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
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,
"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
ASTROS 3, CARDINALS
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
"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
--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
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
--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.