Cardinal Defense Stuffs the Dodgers

St. Louis, who weren't the Cardinals yet, and Brooklyn, who weren't the Dodgers yet, met for the first time somewhere back in the historically-murky 1880's and played a game pretty much like the first game of the current series: lots of hitting, tenacious defense and baserunners everywhere. Fast forward some 130 years and you have the 6-1 win St. Louis pulled off in Bush Stadium III.

The basics haven't changed. Both clubs are talented and opportunistic. This night the St. Louis defense held the Dodgers in check and waited until the Dodgers defense blinked, then put the game away as one or the other of the two teams have been doing for over a century.

Two legitimate runs scored, both by the Cardinals. Matt Holliday double in a run in the first inning off star-crossed Randy Wolf. Then in the seventh, Mark DeRosa smacked James McDonald's first offering into the left field seats.

St. Louis also scored a run in the second inning on three seeing-eye singles and, finding a crack in the defense (Casey Blake's throwing error) after DeRosa's homer, poured three unearned runs across off four Dodgers pitchers to claim first blood in the long-time rivalry.

The Dodgers scored their only run in the third on Matt Kemp's single, a sacrifice bunt, a passed ball that was called a wild pitch, and Rafael Furcal's sac fly.

Cardinal Starter Chris Carpenter, who's injury turned him from a country hardball thrower into a real pitcher, won his fourth game and recorded a 1.75 ERA this month with the win but he had a lot of help from his friends.

Manny Ramirez hit into a double play in the first inning. Russell Martin hit into another in the second. Right fielder Ryan Ludwick made a sliding catch of Casey Blake's fly down the line after Andre Ethier opened the inning with a single. Ludwick then went back to the wall and leaped to catch what looked for a moment like a home run off James Loney's bat.

Ramirez bounced into his second DP. and the third for the Cardinals, in the fifth inning and Orlando Hudson hit into the fourth Cardinal double play in the seventh.

Overall, Los Angeles had 16 baserunners to work with: 11 hits, five walks, two hit-batsmen and a wild pitch/passed ball thrown in for good measure and they collected the single run in the third. The Dodgers were 3-for-15 with men on base, 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 11 stranded, included leaving the base loaded in the fourth and eighth.

The gods of baseball, who smiled on the Dodgers throughout the first three and one-half months of the season, has seemingly lost interest. Case in point, Wolf worked six or more innings for the sixth straight start and allowed two runs on seven hits but took the loss. Had he pitched the night before, against Florida when the Dodgers scored six times, he would have collected an easy win.

The single bright spot in the pleasant evening in St. Louis came in the ninth inning when Hong-Chih Kuo made yet another comeback. After four operations, including two of the Tommy John type, he needed only 10 pitches to blank the Cardinals in the ninth inning, getting Albert Pujols on an easy fly to left to close out the frames.

The Cardinals are 15-3 at home the last six seasons against the Dodgers, including 9-2 at 4-year-old Busch Stadium and the Dodgers haven't won a series in the shadow of the arch since 2003. The NL West-leading Dodgers are a major league best 62-37, but lost for the third time in four games.

It won't be any easier when the two clubs meet in the second of their four game series tonight with RHP Chad Billingsley opposing RHP Adam Wainwright (11-6, 2.95). Wednesday LHP Clayton Kershaw (8-5. 2.96) and RHP Joel Pineiro (9-9-, 2.95) mix it up and RHP Hiroki Kuroda (3-5, 4.57) faces RHP Kyle Lohse (4-6, 4.35) in the final game Thursday.

  Score by Innings
Los Angeles	001 000 000-1
St. Louis	110 000 40x-6

  Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	4  0  3  1  .263
Hudson 2b	3  0  1  0  .295
Ramirez lf	5  0  1  0  .331
Ethier rf	4  0  1  0  .271
Blake 3b	4  0  1  0  .274
Loney 1b	3  0  1  0  .285
Martin c	3  0  2  0  .263
Kemp cf	        3  1  1  0  .314
Wolf p	        1  0  0  0  .122
 Pierre ph	1  0  0  0  .312
 McDonald p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Leach p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Mota p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Kuo p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Loretta ph	1  0  0  0  .231
  Totals	32  1 11  1
  St. Louis	34  6 11  6

  Error- Blake (8). 2B- Ramirez (13).
RBI- Furcal (27). S- Wolf. SF- Furcal.
LOB- Los Angeles 11, St. Louis 9. 

