The Redbird Report 08/31

ASTROS 2, CARDINALS 1: Although Cardinals right-hander Joel Pineiro gave up only two runs in six innings Thursday, he was saddled with the loss, the result of allowing a tiebreaking solo home run to Lance Berkman in the fourth inning. "You leave that ball up, his eyes open up and he didn't miss," Pineiro said. "I was just hoping he would foul it off."

Houston right-hander Matt Albers has won just two games against the rest of the major leagues with an ERA of 6.29. But, after beating the Cardinals 2-1 Thursday, he is 2-0 with an 0.63 ERA in two starts against St. Louis.

"You just go by what you see," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "He's pitched well against us."

St. Louis infielder Aaron Miles, 0-for-6 against Albers in two games, had grudging praise.

"You don't look at him, especially with his ERA, as a guy who should shut us down like that," Miles said. "He's a big-league pitcher and obviously his stuff was there today. He had a pretty good curveball and a pretty good idea how to use it.

"Tip your cap to him, I guess. I hope we have a chance to play him again."

All the energy the Cardinals had exerted in reaching the .500 mark Tuesday night for the first time in over four months seems to have been wasted, as the team sank two games under at 64-66. But the Cardinals players, seeing themselves still in contention, don't seem that bent out of shape about not being at break-even.

Injured third baseman Scott Rolen said he preferred to look at the standings, which showed the Cardinals were only two games out of first place before Thursday's play.

"We just need to play better baseball than those other two teams (the Cubs and Brewers)," he said.

Added Albert Pujols: "It doesn't matter if you play .500 or over .500. The key is to play in October. That's our goal. We don't care about .500. We care about winning ballgames."


--3B Scott Rolen returned home with the Cardinals from Houston on Thursday night, but he won't be in St. Louis long. Rolen will fly to Cincinnati on Friday to see Tim Kremchek, who performed the second of two surgeries on Rolen in 2005 to repair a torn labrum in Rolen's left shoulder.

Kremchek won't be doing any surgery Friday, but the probability is that something will be done before the season ends. Rolen hopes to relieve the tightness in the shoulder caused by scar tissue.

--While Rolen's next move may be to be weigh immediate surgery, a move the Cardinals almost surely will make is to bring up another infielder, probably veteran Miguel Cairo, from Class AAA Memphis before rosters can be expanded to as many as 40 players Saturday.

--General manager Walt Jocketty, who has been in Memphis this week, no doubt is combing the waiver wire. "He's looking around, trying to find a third baseman," manager Tony La Russa said. "I don't know if he's going to be very successful."

The Phillies released much-traveled veteran Russell Branyan this week, but Branyan, a power hitter with huge strikeout totals and a modest glove, doesn't seem to appeal to the Cardinals.

--LHP Mark Mulder is penciled in to start for the Cardinals either Wednesday or Thursday at home against the Pirates. Mulder, should he survive Friday night's final rehab start for Class AAA Memphis, will have had four starts at the minor league level as he completes his comeback from rotator cuff surgery. La Russa is leaning heavily to using a six-man rotation the last month, as the Cardinals play all of September without an off day and have two games on one day.

--OF Rick Ankiel, who early in his return to the Cardinals as a position player was mostly hitting for extra bases and striking out, had five singles and a double while striking out only twice in the three games at Houston. He has raised his average to .321.

--RHP Chris Lambert, the Cardinals' top draft pick in 2004, has been sent to the Tigers as the player to be named in the June deal that brought LHP Mike Maroth to St. Louis. Lambert pitched five scoreless innings in his last start but overall was 1-4 with a 7.49 ERA in 28 appearances (four starts) for Class AAA Memphis. He was 0-2 with a 3.42 ERA in five starts at Class AA Springfield earlier this season.

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