Rookie center fielder Colby Rasmus won Sunday's game with a dramatic ninth-inning homer, and he had had two consecutive three-hit games before that. But manager Tony La Russa didn't want Rasmus, who just had found his stroke again, to mess it up Monday night. So La Russa sat Rasmus against knuckleballer Charlie Haeger.
The manager is riding a roll, too, just like his players. Rick Ankiel, who had been 0-for-14 before a pinch hit on Sunday, played center field in Rasmus' stead, and Ankiel's two-run homer in the seventh inning erased a 2-1 Dodgers lead and gave the Cardinals their fifth straight win and ninth in their last 10 games.
"Hopefully they throw (a knuckleball) that doesn't move," said Ankiel, who has nine homers for the season. "You go up there with your wiffle ball swing—your best wiffle ball swing."
And speaking of best … right-hander Chris Carpenter has been the best pitcher in baseball lately. Carpenter, working eight innings of two-run ball, scored his eighth straight victory. His earned run average over a nine-game stretch is 2.12, and he's 13-3 for the season.
Carpenter ended his stint by fanning Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson with the tying run at second in the eighth inning, then let out a shout as he walked off the field.
"It was a playoff-type atmosphere," said Carpenter. "How can you not get excited about a game like this against a ballclub like this and in a ballpark like this?"
Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2: After RHP Chris Carpenter threw 110 pitches in navigating eight innings, LH reliever Trever Miller and RH reliever Ryan Franklin needed only four pitches to get through the ninth as the Cardinals beat the Dodgers for the 27th time in 37 games since 2004. 1B Albert Pujols and CF Rick Ankiel homered for all of the Cardinals' runs, meaning that the Cardinals have outhomered the Dodgers 48-24 in those 37 games.
• The Cardinals went well over the
commissioner's office suggested scale of $1.6 million when they gave
• While the Cardinals were
investing in the future, they also were kicking the tires for the present. They
have inquired about RHP John Smoltz, released by
• The Cardinals' six-game lead in the National League Central Division is their biggest since September 2006, when they barely held on to win the division title before steadying themselves in October and winning the world title.
• Rookie RHP Blake Hawksworth continued to make points with two scoreless innings Sunday, including getting out of a two-on, one-out spot he inherited in the seventh inning. "Hawksworth not only pitched well, but he had an (hour and 27 minute) delay," said manager Tony La Russa. "We were skeptical about sending him out there (after the second rain delay Sunday) but he put a jacket on, did a lot of things to stay warm and he said he was good to go. Evidently he was." Hawksworth has had five straight scoreless innings covering 9 2/3 innings, in which he has given up only four hits.
By The Numbers: 7—Number of stolen bases this season, through August 16, for C Yadier Molina, matching his seven-year total for both the minor leagues and major leagues.
Quote to Note: "You get the breeze. The old park would trap all that hot air. It was like being around the media all the time."—Manager Tony La Russa, talking about the comfort level of playing in new Busch Stadium in the summertime.
• RHP Kyle Lohse, who weakened in
the sixth inning of a start Sunday, said he and the training staff would try a
different treatment to strengthen his forearm flexor tendon area, which has
troubled him much of the season. "I just lose feel as the game progresses," said
Lohse, who is scheduled to start again on Friday at
• RHP Ryan