Cardinals Major League Notebook: 09/09/09

Matt Holliday made the Brewers pay for walking Albert Pujols as his two-run home run off Trevor Hoffman in the ninth gave the Cardinals a come-from-behind win on Tuesday.



   It used to be that walking Albert Pujols was a good idea for an opposing pitcher. That's no longer been true since Matt Holliday joined the Cardinals.


   Brewers reliever Trevor Hoffman passed Pujols on a 3-1 pitch with one out in the ninth inning and the Brewers trying to hold a 3-2 lead Tuesday. Holliday, 2-for-13 in his career against Hoffman, then golfed a low delivery for a two-run homer to center field, and the Cardinals had scored their second consecutive win in the series and captured their 12th series in the last 13 (one was split).


   Holliday's homer was his 12th with the Cardinals and 23rd overall. The result put the Cardinals 26 games over .500 for the first time this season and cut their magic number to 13 for winning the National League Central title.


   The Cardinals failed to get a hit with a man in scoring position, going 0-for-12 in those spots. But manager Tony La Russa said, "I was pleased that we were getting something going. I look at (the glass) as half-full."


   St. Louis didn't have reliever Ryan Franklin, its 37-save closer, available, as he gets a few days' rest to revitalize his arm.


   But after John Smoltz survived a rocky start to work three scoreless innings after giving up all three Milwaukee runs in the first two innings, the Cardinals bullpen knocked off four scoreless innings. Five relievers worked -- Kyle Lohse, Brad Thompson, Dennys Reyes, Blake Hawksworth and Kyle McClellan.


   "I would pass out roses to nearly everybody on the roster," La Russa said.


   The Cardinals chipped away with a run in the sixth on a bases-loaded double-play grounder by Yadier Molina. Then, in the seventh, Pujols did what he often does to Brewers reliever David Weathers. He homered for the fourth time in 20 career at-bats against Weathers and raised his average against the veteran to .550.


   CARDINALS 4, BREWERS 3: The Cardinals continued their remarkable streak of not losing ground to the Cubs. Since St. Louis took over the NL Central's undisputed lead Aug. 7, the Cardinals have not lost ground on any day of the schedule to the Cubs, who had posted a win earlier Tuesday. Six Cardinals pitchers held the Brewers hitless over the last six innings, issuing only three walks.




   --RHP John Smoltz, in his four starts with the Cardinals, has struck out 28 and walked only one, although he was touched for five hits in a six-batter span in the first two innings Tuesday. Smoltz said he had been told he would stay in the rotation the rest of the season.

   "He deserves a lot of credit," manager Tony La Russa said. "John hung in there. The last three (scoreless) innings he was really dealing."

   Smoltz, saying he felt confident he had been able to "right the ship" after pitching poorly in Boston, said, "I'm ready for any situation."


   --RHP Kyle McClellan, giving relief ace Ryan Franklin a day off, gained his third save with a perfect ninth, punctuated by 3B Mark DeRosa snaring a line drive to end the game. McClellan often pitches the eighth but he said, "You don't think that it's the ninth inning. You've just got to get three outs."


   --With runners at second and third and two out in a scoreless game in the fifth inning Monday, Milwaukee manager Ken Macha was in a tough spot. 1B Albert Pujols was the hitter and LF Matt Holliday was next. Macha chose to pitch to Pujols, who doubled in two runs. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa agreed with Macha's decision. "Walking the bases loaded -- the only time you do that is when you have a significant edge with the guy on deck," said La Russa. "No way Matt Holliday is a big edge."


   BY THE NUMBERS: 32-5 -- The Cardinals' record since July 1 in games started by RHPs Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Joel Pineiro.


   QUOTE TO NOTE: "It might be his last one for the '09 season." -- Manager Tony La Russa, on giving LF Matt Holliday his first day off after Holliday had played in 38 straight games since being acquired from Oakland.




   --3B Mark DeRosa was back in the lineup Tuesday after missing three starts with back problems. DeRosa had a double and two walks.


   --RHP Kyle Lohse, who had been on the disabled list with a strained left groin, made his first appearance since Aug. 21 and worked a scoreless inning. Lohse is expected to return to the rotation Saturday at home against Atlanta.


   --CF Colby Rasmus is having trouble again with his left heel. Rasmus was kept out of the starting lineup for the second consecutive game and won't start Wednesday, either. After an off day Thursday, he might be ready to play again Friday at home against Atlanta. Rasmus did pinch-hit with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth, and after sending hard fouls down each line, struck out on a full-count pitch.




   CF Colby Rasmus (sore left heel) did not play Sept. 7. He appeared as a pinch hitter Sept. 8, and he won't start Sept. 9. He is expected to return to the lineup Sept. 11.


   3B Mark DeRosa (sore back) did not play Sept. 6-7. He returned to the lineup Sept. 8.

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