April 25 – Cardinals 5, Reds 2

At Busch Stadium on Wednesday evening, the St. Louis Cardinals evened their midweek series with the Cincinnati Reds at one game apiece behind the arm of Braden Looper and the bat of Albert Pujols.

The St. Louis Cardinals (9-11) used a four-run offensive outburst in the eighth inning Wednesday night at Busch Stadium to take the second game of a three-game set against the Cincinnati Reds (10-11) by a final score of 5-2. Reliever Randy Flores picked up the win and closer Jason Isringhausen collected his fifth save of the season.

Both starters (Braden Looper of the Cardinals and Bronson Arroyo of the Reds) pitched well but received no-decisions. Kirk Saarloos of Cincinnati was saddled with the loss. Looper went seven innings, giving up three hits, one run, walking two, and striking out four. He improved his ERA to an amazing 1.91.

The Cardinals and Reds both struggled to put up runs early, but St. Louis got an RBI single from centerfielder Jim Edmonds in the fourth inning. Third baseman Scott Rolen had a ground rule double (a fan grabbed the ball as it bounced down the third base line, just barely fair) and scored the run on Edmonds' base knock.

By this time, Looper had walked two but allowed no hits. When the top of the fifth inning arrived, he gave up a single to Reds' shortstop Alex Gonzalez, ending the four-inning no-hit bid. The first Cincinnati run came in the top of the sixth inning as centerfielder Josh Hamilton hit a leadoff home run, the only true mistake Looper made all game long.

There was not much offense at all until the eighth inning, when shortstop David Eckstein singled and left fielder Chris Duncan followed with a walk. First baseman Albert Pujols, apparently not hurt after coming up with a limp in Tuesday's game, hit a two-run double, effectively the game winning hit.

Up 3-1, the Cardinals were able to add some insurance runs to the score. Rolen was intentionally walked, and two at-bats later, right fielder Preston Wilson reached on an error by Gonzalez, allowing Rolen to come home for the fourth run. Second baseman Adam Kennedy was intentionally walked with one out to get to catcher Yadier Molina, and Molina hit a sacrifice fly that brought home reserve centerfielder So Taguchi for the fifth and final run of the game.

Cincinnati pulled one final run out of the hat in the ninth inning. Left fielder Adam Dunn doubled to lead off the inning, and right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. grounded out, moving Dunn to third. After third baseman Edwin Encarnacion popped out, first baseman Scott Hatteberg's RBI single delivered the Reds' second and final run.

Game Notes:

- Braden Looper continues to put up Cy Young Award-worthy numbers. He has a 3-1 record, an ERA of 1.91, 18 K's, and 10 walks. He's pitching as well as Carpenter at his best right now, and let's hope that continues for the former reliever.

- Albert Pujols had another clutch hit on Tuesday. He now has two pretty big hits this season, including the three-run home run on Sunday and the two-run double against Cincinnati on Wednesday. Pujols has a .234 batting average with five home runs and 14 RBIs. Nothing spectacular, but he's slowly coming around now. Chris Duncan, on the other hand, continues to see the ball extremely well. He has a .333 batting average with four home runs, 11 runs scored, and eight RBIs. In my opinion though, he should be moved to cleanup, as he would likely put up better power numbers there.

- Scott Rolen is officially on fire right now. He was 1-for-3 with a run scored on Wednesday, but in his last four games combined he is 9-for-16 at the plate with five runs scored. He has raised his batting average 90 points since April 21, when it was at .200. It's amazing how well he's done lately. One idea that has been thrown around as to why he was slumping was because of the cold weather. He had a major shoulder surgery done a few years ago and it might affect him differently in cold weather than it does others.

Brady Holzhauer can be reached via email at sportswriter5@gmail.com.

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