Cardinals Major League Notebook: 08/20/09

Albert Pujols helped the Cardinals defeat the Dodgers Wednesday night with his baserunning. St. Louis took the series two games to one.



Albert Pujols is headed for his third National League Most Valuable Player award mostly because of what he does at bat. But manager Tony La Russa barely could stop talking about what Pujols did on the bases Wednesday as the Cardinals completed a two-out-of-three series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.


The Cardinals' offense mostly had been inefficient against the Dodgers, going 1-for-10 with men in scoring position, until Pujols took matters into his own feet in the ninth inning.


Leading off against Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton, Pujols drew a walk. Then, on a 3-0 pitch to Matt Holliday (which was called a strike), Pujols took off for second. He slid in safely with a stolen base, and when second baseman Orlando Hudson couldn't stop catcher Russell Martin's bouncing throw, Pujols continued to third.


Pujols then scored what proved to be the winning run on Holliday's sacrifice fly.


"I took advantage. They weren't paying attention to me," said Pujols, who leads the club with 12 stolen bases. "You don't have to be a hero at the plate. You can win a game by making a diving play or running the bases the right way."


A gushing La Russa said, "If you're looking at why he's a great ballplayer and not just a great hitter, look at that one. A great play by a great player."


For the second night out of three in the series, Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin retired Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez and third baseman Casey Blake in the ninth inning while protecting a one-run lead. Franklin also got first baseman James Loney to end the game after erratic left-hander Dennys Reyes had hit right fielder Andre Ethier with the only pitch he threw in the ninth inning to put Franklin in immediate trouble.


Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2:   The Cardinals might see the Dodgers again in six or seven weeks in postseason play but, if they do, they'll be armed with the information that they have beaten the Dodgers in both series the clubs played this year and had a 5-2 advantage overall. RHP Adam Wainwright, who had a no-hitter for 5 1/3 innings, reeled off his 24th consecutive start of at least six innings and 11th consecutive start of two runs or fewer. But he couldn't get his 15th win because he allowed seventh-inning solo homers to Dodgers RF Andre Ethier and 3B Casey Blake.




• RHP John Smoltz's decision to sign with the Cardinals had the team's clubhouse abuzz. Smoltz will start Sunday at San Diego. 3B Mark DeRosa, a former Atlanta teammate of Smoltz who had been lobbying the Cardinals to sign Smoltz after the latter was designated by Boston, said, "The thing I tried to impress on him was how easy the transition is going to be when he walks into the clubhouse." Manager Tony La Russa said that Smoltz still might wind up in the bullpen, but the best way for him to get his timing after not pitching for two weeks is to start. After Sunday, Smoltz's next outing is scheduled for Aug. 29 at home against Washington. "After those starts, we'll evaluate it," La Russa said. "If you look and see which need is more critical, it would be the reliever thing."


• For only the second time in the more than three weeks that LF Matt Holliday has been with the Cardinals, he and 1B Albert Pujols were held hitless in the same game Tuesday. The other time came on Aug. 2 against Houston. Pujols had a hitting streak snapped at 12 games. Holliday's 19-game hitting streak against the Dodgers came to an end.


• The Cardinals went well over the commissioner's office suggested scale of $1.6 million when they gave Brownwood, Texas, RHP Shelby Miller, a high schooler, a $2.875 million bonus to sign as the 19th selection in the June draft. "This speaks how highly we value him as a prospect," said club chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. A few weeks back, the Cardinals invested $3.1 million in 16-year-old OF Wagner Mateo, a Dominican Republic free agent.




• LF Matt Holliday has been Mr. Clutch with a runner at third and fewer than two outs. His ninth-inning sacrifice fly that won the game on Wednesday marked the seventh time in seven such situations that he had delivered the run. Holliday and 1B Albert Pujols went hitless in the same game for the second consecutive night, but Pujols walked, stole second and went to third on an error to set up Holliday's game-winning flyball.


• SS Brendan Ryan, a Southern California native, got to show off before his home fans as a regular player for the first time at Dodger Stadium. Ryan had two singles and a triple and played stellar defense.


• RHP Adam Wainwright's walk-less streak ended at 28 innings when he passed LF Manny Ramirez in the fifth inning. The last batter Wainwright had walked was on July 28—when he walked Ramirez in the fifth inning.


• RHP Ryan Franklin has 31 saves in 33 tries and has permitted only one of 15 inherited runners to score.

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