Now that’s the way to return to Busch Stadium.
The St. Louis Cardinals had quite a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates Friday night, filled with home runs and hits and inside pitches — some connecting with flesh, some not — and even a couple minutes of reliever drama. In the end, the Cardinals won 9-1.
And their hitting started right away. Matt Carpenter led off the game with a home run off Jonathan Sanchez, which Carlos Beltran followed up with one of his own. Matt Holliday then singled, bringing Allen Craig to the plate. Sanchez threw up and in, hitting Craig in the left shoulder — and umpire Tim Timmons ejected Sanchez. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle argued about it, and was ejected too.
Things settled down somewhat after that, although Lance Lynn did hit Starling Marte — who was crowding the plate — twice, and Lynn himself hit the ground later when a pitch from Jared Hughes was inside as he attempted to bunt. The Pirates hitting coach was ejected after Marte’s second hit-by-pitch. (And, since video is better than words, you can see all the night’s HBP drama here including the Pirates’ broadcasters perspective on some of it).
The rest of the hits were from the Cardinals offense — 13 total for the night, plus a second home run for Beltran. He homered from both sides of the plate for the night and drove in three runs. So did Allen Craig, with two singles.
Pitching-wise, it was Lynn for the win again. He went seven innings, allowing the one run on two hits while walking three and striking out nine (plus the two hit-by-pitches of Marte).
Mitchell Boggs relieved him in the eighth when the score was 4-1. And it didn’t go very well, unfortunately. He gave up a lead-off single, hit Gaby Sanchez with a pitch, did strike out Garrett Jones but then walked Neil Walker to load the bases — with none other than Cardinals killer Pedro Alvarez coming up.
Enter Randy Choate — and he did exactly what his job description as lefty specialist says he should do: get the guy out, with the extra bonus of getting him to ground into a double play to second.
The momentary tension was unnecessary, though, as the Cardinals added on four more runs in the eighth. (Ty Wigginton got a hit!) Joe Kelly finished the game with a scoreless top of the ninth.
So now the Cardinals have won four straight and seven of their last 10 and have increased their lead in the NL Central to 1 1/2 games over the Pirates, two games over the Reds and 2 1/2 games over the Brewers — not that the standings on April 27 mean anything at all (but the Cubs are six back).
Speaking of April 27, happy birthday to Chris Carpenter! As a tribute (and a gift to all of us who are missing him greatly), here’s a look back to last year’s April 27 post that was filled with our favorite CC photos … starting with that memorable after-shredding shot following Game Five of the 2011 NLDS. Today is also the birthday of Cardinals Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby and Enos Slaughter (though there is no photo tribute to them — sorry).
Also speaking of April 27, there’s a game this afternoon starting at 3:15 p.m. Jake Westbrook will again be looking for his 100th victory and will be facing A.J. Burnett, the NL strikeout leader (which needs to be mentioned just because it’s surprising).
Today is also my first Cardinals game of the season — so, Mother Nature, please be kind. And tomorrow is the Cardinals third annual blogger day, which Tara and I will be attending.
Does it seem like the Cardinals always have a winning April? It’s because in recent years, that’s been the case. Thanks to last night’s win, the Cardinals have assured themselves a winning April again, for the sixth year in a row. In fact, other than 2007, you have to go back to 2002 for the last time St. Louis suffered a losing month of April.
And this year the schedule gets MUCH easier in May.