Cardinals Major League Notebook: 07/10/10

The Cardinals had one of their better games of the season, pounding Houston 8-0 on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.



In what surely was their first "must-win" game of the season, the Cardinals rose to the challenge Friday.

Not only had they lost three games in a row in Colorado, but they had their ace, right-hander Adam Wainwright, on the mound, and a loss in a game pitched by Wainwright would have been almost devastating, considering the Cardinals wouldn't have any of their best pitchers -- Wainwright, right-hander Chris Carpenter or left-hander Jaime Garcia -- pitching the last two games before the All-Star break.

Then there was the matter of Houston right-hander Bud Norris, who had held the Cardinals to one earned run in 26 innings in four starts, all Norris victories, over the last two seasons. Norris was 4-8 with a 6.75 earned run average against the rest of baseball.

For the first seven innings, the Cardinals didn't exactly hammer Norris, scoring once apiece in the first and second innings but not again until the eighth.

Then, Matt Holliday, who has four homers in four games on this trip, made the Astros pay for an intentional walk to Albert Pujols with a three-run shot off Norris with two out in the eighth.

Pujols, confident that Holliday would come through, said, "They can walk me any time they want. As soon as I got to first base, I told (Houston's) Lance Berkman, 'If (Norris) he makes a mistake, watch where this pitch is going to go.'"

And Pujols, not walked with a base open on the next occasion, then hit an even longer home run to left center off right-hander Casey Daigle in the ninth.

While Wainwright, winning his 13th game, held the Astros to six hits over eight innings, twin towers Holliday and Pujols homered in the same game for the first time since April 11. "I didn't know that," said Holliday. "Hopefully, we can do that a lot more often."

Almost unbelievably, this game marked the first time that Holliday and Pujols had knocked in two or more runs apiece in the same game this year. "That means they've got a whole lot of those games coming," said manager Tony La Russa.

Wainwright was insistent that he was not going to lose to Norris Friday. "I told myself from the beginning that if he was going to throw a shutout, we were going to tie," said Wainwright.

CARDINALS 8, ASTROS 0: Right-hander Adam Wainwright ended his first half by allowing just one run over 17 innings in his last two starts. Wainwright, 9-1 with a 1.38 ERA in his career against the Astros, permitted them to have two runners on base in the same inning only once -- in the fourth inning.


RHP Adam Wainwright will go into the All-Star break with the second most wins in the National League at 13, two behind Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez. Finding his curveball after the early innings, Wainwright gave up just six singles in eight innings.

General manager John Mozeliak, who is seeking both pitching and infield help, said he also would be looking for clubhouse presence in any acquisition. "When you think about our clubhouse personality, you think 'businesslike.' I would use the word 'professional.' I think we could use a true ice-breaker at times," Mozeliak said. Manager Tony La Russa said, though, that the priority should be production and not just chemistry.

"Everybody remembers us getting Will Clark (in 2000). Well, weren't we in first place when we got him?" La Russa said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He was great for our clubhouse but he was also very productive after he came over. The key is to have a good atmosphere in the clubhouse where guys care about each other and trust each other and go about their business. I think we have that."

CF Colby Rasmus came out in the eighth inning with a twinge in his right hamstring and is doubtful for the remaining two games of the series. 2B Skip Schumaker moved to the outfield for the final couple of innings Friday. "I'm not going to push (Rasmus)," said manager Tony La Russa.

3B David Freese, on the 15-day disabled list with a bone bruise on his right ankle, still has not begun a running program and probably won't be ready when the All-Star break ends on July 15. His return may be a week or even two weeks after that.

C Yadier Molina went hitless again, dropping his average to .222. But he hit a couple of balls hard and also threw out Houston's speedy CF, Michael Bourn, trying to steal second when the game was still in the balance.

LF Matt Holliday hit a game-clinching three-run homer in the eighth, and then some Cardinals in the dugout noticed that the pace-setting Cincinnati Reds, like the Cardinals of a few days before, had blown a six-run lead in the ninth inning. The Reds' margin in the National League Central Division was cut to two games with a 9-7 loss at Philadelphia in 10 innings.

By the Numbers:

20,60 - 1B Albert Pujols has had at least that many home runs and that many runs batted in eight times in his career, including this year, through the first 81 games.

Quote to Note:

"It's pretty unbelievable. It makes me sick to my stomach."

- SS Brendan Ryan, on his average sinking to .198.




Medical Watch:

CF Colby Rasmus (right hamstring) came out in the eighth inning of the July 9 game after feeling a twinge in his right hamstring and was doubtful for the remaining two games of the series.

RHP Adam Ottavino (right shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 4.

RF Ryan Ludwick (strained left calf) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 26. He hopes to return just after the All-Star break.

3B David Freese (bone bruise on right ankle) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 28. He will begin a rehab assignment during the All-Star break, and he might not return to the Cardinals until a week or even two weeks after that.

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. He played catch June 28 for the first time since the surgery.

RHP Brad Penny (strained upper back) went on the 15-day disabled list May 22. He threw bullpen sessions June 28 and July 1 but had to cut short a bullpen session July 6 due to tightness in his triceps area. He underwent an MRI on July 7, which found nothing that hadn't been diagnosed before. He won't resume throwing until after the All-Star break, meaning he probably won't be pitching with the Cardinals until August.

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