As usual, shoddy defense and weak hitting doomed the losing team in a game that involved the Cardinals.
Fortunately, it was the Mets on the wrong end of the stat sheet Thursday, giving the Redbirds a 6-2 win and letting St. Louis salvage a win in the three-game set.
The Cardinals played very well defensively during the game -- largely in part that the leather impaired starting infield of Ryan Theriot and Skip Schumaker were parked on the bench in favor of Nick Punto at second base and Daniel Descalso at shortstop.
Punto made seven plays at second base -- and none of them were particularly easy chances. He made several ranging plays to his left that snuffed out potential New York rallies and helped pitcher Jake Westbook record valuable ground outs. Is there any coincidence that Westbrook made his best start of the year: 8IP, 4H, 2R, 3K, 1BB?
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Albert Pujols gave St. Louis the lead in the top of the first with a long homer to left field. And the defense made it stand up until the Mets cracked and gave up three runs in the fifth to break the game open.
Descalso doubled with one out and the Mets committed the sin of walking Westbrook, a particularly poor hitting pitcher. Punto hit a ground ball to New York first baseman Lucas Duda who tried to start the double play by throwing to second. The toss appeared to hit Westbrook in the shoulder and bounded into the outfield to allow one run to score. St. Louis centerfielder Jon Jay then singled to drive home Westbrook and Punto scored when Mets outfielder Angel Pagan saw that Jay widely rounded first base and made a hasty throw to no one in particular.
Cardinals first base coach Dave McKay, who sent Jay on his wide turn because there were no Mets in the vicinity of the first base bag, was standing close to first base and apparently drew the Pagan's throw even though he was wearing Cardinals red.
The Mets scored a run in the eighth to make the game 5-2. But the Cardinals answered with a Schumaker single in the top of the ninth and Mitchell Boggs closed out the game with a scoreless frame to salt away the win.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Punto was 0-for-5 at the plate with three strikeouts. But he was invaluable in the field. Westbrook's work was impressive. But Punto helped make it all possible with several sharp plays in the field.
Cardinals Play of the Game: Pujols' homer.
Lowlight: The Cardinals managed only seven hits. Where has all the offense gone?