  Los Angeles 	 in  h r-er bb so  era
Wolf (5-5)	6.0  7  2-2  2  4  3.43
McDonald	0.2  2  3-1  1  0  5.34
Leach	        0.0  1  1-1  0  0  4.43
Mota	        0.1  1  0-0  0  0  2.98
Kuo 	        1.0  0  0-0  0  0  5.68
  HBP- by Wolf, Hudson, Martin.
T- 3:03. Att- 43,756.
Ethier Earns Second Player of the Week Honor
Andre Ethier
Right fielder Andre Ethier, who led the Major Leagues in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage during the last seven days, was named National League Player of the Week, presented by Bank of America. In six games last week, Ethier batted .545 (12-for-22) with two home runs, six RBIs and 23 total bases.

On top of that, the 27-year-old contributed a 1.045 slugging percentage and a .630 on-base percentage and ranked second in the NL with eight runs scored and five doubles.

Ethier, one of 12 Major Leaguers to have at least 20 home runs and 20 doubles, leads the first-place Dodgers in home runs (20) and RBIs (62 -tied with James Loney). The lefty-hitting slugger, who won the award for the second time this season and third time in his four-year career, is riding a seven-game hitting streak during which he is batting .577 (15-for-26).

Los Angeles (62-37) went 4-2 last week, and despite dropping two of three to the Marlins and the first game to the Cardinals, still leads the NL West by eight games.

The Dodgers also lead the NL in batting average and are third in runs scored. And a lot of that has to do with the three-four combo of Ramirez and Ethier, which has become a fearsome duo.

Since making the big leagues in May of 2006, Ethier is batting .330 with 16 homers and 56 RBIs in 66 games during July, which makes the month his best in all three categories. The Arizona native's next-highest batting average in any month is a .305 mark in September.

Other nominees from last week include D-backs shortstop Stephen Drew (.500 batting average and 10 runs scored), Braves starter Jair Jurrjens (1-0 with a 1.17 ERA and nine strikeouts), Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez (.381 batting average, two home runs and seven RBIs), Reds first baseman Joey Votto (.391 batting average, three home runs and five RBIs), Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa (2-0 with a 1.88 ERA and 13 strikeouts), Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco (1-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 10 strikeouts), Astros outfielder Carlos Lee (.333 batting average and 10 RBIs), Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun (.385 batting average, three home runs and eight RBIs), Mets starter Livan Hernandez (2-0 with 10 strikeouts), Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino (.484 batting average and eight runs scored), Pirates outfielder Garrett Jones (.464 batting average, three home runs and six RBIs), Cardinals utility man Mark DeRosa (.385 batting average, four home runs and six RBIs), Giants starter Barry Zito (1-0 with a 1.29 ERA and six strikeouts) and Nationals starter John Lannan (1-0 with a 0.53 ERA).

Hall of Fame Comments
Roy Lieberman, a "Think Outside the Coach's Box" sort of guy, has this to say about the Hall of Fame:

"Harmon Killebrew is angry that Manny Ramirez now is ahead of Mickey Mantle and other steroid users have passed Killebrew on the all-time homerun record list. Feels that those who used steroids shouldn't count.

Well, a thought occurred to me. Should the records of white baseball players who played before 1947 count? They had it easy--never had to face black players like Josh Gibson who might have easily beaten their records.

Or some of the great black players who played in the majors after 1947 but only after missing possible ML years (Roy Campanella, for example) due to racism.  And how many fewer records might have been set by white hitters had Satchel Paige pitched in the majors in his prime?  Just a thought.

And another thought.  Maybe radical, but I continue to believe that the Hall of Fame is slowly becoming marginalized by omitting some of the greatest players in baseball history.  No Pete Rose.  That we know.  But what about no Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Manny Ramirez?

I still maintain that the Hall of Fame is the Hall of "Fame" and not the Hall of nice guys.  If it's just limited to the nice guys, it becomes a gigantic bore and irrelevant.