One of the trademarks of a Tony LaRussa team, especially since he’s been in St. Louis, has been the concept of a “hard 9”. Playing until the final out, never giving up, never giving away at bats. The team, in the past, has responded to this idea and really come up with some remarkable wins.
Earlier this year, that concept seemed to be lost somewhat. The struggles of the team seemed to be reflected in some of the effort of the players. This recent hot streak, though, has shown that while the idea may have been dormant, it hasn’t left the building.
Last night was another indication of that. Looper pitched a pretty solid game. One run in six innings is about the best you can expect from him, and with Pujols hitting a home run in his fifth straight game (a personal record, plus it got him to his normal 30 per year), he had a 3-1 lead after six innings.
Unfortunately, that’s when LaRussa got a little greedy and sent Looper out there for the seventh. I noted in the past the stat that his BAA after 75 pitches was closing in on .400. A leadoff double was enough to send Tony to the bullpen and bring in the normally reliable Ryan Franklin.
I’m not sure what was wrong with Franklin last night, but everything he threw seemed to get hit hard and, after a Jeremy Hermida home run, the Cards trailed 4-3. After last night’s rally, it looked like the Marlins were going to turn the table on us.
However, that pitching change was a double switch that brought Jim Edmonds into the game, and he smacked the home run that won it in the bottom of that inning. If Edmonds and Rolen can get going like they’ve shown signs of doing, this offense is going to be good enough to hang with most anyone. If the pitching staff holds up like they have been, the Central Division title is still possible, with October surprises within the realm of possibility, as well.
That is, of course, if the Big Guy is OK. Apparently Pujols had some numbness in his leg last night and it caused some concern with him and especially the manager. Of course, that was right before he hit the home run and he played the rest of the game, so maybe it’s not as bad as some want to make it out to be. But if we lose him even for a 15-day DL stint, that’s a blow I’m not sure this suddenly resilient team can come back from.
Checking the scoreboard, Milwaukee lost and the Cubs won in extras. So it looks like this:
St. Louis 3.0
Cards go for the sweep tonight behind Anthony Reyes. Should be a good game to watch.