Conventional wisdom had the
Cardinals' brass being satisfied if newly signed right-hander John Smoltz could
last five innings Sunday in his first big-league appearance in more than two
It was as if the 42-year-old
Smoltz had turned back the clock 10 or 15 years. In his first game in a
Smoltz also beat out a bunt single in his second at-bat, when the Padres messed up their coverage on a sacrifice attempt. And he also ran the bases like a colt, touching home plate with his hand as he slid in with the first run of the game in a four-run second inning.
After 75 pitches (53 of which were
strikes), Smoltz, who is 17-8 against the Padres for his career, was pulled from
the game. But, barring some unforeseen complications, he will be on the mound
next Friday at home against
"I felt really good," Smoltz said. "I made a conscious decision coming into this start to forget everything else, totally wipe out everything else, and try to go have a little bit of fun and not be caught up in the story line and impressing everybody, and it worked."
Smoltz pitched around shortstop Brendan Ryan's misplay in the first inning to escape a jam with a double-play ground ball he threw to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and then fanning left fielder Chase Headley.
"When I got that double play, which I don't get many, I knew that today could be special," said Smoltz.
When he was working out in
"I got into a funk, and I'm glad I'm out of it," Smoltz said. "It's refreshing to come in and do something and feel like the old John."
Smoltz tried to downplay a bit his own enthusiasm. "I haven't had many chances to feel this way so I'm not going to get carried away," he said.
But Albert Pujols, who was among those who hugged Smoltz in the dugout when La Russa lifted the veteran, said, "He did what he's been doing for 22 years. He's a great competitor."
Cardinals 5, Padres 2: 1B Albert Pujols, who had been two for his last 19, popped his 40th homer in the fourth inning to complete the scoring for the Cardinals, who also had run-scoring hits from SS Brendan Ryan and RF Ryan Ludwick in a four-run second inning. RHP Ryan Franklin, the fifth Cardinals reliever, pitched out of his own bases-loaded jam in the ninth by fanning the final two hitters for his 32nd save.
• Manager Tony La Russa, having taken out RHP Chris Carpenter after seven innings on Saturday even though Carpenter was throwing a shutout, said that Carpenter would be able to come back on Thursday at home in the final game of a three-game set with Houston. "We got him out at the right time," said La Russa.
• The Cardinals, who had trouble getting to 10 games over .500 for the last several months, now are 10 games over .500 in August alone. They have won 15 of 20 games for the month and are a season-high 18 games over .500 now.
• The Cardinals have only 36 games remaining, 21 at home and just 15 on the road. They have been fairly consistent this season. They've won 36 games both at home and on the road, although they've lost 24 at home and 30 away from Busch.
By The Numbers: 4—The number of times 1B Albert Pujols has struck out three times in succession in a game in his nine-season career.
Quote To Note: "He's a complete pitcher with a
great head on his shoulders."—
• 1B Albert Pujols, the first to the 40-homer pinnacle this season, reached the plateau for the fifth time in nine seasons. His high was 49 in 2006. Pujols had words with San Diego RF Will Venable after Pujols tagged out Venable to end the sixth. Pujols thought Venable had raised his elbow against Pujols as the former came down the first-base line. The benches and bullpens predictably emptied but order quickly was restored.
• RHP Jason Motte continues to disappoint. He gave up a first-pitch homer to LF Chase Headley in the seventh. It was the 10th homer given up by the rookie fireballer in 43 innings.
LHP Kyle Lohse (strained groin) was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 22 after leaving the Aug. 21 game with the injury.
RHP Todd Wellemeyer (right elbow inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 5.
3B Troy Glaus (right shoulder surgery in January 2009) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 27. He began a minor league rehab assignment July 11. He was shut down in late July because of recurring back pain. He started a new rehab assignment with Class AAA Memphis on Aug. 15.
LHP Jaime Garcia (Tommy John elbow surgery in September 2008) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 27. He began a rehab assignment in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League on July 23. He was removed from the disabled list on Aug. 21 and optioned to Class AAA Memphis.