There is a reason the Cardinals are in first place in the National League Central. Good defense and clutch hitting continued for the Cardinals as they took two out of three from Chicago to open up a game and a half lead with a 5-3 win.
First, the clutch hitting. Three of the Cardinals’ five runs came with two outs. The biggest hit came when Albert Pujols hit a two run double in the bottom of the fourth with runners on first and second and two out off former Cardinal Jason Marquis.
The defensive play of the game came in the fifth inning, when the Cubs were trying to get back in the game. Chicago Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot was on first, with one out, attempting to steal second base. Molina made an off-balance throw falling forward that one-hopped to shortstop Cesar Izturis, who tagged Theriot for the second out of the inning.
Cardinals’ manager Tony LaRussa said it will be a play that goes down in Cardinal history as one of the best.
Those two plays symbolize the difference between St. Louis and Chicago at this point in the season. The Cardinals play heads up ball, finding ways to move runners over, making a key defensive play or pitch when needed and coming up with clutch hits. The Cubs rely on the home run ball, evident by Alfonso Soriano’s game tying home run in the 9th…Mike Fontenot’s three run homer on Saturday, and yesterday missing an opportunity to blow the game open with bases loaded, no outs and starter Todd Wellemeyer struggling with control and they were only able to come away with two runs.
Back to Friday night’s game, I was impressed how the Brendan Ryan laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Aaron Miles to third after a wild pitch, setting off a home run by Skip Schumaker where a fly ball would have been the game winner anyway. In the Cubs half of the 10th inning, with their leadoff hitter on first, the Cubs went down three straight without finding a way to get the runner over to second base, when they needed to try to manufacture a run with a depleted bullpen that was called upon in the first inning.
Tony LaRussa has these players prepared to play and after going 6-3 against division opponents on this nine game homestand, it is clear to see the team’s best April in franchise history was no fluke.