I don't know when, exactly, the Cardinals became the baseball equivalent of a World Cup soccer team. But they were very fortunate to win 1-0 in extra innings Friday to regain first place in the National League Central.
Brendan Ryan hit a ball Pittsburgh's drawn in second baseman couldn't handle in the 10th inning to drive Ryan Ludwick -- who doubled to start the inning then went to third on a Yadier Molina bunt -- home.
Ludwick's pinch hit double was the only extra base hit of the game.
Once again, the big bats went flat while the St. Louis starter throttled the opposition with little or nothing to show for it.Chris Carpenter threw eight shut out innings for the Cardinals, allowing only five hits. But he didn't factor into the decision. While Carpenter was in the game, the Cardinals managed seven singles. But three of those runners were cut down trying to steal and another was erased by an Albert Pujols double play ball. I'm not sure what the deal is with Pujols trying to pull every ball he sees. But it's leading to a ton of double play balls to the left side of the infield.
St. Louis left fielder Matt Holliday is called out following a stolen base attempt. He was one of three Cardinals runners to be nailed trying to swipe second Friday night. AP photo.
Coming into Friday's game, Pirates starter Jeff Karstens had two wins for the season.
One of them came against the Cardinals. He had an ERA of over 4.50, but he shut the Cardinals down for six innings on seven hits and no walks before giving way to a pinch hitter. The Pirates had two on with one out, but Carpenter retired the second batter with a lazy fly to center, then Molina picked off the trailing runner to end the inning and the threat.
The Birds' best chance in regulation came when Jay singled followed by an Pujols infield hit between shortstop and third base. Matt Holliday came to the plate with two outs and a chance to give the Cardinals a lead, but he popped up the first pitch and a smattering of boos rose from the stands.
The Cardinals didn't do much better after Karstens left the game. In the ninth they had the two, three and four spots in the lineup at the plate and all three players -- Jay, Pujols and Holliday -- struck out.
I don't see how the Cardinals can keep Jon Jay out of the lineup. The guy is hitting .400 for the month of July with a 3-for-4 night and is playing great defense. On Friday night he made a sensational sliding catch in right centerfield while avoiding fellow outfielder Colby Rasmus. He's as much of a spark plug as this team has. As much as the Cardinals have tried to ignore Jay as he hit his way through the minors, he looks like he deserves a significant role on this team in 2011.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Carpenter
Cardinals Play of the Game: Ryan's game winning hit
Lowlight: Nine more scoreless innings for the Redbirds.