The forecast called for a chance of showers. But I couldn't imagine better baseball weather than the way things look right now. It's 85 with only a few puffy, white clouds floating around as the bleachers fill up and the grounds crew puts the chalk on the field.
Sometimes teams seem to cruise after racking up wins in the first two games of a series. But, with the Cardinals on a roll and Chris Carpenter on the hill, hopefully the Birds will keep on pushing for the sweep.
Chris Carpenter looks like a buzz saw, mowing down the Astros on 11 pitches. He couldn't have even worked up a sweat. I'm sort of surprised there aren't more people here, with the stands about two-thirds full. But the breeze is unobstructed. So I'm not complaining. Julio Lugo legged out an infield grounder for a single. But Albert Pujols... um.. didn't and grounded into a double play to end the first..
Well, the buzz came off the saw. Carpenter had a runner at third and one out. He looked like he could get out of the inning when he got a grounder to Skip Schumaker with the infield in. But a double over Colby Rasmus' head scored a run. It was followed by a pair of walks -- including one to the Astros' .029 hitting pitcher -- and a cue ball from the leadoff hitter to give Houston a 2-0 lead. Fortunately, the Cubs are already down 3-0 to the Nationals.
Matt Holliday cranked a homer to cut the Houston lead to one in the bottom half of the second. Hopefully Carp will settle down.
Carp was back on in the top of the inning. The Cardinals got Albert Pujols, hitting .450 lifetime against Brian Moehler to the plate with two outs. Pujols stung it on a line to centerfield for an out. He then flung his bat in unPujolslike frustration.
Carpenter escaped a two on, one out jam. Bt the Birds are still frustratingly unsuccessful against Brian Moehler. Would this guy be in the majors if he couldn't face St. Louis?
Eventually, this high octane offense needs to score some runs. Although Albert Pujols hasn't hit like fans hoped he would with Matt Holliday behind him, Holliday's contribution has really been the difference in games the Cardinals would have otherwise lost.
I think I'm spoiled, however. With the Cardinals winning ways, it's easy to expect them to win every day and get a hit every time. At least there is the sense these days that they are capable of coming back.
And there you have it. A two-out, two-run base hit to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead. Chris Carpenter is out of the game and counting on rookie Blake Hawksworth to hold the line and help Carp get his 15th win.
Albert Pujols made a nice backhanded stop to preserve the lead. But the Cardinals were unable to capitalize on a two-on, two-out situation to give themselves some insurance. It's still 3-2 going to the eighth.
Kyle McClellan is coming in after Dennys Reyes got the first out. No one is warming up. So it looks like it's sink or swim for the righty. Glug, glug, glug... The Astros got a two-out double to tie it up at 3.
A pujols walk and then a steal of second put the go ahead run at second. But Ryan Ludwick struck out looking to bring Colby Rasmus to the dish with two outs. And Rasmus grounded out to second. After 8 innings, 3-3.
Somebody named Keppinger just took McClellan deep with two outs in the top of the ninth to give the Astros a 4-3 lead.
The Cardinals got a leadoff hit from Mark DeRosa and he made it to second on a fielder's choice with one out. But Brendan Ryan and Skip Schumaker failed to drive him home and the Birds lost 4-3.
It's rough to lose a game when Carpenter starts. But the Cardinals won two of three while the suddenly happless Cubs fell to Washington for the second time in three games Thursday afternoon to keep the Redbird division lead at nine games. The magic number shrank to 27 despite the loss.