6:05 p.m. CT.

photo by Barbara Moore