Cardinals Major League Notebook: 10/01/09

Controversy over pine tar and rubbed up baseballs marred another loss to the Reds Wednesday night as John Smoltz exhibited his worst control in 15 years.

Inside Pitch


John Smoltz, who had walked only three hitters unintentionally in his first 34 innings as a Cardinal since plucked from Boston's scrap heap, walked more batters (five) in the second and third innings Wednesday night than he had walked in a game since 1995.


Smoltz, 1-3 for the Cardinals, lasted just four innings against the Reds. He the baseballs were slick, not rubbed up: "Those were the worst baseballs I've ever pitched with in my life."


Meanwhile, Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo held the Cardinals to four hits over 8 1/3 innings, although Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan suggested Arroyo was getting a better grip because he had pine tar on his cap.


Duncan said he didn't -- and wouldn't -- ask the umpires to check Arroyo's hat.


"It's gamesmanship," Duncan said.


But Duncan noted, "I've been around for 40-plus years now, and I've never seen a major league baseball game played with balls like that."


In his bizarre two-inning stretch, four of the five batters Smoltz walked came around to score, and the other walk forced in a run.


The Cardinals scored three or fewer runs for the fifth time in six games and the 10th time in their last 13.


Manager Tony La Russa said, "There's more (than one run) that I think our talent should produce."


REDS 6, CARDINALS 1: For the second night in a row, the Cardinals had poor starting pitching. RHP John Smoltz gave up six runs in four innings after RHP Joel Pineiro had allowed seven runs in six innings the night before. 1B Albert Pujols drove in the Cardinals' lone run with a fourth-inning single.


Notes and Quotes


--The Cardinals have lost five of their last six and 11 of their last 17 games, and their chances for having home-field advantage for the playoffs are evaporating quickly. They trail both the Dodgers and Phillies by two losses. If they catch the Dodgers in their last four games (Los Angeles has three), the Cardinals would open the playoffs at home against the Dodgers because the Cardinals won the season series from the Dodgers. The Cardinals lost the season series to Philadelphia and thus are unlikely to finish with the best record among the division winners. Philadelphia would play probable wild-card Colorado.


--Increasingly anxious over his team's hitting approach lately, manager Tony La Russa called a closed-door meeting before Wednesday night's game involving some of his most impatient hitters -- CF Colby Rasmus, SS Brendan Ryan, RF Ryan Ludwick, OF Rick Ankiel and INF Mark DeRosa -- although Ryan said the veteran DeRosa served as an instructor. All of those hitters have struck out at least twice as much as they've walked. Hitting coaches Hal McRae and Mike Aldrete aided La Russa in conducting the meeting, which was called before the Cardinals would score three runs or fewer for the fifth time in their last six games and 10th in 13. "I think some of it's good pitching," La Russa said. "But I think it's a very simple approach. If we see an issue, we don't ignore it."


--The Cardinals used a third catcher Tuesday for the first time all season. Rookie Matt Pagnozzi, making his major league debut, relieved C Jason LaRue for the last two innings. Pagnozzi is the nephew of three-time Gold Glover C Tom Pagnozzi, who spent 12 seasons with the Cardinals and was the starting catcher for manager Tony La Russa's first Cardinals team in 1996. Pagnozzi walked in his only plate appearance and caught a pop foul off on the Reds' first at-bat after he came into the game in the seventh inning.


BY THE NUMBERS: 37-18 -- Cardinals' record in the first 55 games LF Matt Holliday played for them.


QUOTE TO NOTE: "I nit-pick. But I feel the progress I'm making is pretty darn good." -- RHP John Smoltz, after his sixth of six straight good starts for the Cardinals.


Roster Report


--C Yadier Molina, recovering from a bruised left knee, sat out for a third consecutive game Wednesday. However, manager Tony La Russa said Molina would catch Thursday when RHP Chris Carpenter pitches and probably on Friday when RHP Adam Wainwright goes for his 20th win.


--RHP Chris Carpenter will pitch the first playoff game Wednesday, and RHP Adam Wainwright will get Game 2, according to manager Tony La Russa. "Carp's the acknowledged leader of our staff -- and Adam is closing quickly," La Russa said.


--La Russa has said RHP Joel Pineiro would pitch Game 3, although he has not identified the No. 4 starter, RHP John Smoltz or RHP Kyle Lohse. But La Russa said the makeup of the bullpen for the first round of the playoffs probably wouldn't be affected either way. That suggested that Lohse would be on the roster as a reliever even if he didn't start a potential Game 4 in the best-of-five series.




SS Brendan Ryan (bruised right index finger) left the Sept. 27 game, and he did not play Sept. 29. He returned to the lineup Sept. 30.


C Yadier Molina (sore left knee) left the Sept. 26 game, and he didn't play Sept. 27-30. He is expected to play Oct. 1.

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