April 24, 2009

Ryan Franklin, closer by common sense in Cards nipping of Cubs

Ryan Ludwick came up with what would be the game-winning basehit against the Chicago Cubs in the bottom of the eighth inning after Albert Pujols, then put himself in scoring position with a steal of second base. The Ludwick single up the middle looked like an effort to hit behind the base runner at second in order to advance him (Pujols) to third, but the hard-hit ball found its way into center field where Cubs' center fielder Reed Johnson had to pull up on a throw to home plate, Pujols steaming around third with the Cards' fourth run of the game.

Adam Wainwright would pitch seven complete innings with no decision. Kyle McClellan came in with a 3-3 tie, the Cards taking the lead under his watch, giving him the victory. Ryan Franklin closed for his fifth save of the season, the Cards holding on for a 4-3 win.

The game ran half its course in a pitchers' duel, starters Wainwright and Ryan Dempster (Cubs) working through 4 1/2 innings. The Cardinals got to Dempster in the bottom of the fifth, however, scoring three runs.

Yadier Molina started off the inning with a walk. Khalil Greene added to Dempster's mistake free pass by singling to left field, Molina advancing to second base. This set the stage for Joe Thurston, who had made a real showing for skipper Tony La Russa, talking with both his bat and glove, proving his worth at the major league level.

Thurston laced a double into the right center field gap, scoring both Molina and Greene, then alertly taking third base when the throw to the infield missed both the cutoff man and his backup. The Cards went up 2-0 and yet had Thurston near home plate with no outs.

Wainwright struck out, but Schumaker picked up Thurston with a sharp single to left field, the Cards going up 3-0.

The three-run lead would remain intact until things unraveled for Wainwright in the seventh inning.

Derrick Lee lead off with a single to center, which was of no great concern until Mike Fontenot doubled on a shot into the left center field gap. Lee scored on Fontenot's extra-basehit, and just like that, the Cubs had the tying run at the plate with no outs.

This time it was Wainwright's turn to give up a walk, giving Geovany Soto a free pass. Reed Johnson followed the freebie with a single to center field, loading the bases, still no outs.

Micah Hoffpauir pinch-hit for Ryan Dempster, hitting a high but shallow fly ball to left field, where Skip Schumaker somehow botched the reception, the Cubs all advancing one base, Fontenot scoring the Cubs' second run, now down one run.

Wainwright had to settle for a double play in trade for the tying run, Ryan Theriot doing the honors, a 6-3 DP that set the game at 3-each.

Aaron Heilman relieved through the seventh for the Cubs; Kyle McClellan doing the same in the bottom of the inning.

Cubs' manager Lou Piniella brought on his closer, Carlos Marmol, in the eighth, maybe hoping he could go a couple innings while he waited for his offense to throw together a run with which to steal the first game of the three-game set in an away park.

This was the inning that gave Marmol a twisted ankle or some unknown injury, but the damage -- described earlier -- had been done, referencing the Pujols/Ludwick Run Manufacturing Company, not via the big bang, but rather, with hang-in-there contact hitting and good old-fashioned base running. Imagine that, base running.

Angel Guzman would replace Marmol in time to snuff any further Cards' rally by throwing a DP to Molina.

La Russa wasted no time bringing in Ryan Franklin, closer by common sense. Its to that point where there is no guessing. The youngsters are still learning, and with Franklin available, anyone in the park could've made that call to the pen.

Franklin struck out Soto and Johnson, then asked for a bit of trouble by walking pinch-hitter Milton Bradley. Franklin got the next hitter, Theriot, to line out to Rick Ankiel in center field to end the game.

The Cardinals 4-3 win found Wainwright with no decision but seven complete innings of work. McClellan got the win, Franklin the save.

The series with the Cubs continues Saturday afternoon at Busch Stadium.

photo by Barbara Moore