The Cardinals offense may not be prolific these days, but it sure is clutch.
For the second day in a row they won the game in the bottom of the ninth. This time it was Brendan Ryan fighting off a two-strike pitch for a single with runners at first and third after the umpire handed Cubs close Carlos Marmol a pair of rediculous calls and balls that appeared to be low and inside. Ryan kept his head, fouled off a couple of tough pitches and then drove home Ryan Ludwick to make the final score 3-2 in favor of St. Louis.
Cardinals shortstop Brendan Ryan gives third base coach Jose Oquendo five as he rounds the bases after a fifth inning homer.
The magic number shrinks for 4 while the Cardinals advantage over the second place Cubs swells to an all but insurmountable 11 games.
The only bad thing about the game is that Chris Carpenter was absolutely robbed of the win when Ryan Franklin went all 2008 Jason Isringhausen in the ninth inning and blew his third save in four chances. Carp was brilliant, shutting out the Cubs for eight innings and keeping the infielders busy with a bunch of weak grounders. Another win on his resume could have helped Carp tremendously in his bid for a second Cy Young Award. He's 16-4 with a 2.34 ERA and a walks and hits to innings pitched ration of 1.01-1.
Cubs left fielder Bobby Scales provided some Alfonso Soriano-like play in the outfield. First, he ran back to the wall and jumped up to catch a long fly ball hit by Ryan in the fifth inning that looked like it was destined to hit about a foot from the top of the fence had Scales not intervened. Unfortunately for the Cubs, he did get involved. He jumped, the ball hit Scales in the glove, Scales hit the wall, and the ball popped out, up and over the wall into Chicago's bullpen.
Not much later, Carpenter came to the plate and lifted a blooper down the left field line. Scaled over ran the ball and then tried to slam on the brakes, awkwardly falling down as the ball scooted past him. Anyone but a pitcher who missed a month of the season because of an injury suffered on offense would have had at least a triple. But Carp wisely stopped at second base.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Ryan was 3-for-4 with a homer and both of the Cardinals' RBI's. He also was slick with the glove, despite a pinky injury suffered last week while diving back into a base that has forced him to play with an unfamiliar glove.
Lowlight: I hate to say it. But the home plate umpire stunk for the second day in a row. The strikezone was completely unpredictable, and there is just no excuse for that ... Especially this late in the season.