Cardinals Major League Notebook: 04/27/11

Mitchell Boggs blew his first road save opportunity in Houston on Tuesday night as the Cardinals fell to the Astros, 6-5.

INSIDE PITCH

 

It is said that you don't find out if a pitcher is closer material until he fails. How will he respond? Will he be bothered by the failure for days? Or just overnight?

Right-hander Mitchell Boggs, who has been the Cardinals' closer for just more than a week, reeled off three saves in his first three opportunities. But, on Tuesday night, he suffered his first blown save, losing a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth when he gave up two runs in a 6-5 win by Houston. Some sloppy Cardinals defense helped the Astros' rally, including an error by Boggs himself. And now the Cardinals have converted just four saves overall and blown seven.

It would have been a triumphant return for former Astros star Lance Berkman, who doubled home the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth. But catcher Yadier Molina committed a passed ball and Boggs fumbled a bunt by Houston center fielder Michael Bourn in the bottom of the ninth. Finally, the infield had to come in with the bases loaded and Houston second baseman Bill Hall, surviving an appeal on a 2-2 checked swing, rolled a ball past a drawn-in Nick Punto for the game-winning single.

Boggs, who earlier had wild-pitched home the tying run, said,

"I didn't make the pitches I needed to make. I had a chance to field a bunt (by Bourn). I couldn't do that."

As he tried to pick up Bourn's bunt to his left, Boggs looked to third and then dropped the ball. "I thought there could be a chance to get it quick and throw to third, which probably was not even a possibility," said Boggs. "I took my eye off it. I had a chance to get an out.

"I did some things to put myself in a hole, which is hard to get out of. They made me pay for my mistakes."

The Astros helped deter the Cardinals' bid for the National League Central Division title last year by winning 10 of the 15 meetings and they stole this one from the Cardinals, too.

But Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said his pitching staff was put in a bad position by offensive failures. On three occasions, including the ninth, the Cardinals had a runner at second base and couldn't move him to third.

Left-hander Jaime Garcia and catcher Yadier Molina both bunted poorly in the third and sixth innings, respectively, and third baseman David Freese struck out in the ninth.

"We didn't execute offensively three times," said La Russa. "We had three chances to get a guy over and in, and we missed all three. The thing that jumps out at you was our failure to execute. We've got to pick up one, two, three runs.

"You can't miss chances to add runs like that."

But Berkman said the failure to add on by the Cardinals was not any different than what all teams go through every night. Giving the Astros' pitchers credit, Berkman said, "You could nit-pick and say we should have done this better or we should have done that better. But we scored five runs and that should be enough to win in the National League."

NOTES, QUOTES

OF/1B Lance Berkman was accorded a hearty standing ovation (there were a few boos) in his return to Houston, but was disappointed that long-time Astros broadcaster Milo Hamilton had criticized him for not being in as good a shape the last couple of years when he played for the Astros as he is now. Berkman, speaking to the media before the game, said, "One thing that cannot be denied is that if I played better—and that responsibility is on me—we wouldn't be having this press conference. It's easy when things don't go well for one reason or another to say, well, it's because I didn't work hard enough or I didn't get in good enough shape. I think that's a misrepresentation of the situation."

1B Albert Pujols didn't start as he rested his tight left hamstring, but he entered the game as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning and then stayed in at first base. The Astros walked Pujols intentionally, which Tony La Russa figured they would do as Pujols hit for RF Tyler Greene with a runner at second and two out. CF Colby Rasmus then fouled out. "It was either Greene or Colby," said La Russa. "I thought Colby had a better shot."

SS Ryan Theriot was a late scratch, feeling a tug in his rib-cage area while taking batting practice. Nick Punto replaced Theriot and there was no immediate forecast after the game as to when Theriot, hitting .311, would return.

2B Daniel Descalso hadn't been baffled by Houston RHP Bud Norris the last two seasons (Norris is 5-1 against the Cardinals) because he hadn't faced him. Descalso doubled and tripled against Norris and then doubled again off RH reliever Jeff Fulchino in the eighth inning, tying the game at 4-4. That capped a 3-for-3 night with three runs batted in.

LHP Jaime Garcia remained unbeaten (3-0) but didn't get through six innings. He was victimized in a three-run sixth as 3B David Freese booted a possible double-play grounder hit by Astros LF Carlos Lee.

RHP Jason Motte was in line for the win before the ninth-inning rally by the Astros. Motte fanned the two hitters he faced in the bottom of the eighth after C Yadier Molina caught a runner straying too far off first.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 - Career hits for 1B/RF Lance Berkman against the Astros, both coming Tuesday. It was his first game against his former team. Berkman now has a hit against all 30 major league clubs.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's still April. You don't want to push it."

- 1B Albert Pujols, who did not start Tuesday after suffering tightness in his left hamstring Sunday. He pinch-hit and played two innings in the field.

ROSTER REPORT

MEDICAL WATCH:

1B Albert Pujols (hamstring strain) left the April 24 game and was not in the starting lineup in the next game on April 26. He did enter the April 26 game as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning and then stayed in at first base.

SS Ryan Theriot (rib cage) was a late scratch April 26, feeling a tug in his rib-cage area while taking batting practice.

2B Skip Schumaker (strained right triceps) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 16. Manager Tony La Russa said Schumaker might be out longer than 15 days.

OF Allen Craig (left groin strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 17. He hopes to return after the minimum absence.

LHP Bryan Tallet (fractured right hand) went on 15-day disabled list April 13. He had screws inserted in his hand, and he hopes to return in early May. Tallet, who is scheduled to have stitches removed from his hand May 1, stayed behind as the Cardinals went on the road April 26, and was scheduled to throw side sessions every other day.

RHP Bryan Augenstein (strained right groin) went on the 15-day disabled list April 13.

RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He will miss the entire 2011 season.

NEXT GAME

 

Tue., Wed., Apr. 27 at ASTROS: Kyle Lohse (3-1, 2.01) vs. J.A. Happ (1-3, 6.94) 7:05 p.m. CDT (FOX Sports Midwest, KMOX Radio and Cardinals Radio Network).


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