If there were a silver lining in the Cardinals' sixth shutout loss of the season Tuesday, it was the affirmation that staff ace Chris Carpenter is back at top form.
Though he had started the season 7-1, Carpenter wasn't throwing as hard as he had in the past and was having trouble controlling his signature cutter. But, in his last two starts, it has been Carpenter of old. In 15 innings, including seven scoreless innings Tuesday, he has given up only one run and 10 hits. His sinker was his best pitch Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, but the cutter was effective.
"(The cutter) is finally getting better," Carpenter said. "When the year started out, I was struggling with my command and my stuff."
Carpenter, however, still is 7-1 because a Cardinals offense still without center fielder Colby Rasmus (strained left calf) and third baseman David Freese (sprained right ankle, though he pinch-hit) has been helpless against the Dodgers the last five times they have met, including Los Angeles' three-game playoff sweep last October.
The Cardinals had three legitimate chances to score Tuesday, and they seemed to have the right men at the plate, but it didn't work out that way. Hiroki Kuroda and the Dodgers relievers blanked the Cardinals on five singles and a double.
In the first inning, newcomer Randy Winn, who had his second consecutive two-hit game, doubled but was left stranded when Albert Pujols struck out for the first of three times and Matt Holliday fouled out.
In the third, Felipe Lopez walked and Winn singled with two outs, but Pujols popped up. And in the seventh, Ryan Ludwick, who had a brilliant game defensively, singled and went to third on Skip Schumaker's hit-and-run single with one out.
Yadier Molina has been considered among the Cardinals' best clutch hitters, but he is sagging badly lately, his average dropping to .249. On this occasion, he chased a bad ball and rolled into a double play.
"(Kuroda) made a great pitch and (Molina) chased," said manager Tony La Russa, who was not unhappy with his team, which he said worked at-bats hard despite getting shut out.
DODGERS 1, CARDINALS 0: LHP Trever Miller's first decision of the season was a loss. Miller, entering a scoreless game in the eighth, allowed singles by SS Rafael Furcal and RF Andre Ethier, and then RHP Kyle McClellan allowed a double to LF Manny Ramirez that produced the only run.
NOTES AND QUOTES
RHP P.J. Walters, after
working four relief innings Monday, was sent back to Class AAA Memphis, and RHP
Fernando Salas was brought up from
1B Albert Pujols fanned three times for the first time this year and for only the 10th time in his 10-season career. The last one, in the ninth inning against RHP Jonathan Broxton, came after an 11-pitch at-bat. Pujols' strikeouts are well up this year—for him, anyway—as he's struck out 31 times in 59 games. He had only 64 strikeouts in 160 games last year.
RF Ryan Ludwick continued his crusade to be noticed for his defense in addition to his power. Ludwick threw out Dodgers 2B Blake DeWitt at home in the seventh inning as DeWitt, elbows high, failed to bowl over C Yadier Molina. Ludwick also made a good running catch in the game. "He's been a great outfielder; he does everything an outfielder's supposed to do," manager Tony La Russa said.
The Cardinals' loss was
their third in a row. 1B Albert Pujols and LF Matt Holliday have combined for
just one hit in the two games in
The Cardinals are only 10-11 in one-run games, which generally isn't conducive to contending for championships. However, they were only 24-21 in one-run games last year while winning the National League Central.
By the Numbers:
93-Number of at-bats between home runs at Busch Stadium for 1B Albert Pujols, who hit his second at home on June 5.
Quote to Note:
"He's facing a lot of lefthanders for the first time. In his career he'll be a tough out against lefthanded pitching."
-Manager Tony La Russa, on CF Colby Rasmus, who was starting to get hot against LHP after hitting under .170 against them for his career.
OF Colby Rasmus (sore left calf) suffered cramping during the June 6 game and was rested June 7-8. He is day-to-day.
3B David Freese (sprained right ankle) left the June 5 game, He hasn't started since though he has appeared as a pinch hitter.
RHP Kyle Lohse (right forearm strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 23, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 5. He had surgery May 28 to alleviate muscle discomfort, and the timetable for his return was uncertain.
RHP Brad Penny (strained upper back) went on the 15-day disabled list May 22. As of June 5, it remained uncertain when he would be able to pitch off a mound.