Nice win, but bullpen is a mess except for Motte
The Cardinals' bullpen hardly is straightened out. Left-hander Marc Rzepczynski served up a game-tying, two-run homer in the seventh inning Monday to New York Mets pinch hitter Scott Hairston. Then, right-hander Eduardo Sanchez was unable to navigate the eighth, giving up a run after the Cardinals again had gone ahead by two runs.
But, at the end -- this time four outs' worth -- was right-hander Jason Motte, who has been the most reliable pitcher in the bullpen from the start of the season. Teasingly close to 100 miles an hour with a couple of his deliveries, Motte retired the final four hitters in order, striking out two, as the Cardinals salvaged one game of a four-game series at Citi Field, 5-4, against the Mets. The save was the ninth in 12 tries for Motte.
The victory stopped the Cardinals losing streak at five games. It also marked the fifth consecutive no-decision for right-hander Kyle Lohse, who still has five wins although Lohse pitched brilliantly for six innings Monday, allowing just two hits and one run.
But even though Lohse was at only 76 pitches, manager Mike Matheny went for the big inning in the seventh, sending up pinch hitter Matt Adams to hit for Lohse with the bases loaded and nobody out. Adams struck out, but the Mets muffed a couple of plays in the field and the Cardinals got two runs anyway.
Rzepczynski, an unlikely winning pitcher, gave those two runs right back, but then first baseman Allen Craig, who has 22 RBI in just 58 at-bats this season, jacked a 2-1 high fastball from Jon Rauch into the seats in left-center field for his sixth homer in the eighth inning.
"Much needed," said Matheny of the victory.
The Cardinals' offense, ranked tops in the National League, had tallied just one run in the first 30 innings of the series. "We have a really good offense, but it's tough to do it every night," said Craig. "We're too talented to be in a slump for too long."
The win kept the Cardinals from falling under .500 for the first time this season.
The Cardinals' two first-round picks in the first-year player draft Monday exhibited the long and short of it. RHP Michael Wacha of Texas A&M is 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds. The other first-round pick, 6-foot, 180-pound center fielder James Ramsey of Florida State, by his admission, "isn't the sexiest player" but grades high on overall ability and intangibles. And he is hitting .385 with 13 home runs. The Cardinals' third choice -- first in the supplemental round -- was Stanford outfielder/infielder Stephen Piscotty, a teammate of Ramsey in the Cape Cod League last summer when Piscotty won the batting title at .349. Stanford and Florida State will meet in an NCAA super regional this weekend.
1B Allen Craig has been put on the disabled list twice this season, but when he has played, he has been the most productive hitter on the club with six home runs, six doubles and 22 RBI in only 58 at-bats. "He can flat hit," said manager Mike Matheny. "He went a couple of weeks without having at-bats because he didn't go out on a rehab (Craig had a hamstring injury) but ... he's mentallyl tough."
RHP Kyle Lohse still is 5-1, which he has been since May 9. Lohse said he had tinkered with his windup a bit and had used his slow curveball earlier in counts to try to keep hitters from targeting only his signature changeup. Lohse was hit for in the seventh although he had probably had 25 more pitches in him (he had thrown 76). "I've got to be a better hitter," he said, with a smile, "so that they'll let me hit more. But I understand the move." Manager Mike Matheny said, "At that point, I certainly thought we had a great opportunity to stack some more (runs) on. Those opportunities have been few and far between." But Matheny admitted he had trouble looking Lohse in the eye after the game because Lohse had pitched so well, with nothing official to show for it.
C Yadier Molina moved into the cleanup spot for the first time this season against a right-handed pitcher. Molina, who had been hitting .333, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
OF Shane Robinson again was out of the lineup. He was scratched Sunday night because of a migraine headache.
LHP Marc Rzepczynski got the win although he gave up a two-run homer to pinch hitter Scott Hairston that tied the game at 3-3 in the seventh. Rzepczynski shook off C Yadier Molina's call for a sinker and threw a slider. Bad idea. "I was just thinking too much," Rzepczynski said.
Number of first-round (two) and supplemental picks (three) for the Cardinals on the first night of Monday's first-year player draft. That was their most since 1991, when they had three first-round picks and two supplemental choices.
"I may not be the sexiest prospect. But I feel I have a blue-collar game. I do the things you look at where you say, 'He has moxie and he does the things it takes to win." -- Florida State CF James Ramsey, one of the Cardinals' first-round picks.