Now we know why Tony La Russa preaches playing a hard nine. A solid eight and a half wasn't quite good enough Thursday night against Detroit.
Joe Thurston opened the flood gates to a four-run inning in the top of the first with some (more) shoddy defensive play and the Cardinals were playing catch up all night long.
I don't understand why Thurston, who is a bad third sacker but a decent second baseman, continues to start at the hot corner when Brendan Ryan, Tyler Greene and Khalil Greene present more attractive alternatives. I suppose this all stems from the insistence upon playing outfielder Skip Schumaker at second base. The result is two huge, unnecessary holes in the infield because Schumaker is struggling to learn a new position while Thurston is playing out of place.
If you put Thurston at second, one of the Greenes at third and Schumaker in left field in the place of Chris Duncan, is there any doubt that the defense would be immeasurably better? With Duncan scuffling in the mid .200s with five homers, does it justify the bad defense to give him playing time?
Never the less, the Cardinals chipped away at the four-run spot Thursday and by the seventh had cut the Motown lead to 4-3. But Jason Motte continued his recent struggles by surrendering a pair of homers to make it a three-run lead.
The Birds loaded the bases in the ninth with three Fernando Rodney walks but were unable to capitalize on the opportunity. Starter Joel Pineiro slipped to 5-8 but deserved a win with seven strong innings in which he allowed only one earned run. Pineiro was carried from the field after his last pitch. He writhed in pain for several minutes on the field with what was dismissed as leg cramping.
Two of three against the Tigers is nothing to sneeze at. But the Cardinals outplayed Detroit for the bulk of the game Thursday night and a sweep would have been a nice statement to make heading for Kansas City.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Tyler Greene was 2-for-4 at the plate and continues to play excellent defense, something in unusually short supply for the Cardinals.
Lowlight: Khalil Greene, reactivated from the disabled list because of his struggles with anxiety, was used as a pinch hitter and struck out terribly. What a shame he was put into such a tough spot and then forced to deal with the disappointment with no chance to redeem himself later in the game...