Cardinals Major League Notebook: 09/24/09

The Cardinals bats were silenced by Bud Norris and the Astros in Houston on Wednesday evening. John Smoltz held up his end for St. Louis, yielding just two runs in six innings.

Inside Pitch


The Cardinals did no more than clinch a tie for the National League Central title Wednesday night when they and the Cubs both lost. But St. Louis gained on two fronts.


John Smoltz had another strong start, holding the Astros to five hits, one of them a bunt by the opposing pitcher, and two runs over six innings. Smoltz fanned five and walked none, giving him 37 strikeouts and four walks in his six starts, none of which has been bad.


Only veteran Miguel Tejada really hurt Smoltz, going the opposite way twice, driving in a run with a single to right and doubling to right-center and scoring the second run.


"He pitched a winning game if we'd given him any support," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Smoltz.


Smoltz, reasonably pleased with his work, said, "I was a couple of inches from being really good. I threw the ball great. I'll take two runs every time. I thought my stuff was good enough. We just didn't come away with the win.


"I nit-pick, but I feel the progress I'm making is pretty darn good. I'll take five more of those. I don't know how many games I've pitched, but we could have won every one of them."


Closer Ryan Franklin, who has been struggling and also having trouble getting work lately, was brought into a losing game in the eighth so that he could get an inning in. Other than allowing a bloop single that allowed an inherited runner to score and throwing a low wild pitch that catcher Yadier Molina couldn't handle, Franklin was dominating. He fanned three in his inning and had good movement.


"He threw the ball well," La Russa said.


On the other hand, the Cardinals seem to be the only club rookie Bud Norris can handle. Norris has a 5.91 ERA against everyone else but has limited the Cardinals to eight hits and no runs over 13 innings in two starts. Norris has participated in two of the 10 shutouts assessed to the Cardinals offense this season.


"I give him credit," La Russa said. "We didn't have many chances, but every time we had one, he made pitches."


La Russa and his team had seen the Cubs' loss to Milwaukee go up on the scoreboard, and the manager said, "I'm disappointed. The Brewers beat the Cubs and we had a chance to have a perfect night. It's disappointing that we didn't get it."


ASTROS 3, CARDINALS 0: St. Louis didn't have an extra-base hit among its seven hits Wednesday. The Cardinals' magic number is one for winning the NL Central, which they could do on an off day in Colorado on Thursday if the second-place Cubs lose at San Francisco.



Notes and Quotes


--3B David Freese, who began the season with the Cardinals and then had to have ankle surgery after being returned to the minors, has made it back to the majors. He was one of four players called up from Memphis after that team lost a one-game Class AAA championship playoff against Durham on Tuesday.


"He was always prominent," manager Tony La Russa said of Freese, who hit .313 at three minor league levels. "It's just that he was unable. He took a tough hit, and he went through all the hard rehab work, got himself back. That's a step forward, just to come back and play. And he played well, so he earned a trip."


Freese, who first hurt the ankle in a January auto accident in his native St. Louis, said, "There were a lot of points, a lot of times where I didn't think this was possible."


--Others promoted were SS Tyler Greene, RHP Josh Kinney and C Matt Pagnozzi, nephew of former Cardinals C Tom Pagnozzi. As for the possibility of recalling Memphis INF/OF Allen Craig, the Class AAA team's top slugger, and LHP Royce Ring, La Russa said both would have limited opportunities and also would have to be added to the 40-man roster.


Speaking of Craig, La Russa said, "How are you going to use him? That was the problem. We may get (injured 3B Troy Glaus) back for the last week. You already have Khalil (Greene). You have David. To put (Craig) on the roster when we don't need him yet doesn't make sense for the organization."


--The Cardinals finished the season with a 9-6 record against the Astros, winning two of six games at Minute Maid Park but seven of nine at Busch Stadium.


BY THE NUMBERS: 4-0 -- Records for both LHP Trever Miller and RHP Blake Hawksworth. Their ERAs through Sept. 18 were 1.77 and 2.36, respectively.


QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's better to do it right now than at the end of this month, when we're going into something that hopefully we're going into." -- RHP Ryan Franklin, on the Cardinals' week-long swoon a couple of weeks before the playoffs would begin.



Roster Report


--SS Brendan Ryan sat out Wednesday for the second game in succession. Manager Tony La Russa theorized that Ryan still was having some trouble with a sore left pinkie finger, an injury suffered in a headfirst slide last week.


--RF Ryan Ludwick became the first Cardinals player to reach 100 strikeouts, fanning in the first inning Wednesday. OF Rick Ankiel, who struck out as a pinch hitter, has fanned only seven fewer times in 101 fewer at-bats.


--The Cardinals, who had 90 days to do so, voided the $3.1 contract they gave to 16-year-old Dominican OF Wagner Mateo when a post-signing physical revealed a "pre-existing condition" and an injury. GM John Mozeliak wouldn't reveal the specifics, but there had been reports that Mateo had a vision problem and an injury that resulted from it. "I think disappointment is a very fair word," Mozeliak said of the breakdown in the deal.




SS Brendan Ryan (sore left pinkie) did not play Sept. 22-23. He is day-to-day.


3B Troy Glaus (pulled left oblique muscle) was injured Sept. 12 and is out indefinitely.

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