Cardinals Major League Notebook: 09/10/09

Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright carried St. Louis to a sweep over Milwaukee on Wednesday, capping a 5-1 road trip.

Inside Pitch


The Most Valuable Player award in the National League is a done deal. Albert Pujols had two home runs Wednesday, giving him 47 for the season, and he's helped spark the Cardinals to an 11 1/2 game lead in NL Central Division.


But the Cy Young Award debate continues.


With San Francisco's Tim Lincecum stuck at 13 wins and nursing a sore back, Cardinals right-handers Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter seem to be the top two candidates for the award. Wainwright hiked his big-league-leading victory total with seven scoreless innings in a 5-1 win at Milwaukee. Wainwright (18-7) has a 2.59 ERA. Carpenter, who missed six weeks with an oblique tear, is 16-3 with a league-leading 2.16 ERA.


"It would be cool. It would be awesome to win that," Wainwright said. "But winning for the team comes first.


"Whether I win or not, I still feel pretty good about the way the season's gone."


Manager Tony La Russa said of Wainwright: "We don't win the World Series (in 2006) without him as a closer. He has a lot of pitches, a lot of cool. Always very smart. And he's got a great pitching coach (Dave Duncan)."


Wainwright, who passed the 200-inning mark and had better bite on his curveball Wednesday than he'd had in weeks, drew on the 2006 Series in some of his postgame remarks.


"I try to pitch like it's the World Series every time," he said. "I did that in '06, so when we got to the World Series, it was no big deal."


The Cardinals, sweeping the Brewers, finished off a 5-1 trip and still have not lost any ground in the standings to the distantly pursuing Cubs since the Cardinals took over the undisputed division lead on Aug. 7. Their magic number is 12 for clinching the NL Central title, and they start a nine-game homestand on Friday against Atlanta, with the last three games coming against Chicago.


The only downside was that Matt Holliday, with whom the Cardinals are 32-11 since he was obtained from Oakland on July 24, suffered a bruised left knee when he tripped at first base trying to beat out an infield hit in the third inning. Holliday came out in the fifth inning, but he can rest on Thursday's day off.


"It started swelling a little," La Russa said. "He'll be fine Friday."


CARDINALS 5, BREWERS 1: The Cardinals beat Milwaukee for the fifth time in six games over the last 10 days. CF Colby Rasmus, bothered by a left ankle problem, had two hits and two runs, but he was upstaged by 1B Albert Pujols, who hit his 46th and 47th home runs and drove in three runs.


Notes, Quotes


      RHP Kyle McClellan, filling in for resting RHP Ryan Franklin, closed out his second consecutive game Wednesday, although he didn't receive credit for a save.


      The Cardinals haven't played favorites regarding opposing pitchers. They have a 58-38 (.604) mark in games started by right-handed pitchers and 26-19 (.578) in games started by left-handers.


      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."


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.


Roster Report


      1B Albert Pujols' two home runs gave him 10 multi-homer games for the season, tying Mark McGwire's club record. "That's pretty special," Pujols said, "but we've got an 11 1/2-game lead. I'm more excited about that."


      Manager Tony La Russa, the ultimate Pujols fan, said, "His first nine years were as good as anybody in history. What else does he have to do? Without him in the first four months (of the season), we're not within smelling distance. We're not the race without him."


      RHPs Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Joel Pineiro have combined for 48 victories, preceding Pineiro's start Friday night against Atlanta at home. The Cardinals haven't played the Braves since April, when St. Louis won two of three in Atlanta.


      RHP Ryan Franklin, who had a perfect August with 11 saves in 11 opportunities, got the entire Milwaukee series off. He should be ready to go Friday. Franklin, whom manager Tony La Russa thought had been overworked a bit lately, suffered only his third blown save and took his second loss Sunday at Pittsburgh.


Medical Watch:


CF Colby Rasmus (sore left heel) did not play Sept. 7. He appeared as a pinch hitter Sept. 8, and he returned to the starting lineup Sept. 9.

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