I wish the Cardinals could bottle whatever it was that they captured Thursday night. Because it really showed the way this team is capable of playing.
First, they worked over Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw, forcing him to throw a ton of pitches on a very hot night. And when they forced him to throw the ball over the plate, the Birds hit Kershaw hard.
The Dodgers southpaw had given up 21 hits in 31 1/3 innings against St. Louis hitters. But on Thursday night, Kershaw gave up eight hits in 4 1/3 innings to surrender five runs, four of them earned. And even when the Birds weren't collecting hits, they were putting the ball in play and making productive outs. Just about every time they put runners on base, the Cardinals were able to dent the scoreboard en route to a 7-1 win.
Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday fields the ball on a bounce in the seventh inning Thursday against the Dodgers. AP photo.
The Redbirds set the tone in the first inning when leadoff batter Felipe Lopez and second place hitter Colby Rasmus each worked a walk. Albert Pujols came to the plate and, with two strikes, tried to check his swing only to serve a bloop single to right field to load the bases. Matt Holliday hit into a fielder's choice with no outs, hustling to avoid a doubleplay while pushing the first run across the plate. Rookie Allen Craig, called up for the third time this season, hit into another RBI fielder's choice. It wasn't pretty, but the home team was up by two.
Andre Ethier hit a solo homer in the top of the fourth inning to cut the St. Louis lead to 2-1. But the Cardinals immediately responded in the bottom half of of the frame with a Yadier Molina leadoff single that left him on second base after Dodgers left field butcher Manny Ramirez misplayed the ol' horsehide. Aaron Miles singled to make it 3-1 and Felipe Lopez doubled to make it 4-1. The Birds never looked back from there.
Ace Chris Carpenter, who was terrible in his last three starts before the All-Star break, was wonderful Thursday night with four hits and one run allowed in eight innings. He struck out six and walked none. I remember him only casting his curveball, which he had done numerous times during his struggles, once in the game.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Carpenter.
Cardinals Play of the Game: Jon Jay's RBI double in the seventh extended his hitting streak to 12 games, the longest active streak in the National League.
Lowlight: The Cardinals announced Thursday that Ryan Ludwick, out with a hamstring injury, won't be back Saturday as expected. He is likely to miss the entire homestand, which lasts for seven more games.