Homer-happy start aids hot-pitching Cardinals
The Cardinals' series opener against the rival Reds was over almost before it started.
After Cincinnati starter Homer Bailey retired the first two hitters, he allowed three home runs in a span of four batters, and suddenly it was 4-0 en route to a 7-1 Cardinals road victory.
Matt Holliday, David Freese and Yadier Molina all hit their second home run of the young season and, embodying the Cardinals' hitting approach so far, each homer by a right-handed batter went to a different field. It was the second time in five games that the Cardinals had hit three homers in one inning. The blasts by Freese and Molina marked the second time St. Louis has had hit homers on back-to-back pitches.
Holliday's homer went to left-center, Freese's to right field, and Molina's to center field. While Holliday went down for a low pitch and lofted his home run, Bailey left the next two homer pitches up in the zone after not getting the call on a borderline delivery to Lance Berkman, who walked.
Molina later drove in two more runs with an eighth-inning double.
As strong as the St. Louis offense has been in a 4-1 start, though, the starting pitching has been the highlight. For the first time in Cardinals history, the first five starters allowed five hits or fewer in a game.
Right-hander Jake Westbrook gave up just three hits and an unearned run (his throwing error created the run) over seven innings. He walked four of the first seven men he faced. "I'm glad I figured out," Westbrook said. "I was feeling good after not throwing for 10 days, and it took me a little while to harness it."
In five games, Cardinals starters have a 1.93 ERA, and opponents are batting only .147.
RHP Jake Westbrook, who hadn't pitched since March 31 in spring training, walked four in the first two innings but pitched out of two-on spots in both frames as the Reds appeared to get impatient. Westbrook didn't walk anybody after the second.
ManagerMike Matheny, who threw batting practice, said he thought the balls were hard to grip early on because of the dry air and were sliding as if they had Vaseline on them.
"Once he had a little sweat, Jake got a little more of a grip," Matheny said. "After that, we saw the Jake we saw all spring."
3B David Freese, who had nine hits all spring in 48 at-bats, has 10 in half as many at-bats (24) in five games. He has hit safely in every game and has four multi-hit games. Asked what was different, Freese said, "I don't know. I have no idea." Freese said he hadn't been concerned but admitted there had been frustration in the spring.
SS Rafael Furcal, held hitless for the first time, made the Cardinals' best defensive play of the young season in the fourth inning. Just after booting Jay Bruce's grounder, Furcal dived to his right to stop Chris Heisey's smash, and from a sitting position, threw to second for a forceout.
RHP Fernando Salas, who had struggled much of the spring and early in the season, got a chance to pitch in a non-stress situation in the ninth inning and appeared to find something. He fanned two of the three hitters he faced in a perfect inning.
PH Matt Carpenter hit a sacrifice fly to drive in an eighth-inning run. The rookie, who was the most impressive young player in camp this spring, has three RBI in three pinch-hitting appearances.
Home runs hit by the Cardinals in their past four games.
"I don't see us as very much of a home-run-hitting team." 3B David Freese, one of three Cardinals who has two homers.